NFL Nation: Da'Norris Searcy

Observation Deck: Buffalo Bills

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
7:38
PM ET
 

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After three preseason games on the road, the Buffalo Bills returned home to a renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium and put up a dud in the first half of a 27-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.

Fans booed EJ Manuel and the Bills' first-team offense off the field at halftime after they failed to reach the red zone in their first eight possessions. At one point early in the second quarter, penalties forced the Bills into a third-and-40 situation.

The offense's futility ended when the Buccaneers pulled their starting defense at the start of the second half. Manuel promptly marched downfield and tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, the Bills' starting offense's first touchdown in 19 drives this preseason.

Here are some other thoughts on the Bills’ preseason loss:
  • Sammy Watkins did not play because of bruised ribs. The Bills started Williams and Robert Woods at receiver in his place. Woods was targeted three times in the first half without a catch, while Williams had two catches for 32 yards. Manuel went 9-for-18 for 67 yards and was intercepted once. After showing some promise earlier this preseason, the passing offense took a step back Saturday.
  • C.J. Spiller didn't help the offense's cause. The Bills leaned more on Spiller (eight carries) than Fred Jackson (three carries) in the first half, a reversal from last week's game in Pittsburgh. Spiller broke an 18-yard run but gained 9 yards on his other seven carries. Now healthy from an ankle injury that hampered him last season, Spiller running toward the sideline and not being able to turn the corner will be a problem for the Bills' offense, setting up longer to-go distances for Manuel on second and third downs.
  • More bad news for the Bills' offense? Every starting offensive lineman except right tackle Seantrel Henderson was flagged for a penalty in Saturday's game.
  • The Bills' defense was put in a tough spot and performed well, for the most part, in the first half. The run defense held Doug Martin to 38 yards on 12 carries, a noticeable improvement from last season when Bobby Rainey opened with an 80-yard touchdown run against the Bills. The pass defense, outside of an interception by Da'Norris Searcy, was more suspect. Linebacker Brandon Spikes had trouble sticking with Martin on a 22-yard catch, while Ron Brooks was beaten by Mike Evans for a 24-yard touchdown.
  • In a puzzling move, the Bills replaced Manuel with fourth-string quarterback Dennis Dixon for the first play of the fourth quarter. Dixon has barely received reps in practice and had taken only two snaps -- both kneeldowns -- this preseason prior to Saturday. Dixon's first and only drive ended when he fumbled a snap on fourth-and-1. The Bills haven't seen great play from either Jeff Tuel or Thad Lewis this preseason, and with Dixon's forgettable possession, the Bills may have the NFL's worst backup quarterback situation.
  • Searcy (stinger), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (neck), tight end Lee Smith (foot), and wide receiver T.J. Graham (unknown) all left the game with injuries and did not return.


It's not over yet, but we're getting there.

The Jairus Byrd era in Buffalo took another step toward ending Monday when the Bills decided not to assign the three-time Pro Bowl safety with the franchise tag.

General manager Doug Whaley said the team continues to negotiate with Byrd, who can begin talking to other teams Saturday. The earliest he can sign a free-agent deal elsewhere is Tuesday.

Byrd
Byrd is likely hoping that, after being kept in Buffalo on the franchise tag last season, he can find a more lucrative deal with another team. The Bills are likely hoping that Byrd can't find that sort of deal on the open market and reconsiders their offer.

"As they say in that movie, there's always a chance," Whaley said Monday when asked about the possibility of Byrd and the Bills agreeing to a new deal.

But at this point, the odds are against that happening. As of Saturday there were 13 NFL teams with $20 million or more in cap space, including the Bills. That doesn't mean teams will throw financial discipline out the window to add Byrd, but it increases the chances that another team offers Byrd more than the Bills are willing to.

While Byrd's market will come more into focus this weekend, the Bills may soon need to execute their backup plan at safety.

Without Byrd, Aaron Williams tops the Bills' depth chart at the position. The 2011 second-round pick struggled for two seasons as a cornerback before settling into Mike Pettine's defense as a safety last season. Williams' four interceptions matched Byrd's total, but he will now have to adjust to another new defensive scheme under Jim Schwartz.

