Buffalo Bills: Steve Johnson

C.J. Spiller's practice status upgraded

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller was upgraded to limited participation in practice Thursday, dealing with what head coach Doug Marrone called a "nagging" ankle injury.

"It's not 100 percent, but I think it's getting better and better," Marrone said. "I think what happens is, he goes and plays and it goes back and forth, so we're just trying to get over the top, where at least it's feeling better than it was feeling last week."

Marrone said the Bills may consider sitting Spiller at some point to give him more time to recover.

"If it's something that we see it as it's not progressing or better than the week before, that's obviously an option," Marrone said.

Meanwhile, the Bills upgraded wide receiver Steve Johnson to full participation Thursday, meaning he will likely play Sunday in Miami.

DID NOT PRACTICE
QB EJ Manuel (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
RB C.J. Spiller (ankle)
CB Ron Brooks (foot)
LB Manny Lawson (hamstring)
DE Mario Williams (hip)

FULL PARTICIPATION
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
WR Steve Johnson (lower back)
QB Thad Lewis (foot)

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 6

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
12:30
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A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

[+] EnlargeStephon Gilmore
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsBills CB Stephon Gilmore had a tough time playing in Sunday's game against Cincinnati with his left hand wrapped up.
Flynn in facility: There's no official prognosis on Thad Lewis' injury, which had him in a walking boot after the game. He was not spotted Monday morning, presumably undergoing further tests. As reporters were in the locker room, free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn was working out in the team's field house. "That's the business. Thad played through the injury, but we need to bring guys in so our team can stay strong," wide receiver Stevie Johnson said. "I think it's a good move. We'll see how his workout goes." EJ Manuel, who is dealing with a knee injury, made a brief appearance in the locker room Monday morning and appeared to be moving well.

One-handed Gilmore: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore played just 30 percent of defensive snaps in his return Sunday. Coach Doug Marrone praised Gilmore after the game, saying it was a "tough situation" and Gilmore wasn't "as comfortable as he wants to be." Gilmore wore a large club over his left hand Sunday that left none of his fingers exposed. That caused problems for him as a tackler, and the feeling here is the Bills will continue to limit Gilmore's playing time until he can be more effective. Asked if he would move back to safety with Gilmore returning, Aaron Williams hesitated Monday. "I don't know if I'm going back to safety yet," Williams said. "I feel like Gilmore's still trying to come back to his rhythm. He told [me] that yesterday was awkward for him, especially with a big club like that. It's hard for a cornerback to play with one arm."

Johnson a no-go: Johnson's streak of 53 consecutive games played was snapped Sunday, as was his streak of 48 consecutive starts, which was second among active NFL receivers. Johnson said he first tweaked his lower back against the Ravens in Week 4, and tried to play through it in Week 5, eventually leaving the game. After traveling to California last week, Johnson felt he wasn't sharp enough to make a difference in Sunday's game, had he played. "I was close. Not well enough to be effective," he said. "Unfortunate situation. Me not being able to really focus on the plays and then with how I was feeling in my body, I knew I just wouldn't be a factor in the game." Johnson is optimistic he can play next Sunday.

Bengals' goal-line stand: The Bengals' goal-line stand early in the second quarter, which proved to be a decisive moment in the game, was something the Bills had seen on film from Cincinnati's Week 5 win against the Patriots. "We knew they had a good goal-line defense going in," center Eric Wood said. "We just weren't able to make the plays. Ultimately, that caught up to us, because that changed a lot of the momentum in that point in the game. In an overtime game, all points are crucial." Running back Fred Jackson, who was kept out of the end zone on three straight carries, pinned the failed scoring chance on himself. "That's something that I want to put squarely on my shoulders. I have to make something happen," he said. "As a running back with three opportunities to score on the goal line, you want to put that on yourself. I didn't get the job done, and that's something I need to be motivated about and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Bills' Stevie Johnson will not play

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is inactive for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the team announced.

Johnson did not practice this past week, traveling to California following a death in the family. He was a game-time decision Sunday with a lower back injury.

