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  • 90 players in 90 days: CB Ryan Lewis
    by Sean Murphy on July 18, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports The short-lived starter at CB2 is clinging to a roster spot in 2019 The second cornerback position for the Buffalo Bills was a disaster in 2018. The team couldn’t quite find the right player, and they had three different plans blow up in their faces before they finally went with the undrafted rookie who ultimately solidified the spot. Heading into the 2019 season, the team has improved its depth in the defensive secondary significantly. As a result, some of those players who competed for a starting role last season will merely compete for a roster spot this season. In our latest installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile one such player. Name: Ryan Lewis Number: 38 Position: CB Height/Weight: 6’0” 185 lbs. Age: 25 (26 on 4/15/20) Experience/Draft: 2; signed as UDFA with Arizona Cardinals following 2017 NFL Draft College: Pittsburgh Acquired: Claimed off waivers on 9/2/18 Financial situation (per Spotrac): Lewis enters the final year of a two-year deal he signed last season. The total value of the contract is $1,050,000, and there are zero guaranteed dollars. Lewis carries a cap hit of $570,000 if he makes the roster this year. 2018 Recap: Lewis spent the offseason and preseason with the New England Patriots, but he was waived when teams cut down to their 53-man rosters on September 1. Buffalo claimed him on September 2, then released him on September 12 and re-signed to the practice squad. They promoted him to the active roster on September 18, and he started the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 23. That game was the first of three consecutive starts for Lewis, but halfway through the third game, Lewis was benched in favor of Phillip Gaines. After having played on 137 defensive snaps through those three games, Lewis played on only 13 defensive snaps for the rest of the season. He finished the year with 15 tackles, 3 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles in 7 games. Positional outlook: Lewis finds himself on the outside looking in with Buffalo’s revamped secondary. Tre’Davious White is the one obvious starter, while veterans E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson will battle second-year man Levi Wallace for the starting job opposite White. Taron Johnson should remain the top slot corner. Lafayette Pitts is a valuable member of the Bills’ special teams, and the club also has Cam Lewis and Denzel Rice in camp fighting for spots. 2019 Offseason: Lewis has participated in all offseason activities to date. 2019 Season outlook: Chances are good that the Bills will cut Lewis when the preseason comes to an end, as he fell out of favor fairly quickly with head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier last year. With so many new faces at the position, Lewis would have to outplay some veterans whom the Bills invested more money into in order to justify making the roster. It’s more likely that Lewis is starting over next year. […]

  • Camp preview: Bills significantly upgrade interior o-line
    by Sean Murphy on July 18, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports The Bills significantly upgraded the interior of their offensive line this offseason. The Buffalo Bills had a problem along the offensive line. The Bills lost three of the five starters from the 2017 season opener coming into the 2018 season. Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood all started that victory over the New York Jets to kick off the 2017 season, and none of the three were with the team to begin offseason activities in 2018. The Bills already had in-house replacements for Glenn and Incognito, permanently making Dion Dawkins the left tackle and re-inserting John Miller into the lineup at guard. They signed Russell Bodine to play center. They thought that the offensive line would allow the team to run a smash-mouth, run-oriented offense. Narrator: Well, they thought wrong. The Bills struggled to move the ball at all, partly due to poor quarterback play for most of the season, but also due to issues with protection. Buffalo’s leading rusher was Josh Allen, the team’s rookie quarterback. The top two running backs on the depth chart, LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory, combined to carry the ball 276 times for 899 yards—a brutal 3.26 yards-per-carry average. What did they do about it? They signed six free agents and drafted a potential starter along the offensive line. They threw all they could at the wall and now we get to see what will stick. With the biggest addition coming at center, we’ll start our offensive line preview with the interior linemen. Mitch Morse Contract status for 2019: Signed four-year deal this offseason; $10.94 million cap hit ($20.4 