Continued improvement from Williams would help ease the blow from losing Byrd. Still, the Bills need two starting safeties, and they may not have another on their roster.

"I have complete confidence, not only in everybody in this organization that has given us the resources and the backing but also our scouting staff," Whaley said, "that if we are unfortunate enough to lose Jairus Byrd, we found him [and] we'll be confident that we can get a replacement, if we don't already have one on campus."

Other than Williams, the Bills have four safeties under contract. Da'Norris Searcy started seven games last season but is best as a role player. If the Bills need to turn to him as a bridge to a younger player, Searcy would slide in at strong safety while Williams would drop back into a center-field role, like Byrd. It wouldn't be ideal, but they could get by.

There's also a trio of younger players: Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks and Jajuan Harley. Of the three, only Williams has experience playing on defense in the NFL, and he was limited to 2.8 percent of snaps as a rookie last season. Williams is a fourth-round pick, but he would still need to make a major jump to replace Byrd next season.

If the Bills can't find a replacement on campus, where would they look next? Here are our initial thoughts:

Free agency: Even outside of Byrd, the free-agent class at safety is strong. Cleveland's T.J. Ward, Miami's Chris Clemons, New Orleans' Malcolm Jenkins and San Francisco's Donte Whitner are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Ward is the best of the group but may command a deal that rivals Byrd's. Ultimately, the Bills may want to develop their homegrown replacement instead of opening their wallets on the free-agent market.

The draft: The draft provides fewer solid options. Safety is considered to have weaker depth than most positions this May, with Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor at the top of the board. The Bills wouldn't consider either at ninth overall and may have to hope they're still on the board early in the second round.

Trade market: Dipping into the trade market would be the least likely scenario but can't be counted out. Their best bet would be to find a younger player who is undervalued in a new defensive scheme and try him in a different system.

W2W4: Dolphins at Bills

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
2:45
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills are eliminated from the playoffs. No matter the outcome of their final two games, their offseason will start in a little over a week.

Just don't tell coach Doug Marrone that his team is only playing for pride.

"When people say, 'Miami is coming up, they have the playoffs, they have a lot on the line. They're playing Buffalo, they have nothing to play for except for pride, this and that,' that's not true," Marrone told WGR 550 on Friday. "That's a lie. We have a hell of a lot of things to play for."

So what are the Bills playing for? For one, Marrone wants the Bills to win back-to-back games, which they have yet to do this season. Secondly, Marrone wants to finish with a winning record in the division. The Bills are currently 2-2 with two AFC East games remaining.

Here's what to watch for when the Bills host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday:

1. What changes with Lewis? If Thad Lewis' three starts earlier this season were any indication, the Bills won't change their offensive scheme to adjust to not having EJ Manuel. When Manuel has struggled this season, the immediate reaction from Marrone and Manuel's teammates has been to stress that the entire offense needs to play better. So if Lewis has a strong outing Sunday with the same offensive pieces available to Manuel, does that mean Manuel -- and not those around him -- was more at fault for the struggles? It would be an interesting debate, although the sample size would be small.

2. Highlighting Lewis' fumbles: The last time we saw Lewis was a 35-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Scrambling on the game's first play, Lewis was hit from behind and fumbled. Two possessions later, Lewis was strip-sacked and lost the football again. Overall, in his three games as the starter, Lewis fumbled six times. Ball security with Lewis might be among the Bills' chief concerns entering this game. For the season, Lewis has a 19.1 QBR, which ranks 36th among qualified quarterbacks. That's about as low as it gets in the NFL this season.

3. Safeties in the spotlight: The Bills will be without safety Aaron Williams (ribs), which will likely force Da'Norris Searcy into the starting lineup. Searcy started in place of Jairus Byrd early in the season and the results were mixed. Searcy could again be an option to replace Byrd if he leaves through free agency this offseason, so Sunday will be another opportunity to evaluate the third-year safety in a significant role within the defense. It could also give the Bills a chance to give the two safeties they drafted this season, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks, their first substantial snaps on defense.

4. Sack record set to fall: The Bills will likely set a new franchise sack record on Sunday. With 49 sacks, they are already tied with the 1995 team for the most in franchise history. If they surpass 50 this season, they'll also break the unofficial record of 50 set by the 1964 Bills. Buffalo's pass rush has been ferocious this season and shows no signs of stopping against a Dolphins team that has allowed the NFL's most sacks.