Meanwhile, safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore are both active for the first time this season.

With the secondary now nearly back to full strength, cornerback Justin Rogers, who started the first five games of the season in place of Gilmore, is inactive.

Doug Legursky is active for a second straight game and will start at left guard in place of Colin Brown. The Bills are expected to rotate both players at the position Sunday.

BILLS INACTIVES
QB EJ Manuel
WR Stevie Johnson
OL Antoine McClain
LB Ty Powell
CB Ron Brooks
CB Justin Rogers
CB Brandon Burton

Stevie Johnson's status still unclear

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Traveling to California to attend a funeral, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson may not return in time for Friday's practice, coach Doug Marrone said Thursday.

Marrone said he is still unsure if Johnson, who is dealing with a lower back injury, will be able to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I really don't know. Until he's able to get back, talk to him, see how he feels," Marrone said. "It's quite a long travel with him. It's just a matter of physically and mentally, can he go?"

Johnson has started 48 consecutive games, the second-longest streak among active receivers behind only Larry Fitzgerald (50 games).

The following is the Bills' injury report from Thursday's practice:

DID NOT PRACTICE
QB EJ Manuel (knee)
WR Stevie Johnson (lower back/personal)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist)
CB Ron Brooks (foot)
WR Marquise Goodwin (hand)
WR Marcus Easley (ribs)
RB C.J. Spiller (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
S Jairus Byrd (foot)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)

Johnson excused for death in family

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
5:32
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson was excused from practice Wednesday due to a death in the family, head coach Doug Marrone announced.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that Johnson, who traveled to Sacramento, Calif., will also miss Thursday's practice but will return Friday.

The Bills will then make a decision if Johnson, who has a lower back injury, will play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The following is the full Bills injury report from Wednesday's practice:

DID NOT PRACTICE
QB EJ Manuel (knee)
WR Stevie Johnson (lower back/personal)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist)
CB Ron Brooks (foot)
WR Marquise Goodwin (hand)
WR Marcus Easley (ribs)
RB C.J. Spiller (ankle)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)

FULL PARTICIPATION
S Jairus Byrd (foot)

Johnson not practicing Wednesday

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
12:30
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were without wide receiver Stevie Johnson at their Wednesday practice, the only player not spotted during the portion of practice open to reporters.

Johnson left last Thursday's game with a lower back injury. Bills head coach Doug Marrone said Monday that Johnson's status is still uncertain for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Meanwhile, cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Ron Brooks (foot) both returned to practice, the first time either has participated in more than a month. It's unclear if either will be ready to play Sunday, but Gilmore was rotated in with the first team during the defensive backs' walk-through at the beginning of practice.

Safety Jairus Byrd, who has been part of the scout team during that walk-through in recent weeks, received some defensive reps in certain packages. At this point, Byrd appears to be a good bet to play Sunday.

Checkpoint day for injured Bills

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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The Buffalo Bills haven't had a full practice in more than a week, and when they step back onto the practice field Wednesday, it will serve as a sort of checkpoint for several injured players.

After hinting at their returns since last week, coach Doug Marrone confirmed Monday that cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Ron Brooks (foot) will have a chance to participate in Wednesday's practice.

If Gilmore and Brooks get back into the mix, they may have a shot to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. It's far from a guarantee, but either way, it would be a big step in both players' recoveries and a positive sign for their health going forward if they are practicing Wednesday.

What could be a stronger bet is safety Jairus Byrd seeing a larger role in practice. The Pro Bowler hasn't missed a practice yet this season, but at least in the portion open to reporters, he has only worked on the scout team. If Byrd lines up with the first-team defense Wednesday, he may be a good shot to play Sunday.

That leaves a pair of wide receivers to watch Wednesday. Marrone was cautiously optimistic that Steve Johnson (lumbar strain) and Marquise Goodwin (fractured hand) will be able to play Sunday. Goodwin has been increasing his workload in practice lately, but he may still be a game-time decision.