million if cut) Age: Turned 27 on 4/21/19 2018 playing time: 11 games (11 starts), 678 snaps (64.88% of offensive total), 60 ST snaps (12.96%) for the Kansas City Chiefs Key 2018 statistics: 4 penalties, 0 sacks allowed for Kansas City Chiefs Signed to the largest contract for a center in NFL history, it’s fair to say the Bills have high expectations for Morse coming over from the Chiefs. He helped mentor Patrick Mahomes over the last two years, and Buffalo is hoping he can do the same for Josh Allen. Spencer Long Contract status for 2019: Signed a complex three-year deal this offseason; $3.94 million cap hit ($1.3 million dead cap if cut) Age: 28 (Turns 29 on 11/8/19) 2018 playing time: 13 games (13 starts), 805 snaps (80.42% of offensive total) for the New York Jets Key 2018 statistics: 4 penalties, 3.5 sacks allowed for New York Jets After a down year dealing with a wrist injury in New Jersey, Long was optioned for release by the Jets. In Buffalo, he has lined up as first-team guard throughout the spring, so he seems to have the inside track to a starting spot. He also provides center depth, a key handcuff for Morse who has missed 14 games over the last two seasons. Wyatt Teller Contract status for 2019: $633,530 cap hit ($190,593 dead cap if cut) Age: 24 (25 on 11/21/19) 2018 playing time: 8 games (7 starts), 475 snaps (44.85% of offensive total), 27 ST snaps (6.15%) Key 2018 statistics: 5 penalties, 0 sacks allowed The second of Buffalo’s fifth-round draft picks in 2018, Teller slid into the starting lineup and was adequate in his first taste of NFL action. While it is certainly impressive that a rookie fifth-rounder was able to crack the starting lineup, the ineffectiveness of the unit as a whole is the greater reason for the coaching staff’s willingness to give Teller a chance. Also, the team dropping out of contention allowed Teller to slide in and gain experience. His spot in the starting lineup is by no means assured in 2019. Quinton Spain Contract status for 2019: Signed this offseason; $2.05 million cap hit ($200,000 dead cap if cut) Age: 27 (28 on 8/7/19) 2018 playing time: 15 games (15 starts), 856 snaps (86.82% of offensive total), 49 ST snaps (11.69%) for the Tennessee Titans Key 2018 statistics: 5 penalties, 1 sack allowed for Tennessee Titans The former multi-game starter for the Titans, Spain languished in free agency for a long time before signing in Buffalo. He’s been hurt for a large chunk of spring workouts, so it’s tough to say where he’s going to slot in. Within the contracts they gave out this offseason, they aren’t paying him as much as the other two free agent guards. Jon Feliciano Contract status for 2019: Signed this offseason; $3.45 million cap hit ($3.9 million if cut) Age: Turned 27 on 2/10/1992 2018 playing time: 13 games (4 starts), 227 snaps (21.79% of offensive total), 57 ST snaps (12.87%) for Oakland Raiders Key 2018 statistics: 3 penalties, 0 sacks allowed for Oakland Raiders A spot starter for the Raiders, Feliciano was never able to make the next step into Oakland’s starting lineup. Buffalo signed him early in their free agency process and gave him a hefty pay bump, making him the second-highest paid guard on the team. His cap hit will go up if he’s cut, and Buffalo sank a significant amount of guaranteed money into his contract. It’s likely he’ll be on the roster because of it. Vladimir Ducasse Contract status for 2019: $2,083,334 cap hit ($83,334 dead cap if cut) Age: 31 (32 on 10/15/19) Playing time: 10 games (9 starts), 563 snaps (53.16% of offensive total), 28 ST snaps (6.38%) Key statistics: 4 penalties, 0 sacks allowed Ducasse began 2018 as the team’s starting left guard, moving over from the right side after Richie Incognito was released in the offseason. Ducasse was who we thought he was, mixing in solid play with poor moments throughout the season. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Teller after the bye week. With only $83,334 in dead cap money, the Bills could certainly decide to part ways with the veteran; however, the fact that they haven’t means it’s entirely possible that the coaching staff wants to keep him around as insurance. Russell Bodine Contract status for 2019: $2.875 million cap hit ($500,000 dead cap if cut) Age: Turned 27 on 6/30/19 Playing time: 10 games (10 starts), 588 snaps (55.52% of offensive snaps), 5 ST snaps (1.14%) Key statistics: 3 penalties, 0 sacks allowed Bodine signed with the Bills last offseason, after having started all 64 games of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals prior to this season. Of course, he missed the second half of the 2018 season due to a leg injury—the first time he has missed time due to injury as a professional. Bodine was not great, but he was the best the team had. With Morse in the fold and Long able to play both guard and center, Buffalo won’t have a need for Bodine unless there is an injury to one of those two free agents. His days in Buffalo appear to be numbered. Positional Outlook The Bills saw a dire need on the interior of their offensive line and responded. They didn’t do projections with rookies, either. Instead they went with proven NFL talent. They signed four interior linemen with starting experience to pair with the three players already on the roster with starting experience. All seven will compete at the start of training camp for three starting spots and two backup roles. That means two players will likely be on the outside looking in when final cuts are announced, and the Bills will be better for it. […]