Locker Room Buzz: Buffalo Bills

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
5:56
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots:

Win slips away: Defensive tackle Kyle Williams was frustrated by the loss, giving his team credit but lamenting that it let the victory slip through its hands. "Just because all of you say we're going to get beat by 50 and we get beat by [two points], that doesn't make me feel any better," said Williams, the team's longest-tenured player. "I've been here a long time. I just want to freaking win. We got to find a way to make the plays at the end of the day."

Jackson explains huddle: In the second quarter, with the offense sputtering, Bills coach Doug Marrone called a huddle on the sideline, with Fred Jackson giving a fiery follow-up speech once Marrone walked away. "I just told them that there were things that we were doing to ourselves. They didn't stop us in the first half. They were self-inflicted injuries to ourselves," Jackson said. "I said if we can get on our own way, we can get this thing rolling, and we did that in the second half. We went right down the field and scored a touchdown."

Goodwin injured; Searcy OK: Rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin left the game at halftime with what the team announced as a hand injury. He wasn't spotted in the locker room after the game. Safety Da'Norris Searcy said he is fine after staying on the sideline in the fourth quarter. "I was cramping bad, both calf muscles," Searcy said. "I had to come off and get a whole bunch of [fluids] and stretching, but it kept locking up on me. Just have to make sure I stay hydrated."
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd's status for the season opener against New England is uncertain, coach Doug Marrone said Sunday.

Byrd
Byrd, who has a sore foot, participated in only a portion of team drills during Sunday's practice, Marrone said.

The Pro Bowl safety sat out all of training camp, declining to sign his franchise tender until the Bills were set to return to their facility in Orchard Park, N.Y. Byrd did not play in the final two preseason games.

After Thursday night's preseason finale, Marrone said Byrd left the team to see a foot specialist in North Carolina.

If Byrd cannot play next Sunday against New England, expect the Bills to again turn to Da'Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams as their starting safeties.
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.
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd signed his franchise tender, the team announced late Tuesday.

Byrd
It was really just a matter of time before the Bills had Byrd back in the fold. After not reaching a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, the franchise-tagged safety did not report to training camp in late July.

For a Pro Bowler like Byrd, skipping out on camp was a logical move. With about eight months standing between him and his next shot at unrestricted free agency, his risk of injury -- and any potential financial losses in his next contract -- were minimized by remaining at home.

But the Bills will pack up their training camp at St. John Fisher College later this week, and make the 90-mile trek back to their facility in Orchard Park, NY. With dorm living in the rearview mirror and roster cut-down dates approaching, it was also time for Byrd to make the trip back to Buffalo.

It's unlikely that Byrd will see any action in Saturday's preseason game in Washington, if he suits up at all. And while you can bet that Byrd has been doing some distance learning of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's playbook over the last month, he will still need to get up to speed on the field.

Once Byrd is ready to play, the Bills will have some decisions to make at safety.

Through their first two preseason games, here's a look at how the Bills divided snaps at the position, without Byrd:

Aaron Williams (starter): 16 snaps versus Indianapolis, 27 snaps versus Minnesota.
Da'Norris Searcy (starter): 22 snaps versus Indianapolis, 31 snaps versus Minnesota.
Jonathan Meeks: 35 snaps versus Indianapolis, 20 snaps versus Minnesota.
Duke Williams: 29 snaps versus Indianapolis, 16 snaps versus Minnesota.
Jordan Dangerfield: 13 snaps versus Indianapolis, 24 snaps versus Minnesota.
Dominique Ellis: 8 snaps versus Indianapolis, 19 snaps versus Minnesota.

At this point, it's a good bet that the Bills will stick with Aaron Williams in one of their starting roles. The converted cornerback, a second-round pick in 2011, has come on strong this offseason after an underwhelming start to his career in Buffalo.

Searcy, a fourth-round pick in 2011, played in 15 games last season and was among the team's leaders in snaps on special teams at 56 percent, according to data compiled by FootballOutsiders.com. He figures to return to a similar role and back up both Byrd and Williams at safety.