Johnson, however, may fall into the same category as C.J. Spiller, who is also dealing with multiple recent injuries. Marrone said that Spiller might sit out a day or two of practice this week, and it wouldn't be surprising if Johnson does the same.

Revisiting Thursday's offensive snaps

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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CLEVELAND -- A look at snaps played by Buffalo Bills skill-position players in Thursday's loss to the Cleveland Browns, while analyzing how the totals reflect the way players were utilized (totals provided by the NFL):

WR Robert Woods -- 73 of 77
TE Scott Chandler -- 65 of 77
WR T.J. Graham -- 61 of 77
RB Fred Jackson -- 50 of 77
QB EJ Manuel -- 46 of 77
WR Chris Hogan -- 38 of 77
TE Lee Smith -- 34 of 77
QB Jeff Tuel -- 31 of 77
RB Tashard Choice -- 14 of 77
FB Frank Summers -- 14 of 77
WR Steve Johnson -- 13 of 77
RB C.J. Spiller -- 13 of 77
WR Marcus Easley -- 8 of 77

ANALYSIS: Injuries took their toll here, with Spiller (17 percent of total snaps), Johnson (17 percent) and Manuel (60 percent) all limited. Going forward, Spiller and Johnson figure to see an uptick in snaps as they get back to full health, and Manuel is expected to be out for several weeks. ... Johnson's injury, in particular, led to an increase in playing time for Graham and Hogan. They were each targeted five times, making two catches each. ... Woods continues to be among the iron men of the team, playing nearly every snap after going wire-to-wire the past two weeks. ... Jackson stepped in 65 percent of the time, a gutsy performance from the veteran who sprained his MCL just four days prior. He has been among the NFL's better all-around running backs this season.

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
11:40
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CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 37-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

What it means for Bills: The Bills lost their second road game and fell to 2-3 overall, but the big story is the health of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. The 16th overall pick in April's NFL draft suffered a knee injury when he was hit by a Browns defender after scrambling for a first down in the third quarter. Manuel was replaced by undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Tuel and the Bills couldn't overcome their injuries against the Browns, despite their loss starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer, to a knee injury in the first quarter. With a chance to erase a six-point deficit late in the game, Tuel instead threw a pick-six, sealing the defeat. For the Bills, who have shaken off numerous injuries this season, Manuel's injury was one too many and bears watching in the coming days.

Johnson injures back: Both Bills quarterbacks in this game were without their top receiver for much of the contest. Steve Johnson left the game in the second quarter with a back injury, initially staying on the sideline. He came back into the game later in the half but then departed for the locker room and did not return.

Stock watch: Punter Shawn Powell and the Bills' punt-coverage unit had a tough time corralling Browns returner Travis Benjamin in the first half. After a 57-yard return set up a Browns field goal, Benjamin returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He finished with 179 punt-return yards, setting a Browns team record.

Hobbled Spiller scores: Running back C.J. Spiller, who entered the game nursing an ankle injury, was used sparingly in the first half, carrying just twice for 3 yards. But on the third play of the second half, Spiller broke off a 54-yard touchdown run, tying the game. He limped his way back to the sideline and had a member of the equipment staff keep the ball. Spiller gained just 7 yards after the touchdown.

What's next: The Bills have nine days until their next game, when they will host another AFC North team, the Cincinnati Bengals, on Oct. 13 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Johnson on drop: Harder than it looked

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
3:15
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson reacted Monday to a key pass he dropped in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots, saying the play was more difficult than it appeared.

"It looked like the play should have been made, but with my extending how I did, it was like my length just got my hands on the ball. I felt like it was harder than it was, what really happened," Johnson said. "Looking at the film, yeah, I was wide open. I beat the guy ... It was tougher than what it looked."

[+] EnlargeSteve Johnson
Bill Wippert/AP PhotoWhile Steve Johnson did have one touchdown, it was the reception he dropped that haunts him the day after Sunday's loss to the Patriots.
Johnson was open in the left flat after beating his defender on third-and-1. With 8:50 remaining in the game, the Bills punted to the Patriots, although they were unable to turn Johnson's drop into any points.

"At the end of the day, it's a drop," Johnson admitted.

Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel targeted Johnson six times, with the team's most veteran receiver making three catches, including an 18-yard touchdown grab early in the second half.

But coming into the game, Johnson said that the Patriots did not have "anybody that can stop me."

"The reaction is as expected. Everybody placing blame on me. It's OK. I felt like I put myself in that position," Johnson said Monday. "But that's not me putting on a front for anybody. Pretty much being who they've grown to love. I feel like there's no one who can guard me. Obviously it showed, but when you don't win a game, that's when you get that negative attention, and I deserve it."

Head coach Doug Marrone said Monday that he did not have a problem with Johnson's comments.

"People have to be who they are. You guys are going to ask tough questions, and you want them to answer it. You want people to be who they are and what they do," Marrone said. "As long as it's not a standpoint of giving away any strategic information... I think that's where I would have a problem with it."

Johnson did not speak to reporters after Sunday's loss, departing the locker room shortly after the game's end.

"Me being here for the amount of time that I've been here, it was just something personal against that team, I guess," he said. "It ended in the same way. That was my frustration. Nothing with anybody, nothing with any play. We know that you can't have a great game every week. Every play isn't going to be perfect. The game, it can go either way, and I felt like we've been to this point too many times. It is what it is and they came in and took one from us. We'll be ready for them next time."

Added Johnson: "I take every [loss] personally. I hate to lose. We deal with losing in different ways. I have to be better about it. I don't think I'll ever grow accustomed to losing games."

Marrone said it will be important for Johnson to not dwell on Sunday's performance.

"I know how much that weighs on him. My philosophy has always been, when you have a player that every single day comes out here and works and the player likes Stevie, and all the things that he's done, you have to come back to that player," Marrone said. "We have a lot of faith in him. There is not a player in this league that hasn't dropped a football. If you haven't, that means you haven't gotten a lot of balls thrown to you.

"I have the utmost confidence in Stevie. He takes those things hard. What he has to do is, and he knows this, is you have to shake it off and come back and make a play. And he will."

Rookie Review: Manuel's impressive debut 

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
1:00
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On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills fell just short off pulling the upset against the division-rival New England Patriots. The good news for Bills fans is that rookie QB EJ Manuel -- who showed well in the preseason before suffering a minor knee injury -- was impressive in his first regular-season start. Far from perfect, Manuel still managed the game and played well enough for Buffalo to win. The 6-foot-4, 237-pound quarterback was in command of the huddle and found a rhythm late in the first half that carried over into the second half. He finished the game with solid numbers, completing 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

Last April, the Bills made Manuel the lone quarterback selected in the first round at No. 16. The pick was scrutinized as many felt the Bills reached for Manuel by taking him that high. We at Scouts Inc. gave Manuel a fringe second-round grade. We recognized Manuel’s upside because of his size, athleticism and intangibles. He was a two-time captain who displayed natural leadership qualities and had the passion and work ethic to succeed at the next level. However, Manuel had some inconsistencies as decision-maker and displayed erratic accuracy at times, which prevented him from getting a first-round grade.

Every quarterback we evaluate gets broken down into four quarterback specific traits: mental makeup, accuracy, release/arm strength and pocket mobility. We grade on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being elite and 5 being poor. Below is a look at how we graded Manuel coming out of Florida State and how he performed in those areas in Sunday’s game.

Bills' report card vs. Patriots

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Offering unit-by-unit grades following the Buffalo Bills' 23-21 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots:

Coaching: C There's a few decisions/lapses that stand out here: (1) Not burning more clock on their final offensive possession of the fourth quarter. Coach Doug Marrone said after the game that the Bills were more concerned with scoring points than anything else, and that the Patriots had three timeouts anyways. With a one-point lead and less than six minutes remaining, it's unlikely the Patriots would have used the timeouts to stop the clock, so why not burn some clock? (2) It was unclear as it happened, but if the Patriots recovered their own fumble on the opening drive, why challenge it? (3) Being called twice for having 12 men on the field does not reflect well on the coaching staff or the substitution operation.