Beyond that, the Bills invested a pair of 2013 draft picks in Meeks (fifth round) and Duke Williams (fourth round). Barring injury, both should make the 53-man roster.

Buffalo Bills practice report

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
12:22
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were back on the practice field Wednesday morning, holding their second full-padded session of training camp.

Passing along some observations:

Williams back, but does not participate: Defensive end Mario Williams was back in uniform after leaving training camp to have his sore foot evaluated. Williams worked with the strength and conditioning staff on the sidelines, and did not participate in practice. Meanwhile, tight end Scott Chandler (ACL) and defensive lineman Kyle Williams (Achilles) continued to be held out of team drills. Head coach Doug Marrone said the team has built in rest days for Chandler, who had knee surgery in January.

[+] EnlargeLeodis McKelvin
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsBills coach Doug Marrone came away impressed with the play of defensive back Leodis McKelvin on Wednesday.
Rogers sits out; McKelvin gets bumped up: Cornerback Justin Rogers was not in uniform on Wednesday after suffering a right hamstring injury in Tuesday's session. Marrone said after practice that Rogers will be out "for a short period of time." Rogers began training camp with the first team and was replaced by T.J. Heath on Tuesday. However, veteran Leodis McKelvin ran with the first team on Wednesday, with Heath and Crezdon Butler playing cornerback for the second group.

"He made a heck of a play on a comeback [pattern]," Marrone said of McKelvin after practice. "When you're out for that long, it takes some time. He's really coming along nicely. We're excited about that."

Elliott carted off: Second-year receiver Kevin Elliott was carted off the practice field with a right shoulder injury. Elliott made an impressive diving catch during 11-on-11s against top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but came down hard on his shoulder and looked to be in pain on the sideline. Elliott is the mix for a back-end roster spot.

Other injuries: Marrone said a pair of running backs were hobbled with ankle injuries on Wednesday. Veteran Tashard Choice came up slow during a punt drill and talked to trainers, but later came back onto the field for 11-on-11 work. Meanwhile, Zach Brown suffered an ankle injury that Marrone said doctors will examine.

Manuel gets first-team action: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel ran the first-team offense during the initial 11-on-11 period of practice after spending most of his time with the second team to begin training camp. Veteran Kevin Kolb led the top group for the final two 11-on-11 periods. For the second consecutive practice, Manuel avoided making any critical mistakes while in the pocket, but looked to face more blitz pressures than he has in previous sessions.

Kolb was intercepted during an early 7-on-7 drill by Gilmore, who undercut rookie running back Kendall Gaskins on a short pattern. Kolb was later intercepted by safety Da'Norris Searcy on a pass intended for rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin, and also had some throws that sailed behind receivers T.J. Graham and Robert Woods. On the plus side, it was Kolb who lofted a well-thrown ball to Elliott on the play where he was injured.

Dime package gets work: The Bills had six defensive backs on the field for a stretch of their final 11-on-11 period. Safety Duke Williams was one of the players coming on, with Bryan Scott replacing Nigel Bradham at linebacker. Along the defensive line, Manny Lawson and Alex Carrington provided the pass rush. On the second unit, rookie Nickell Robey manned the slot, intercepting quarterback Jeff Tuel late in the period.

Punters look even: The punt unit returned to action Wednesday, with Shawn Powell and Brian Stahovich both impressive during both special-teams periods. However, returners had issues during the first period, with Woods and Graham both muffing catches, drawing the ire of special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman.

Good day at the office for: McKelvin. The changes at cornerback continue for the Bills, and McKelvin was the latest to take reps with the first team. He didn't disappoint, showing tight coverage and breaking up a throw from Kolb to Woods during 11-on-11s.

Bad day at the office for: Kolb. It's tough to compare him side-by-side to Manuel since Kolb is usually seeing the best unit from the defense, but Kolb continues to struggle at times with his accuracy and decision making. He's in the spotlight given the quarterback situation, so his mistakes are more magnified than those of other players.

What's next: Players are off Thursday before returning to practice Friday morning from 8 to 11:10.

Bills don't have a ball at informal workout

May, 23, 2011
5/23/11
3:33
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ELMA, N.Y. -- The only footballs that exchanged hands were when long-snapper Garrison Sanborn fired a few through his legs.