Run Offense: C The Patriots clearly made it a priority to stop C.J. Spiller, and they were successful in doing so. When he was on the field, he drew the attention of the defense, whether he was carrying the ball out of the backfield or in a pass pattern. Spiller finished with a 2.4-yards-per-carry average and 2.8-yards-per-completion average. Mission accomplished for the Patriots. On the flip side, Fred Jackson provided a spark, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. It will be worth monitoring how teams treat Spiller going forward. Even if Jackson has a productive game, it's not a good sign for the Bills' offense if Spiller can't get things going.

Pass Offense: C- EJ Manuel was sharp when he needed to be: connecting with Robert Woods on an 18-yard touchdown pass after a turnover, and later driving 80 yards for another touchdown at the start of the second half. Otherwise, it was a lot of dink-and-dunk from Buffalo. There were times when Manuel had receivers open over the middle of the field but looked slow to find them and release the ball, limiting the yards after catch. The Bills need their passing offense to start clicking soon, and it starts at the top of the depth chart. Steve Johnson (six targets, three catches), T.J. Graham (one target, no catches) and Woods (two targets, one catch) will need to develop better chemistry with Manuel. The Bills will be looking for more than 150 passing yards.

Run Defense: D+ Three of the Patriots' six longest plays were on rushes. Marrone noted after the game that the Bills held the Patriots to 4.5 yards per carry (compared to 4 yards per carry by the Bills), but if you subtract the 15 yards on seven carries from LeGarrette Blount -- he was in the game because of Stevan Ridley's unforced fumble -- then the statistics aren't as rosy. Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 147 yards on 23 carries, a 6.4-yard average that was worse than the 5 yards per carry the Bills allowed last season. Yes, the Bills were able to stop the Patriots' running game several times for short gains or no gain, but the results were hardly consistent.

Pass Defense: B- Tough to tell if this was more a result of Tom Brady not being on the same page with his new-look group of receivers. Brady was 29-for-52 passing for 288 yards, which for that volume of passing is not a terrible outcome for a defense. There were times when a combination of blitzing and strong coverage had Brady stymied. There were other times when receivers simply ran bad routes or dropped passes. Either way, the Bills will want Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd back as soon as possible.

Special Teams: B+ Returners had a quiet day, with five touchbacks on kickoffs limiting the Bills. On punts, Shawn Powell averaged 45.8 yards on nine punts, including three downed inside the 20. Without any notable miscues, it's hard to knock this unit.
The Buffalo Bills trail the Washington Redskins 20-7 at halftime of Saturday's preseason contest, but the game's first half has been defined by injuries.

Quarterback Kevin Kolb left the game in the first quarter with concussion-like symptoms and will not return, the team announced. Kolb had a chance to gain lost ground in the quarterback competition with EJ Manuel sitting out the rest of the preseason with an injury, but those plans were derailed by Kolb's head injury.

Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel has been at the helm since Kolb departed. He's all the Bills have left at the position, so there's a feeling of Buffalo being on their heels for the remainder of this game. Even so, it's a prime opportunity for Tuel, who saw little action in last Friday's preseason game.

Meanwhile, running back C.J. Spiller gave the Bills their first injury scare of the game, grabbing for his right knee after a touchdown run in the first quarter. Spiller was initially limping, but he later returned to the game. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that Spiller simply cut his knee after being spiked.

In addition, cornerback Stephon Gilmore (hand) and safety Da'Norris Searcy (head) both left for the locker room for injury evaluation late in the first half.

The injuries have overshadowed what has been a rough outing for the Bills defense. The Redskins have gained 96 yards rushing in the first half, while quarterback Rex Grossman went 8-for-14 for 144 yards and a touchdown before handing the offense over to Pat White, who added a 14-yard touchdown run.

Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson, who is making his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, lost a fumble early in the second quarter.

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