Other than that, about 30 Buffalo Bills conducted a workout sans pigskin Monday morning at Sahlen's Sports Park in the bucolic suburbs. The Bills staged their first mass gathering of the labor stoppage, but merely getting together was more important than the practice.

"When you add a ball to the mix it just brings out the competitiveness and aggressive nature in us," Bills safety and team NFL Players Association representative George Wilson said. "We're just moving at a slow pace."

Several key players were there, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, running back Fred Jackson, receiver Lee Evans, safety Jairus Byrd and three-fifths of last year's starting offensive line.

Injuries were on the minds of most players. Going too hard and getting hurt could put seasons or contracts in jeopardy. Any player injured while not working out under the supervision of the team could be placed on the non-football injury list and could be forced to repay bonus money.

"You have to be smart about it," left tackle Demetrius Bell said. "Don't go out there too hard and hurt yourself. Get a good sweat, get your work in and get off the field."

As long as the lockout wears on, offseason routines are being disrupted. At this time last year, all four AFC East teams had held their rookie camps. The New York Jets held three organized team activities by this point, and the Miami Dolphins had conducted two. The Dolphins staged last year's mandatory minicamp May 28. The others were in mid to late June.

Workouts such as the one the Bills are participating in this week help keep the players focused on football.

"We're accustomed to coming in, getting breakfast, getting taped, having the typical warm-up," Wilson said. "The routine is out. But being pros and being at this level, we have to be able to know what we need to do to be ready.

"The trust is there. I truly believe that after the season we had a year ago, the guys are working to get that bitter taste out of their mouths. We definitely want to have high expectations to be more competitive and put ourselves in position to have one of those playoff spots.

"They say championships are won in the offseason because of the work that you put in, the closeness of the team. But the good thing about this is all 32 teams are experiencing this. All 2,000-plus players have to endure the same plight. So it's all about who handles this lockout the best and once it's all over, who gets ready the fastest."

Two draft picks, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and defensive back Da'Norris Searcy, showed up. But Wilson wouldn't let them take part in drills for insurance purposes.

"I'm not allowing them to get on the field during any of the agility or conditioning or anything," Wilson said. He noted the rookies could extract usefulness from "putting faces with names, getting more acquainted with guys from their position."

Bills join in Tar Heel draft derby

April, 30, 2011
4/30/11
5:19
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Imagine how good the University of North Carolina could've been last season.

The Tar Heels won eight games, including their first bowl victory since 2001. But they were peppered with substantial problems throughout the season.

[+] EnlargeJohnny White
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesNew Buffalo running back Johnny White was one of eight North Carolina players selected in the first 171 picks of the NFL draft.
They endured a pair of scandals, one for improper agent contact and another for academic misconduct. Fourteen players were suspended for one game, seven for the entire season. Injuries presented additional troubles.

Illustrative of the Tar Heels' remarkable collection of talent was how much they populated the NFL draft.

Eight North Carolina players were selected within the first 171 slots and four players inside the first two rounds. The only positional group not represented was tight end.

The Buffalo Bills snagged Tar Heels with consecutive picks, taking strong safety Da'Norris Searcy in the fourth round and running back Johnny White in the fifth.

"We were stacked with talent," White said on a conference call with reporters. "I'm just happy for all those guys and feel blessed to be a part of that."

North Carolina's pro day was like a scouting festival. Droves of personnel evaluators converged on Chapel Hill because so many players hadn't produced in-season game film.

"It was unbelievable evaluating those guys," Bills regional scout Tom Roth said. "I mean, there were 15, 16, 17 [scouting reports] I wrote. Then with all the drama going on there and the injuries, there were about 150 people there. ... Some teams had their whole coaching staffs there."

The Bills sent four evaluators: general manager Buddy Nix, vice president of college scouting Tom Modrak, regional scout Darrell Moody and Roth.

"We felt like if we had all our guys and were healthy and eligible that we could go as far as we could take ourselves," White said.

Searcy was prevented from playing three games while the university investigated a class paper that had been called into question. He was cleared.

"Of all the kids at North Carolina that were involved in the academic stuff," Moody said, "he was a kid -- to put it bluntly -- he got screwed. ... There was something there they wanted to check and had questions about.

"He shouldn't have missed any games at all."

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