  • All-22 analysis: Buffalo Bills 2018 interceptions
    by Skarekrow on July 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports Are interceptions more often the result of luck, or a skill that can be replicated? Buffalo Rumblings dares to ask the tough questions! The obsession with turnovers continues! We’ve already looked at the hard data and dove part of the way into the question of whether defensive players can reliably create more forced fumbles. So while we’re at it, let’s peruse the entire catalog of 2018 Buffalo Bills interceptions and see how much skill played a part over luck. Method Just like with forced fumbles, we turn to the All-22 video to classify the cause of all 16 interceptions that benefited the Buffalo Bills in 2018. As was the case before, if a play couldn’t be definitively attributed to a skill from a defensive player it was chalked up to luck. For interceptions I went with three types of skills that could be replicated or counted on with some consistency. Tipped passes, pressure interceptions, and interceptions that resulted from play awareness were considered skill-based. Tipped passes Tipped passes were considered skill based only if a member of the Buffalo Bills tipped the ball, like Tremaine Edmunds does here. It’s pretty wild how high up he goes in the passing lane with essentially no vertical at the point of contact. When an offensive opponent tipped the ball, it was chalked up to luck. Pressure Pressure interceptions resulted from bad passes caused by one or more of the Bills rattling the quarterback. Here Trent Murphy almost has the sack which causes Deshaun Watson to roll right. Lorenzo Alexander brings pressure as well and this pass is way off target. Awareness So called “awareness” interceptions generally include a component of luck. Most often it’s a semi-errant pass (errant passes were marked as “luck”). On this play for example the ball is a little further ahead of the receiver than you’d like to see. Since there’s a shot it’s caught if Taron Johnson doesn’t make a play on it we give credit to Johnson for seeing that the ball is off target and cutting off the receiver. Luck Most of the lucky breaks were nothing more than a terrible throw or decision from the quarterback. There’s really no reason this throw is that far and even less reason that it may as well have been aimed at Tre’Davious White all along. The Results The person ultimately intercepting the ball is not often the person creating the opportunity. This is in contrast to your forced fumble data which was strictly based on who created the opportunity. This led to a difference in the table, where the blue column is the player who caught the ball and the reddish columns indicate who created the opportunity. Another contrast is that the most common cause of interceptions is luck with seven of the 16 attributed to this factor. Whether it was miscues by Tom Brady and his receivers, the Jaguars tripping over themselves to hand the ball over, or a very lucky bounce after a jarring Tremaine Edmunds hit, there were a lot of interceptions that simply can’t be called skill based. I was surprised at the lack of interceptions that were tipped by the Bills. It was more common that an opponent’s butterfingers put the ball up for grabs. Buffalo will look to improve their pass rush which could help increase pressure based interceptions. Awareness picks could go up for similar reasons. A lot more analysis would be needed to really get a handle on interceptions and their correlation to skill and technique. But the preliminary look suggests it’s just as good to be lucky as it is anything else. […]

  • Power ranking the Bills on one-year deals based on potential 2019 impact
    by Adam Nannini on July 18, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images Who is going to make their mark on the team? The mark of a good general manager is not simply whether he brings talent to a team, but whether he acquires that talent at a good value. Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has done a nice job thus far in his tenure of securing solid talent at a reasonable price and, for most NFL teams, this value is often best exemplified in one-year free-agent contracts. In 2019, the Buffalo Bills made a number of value free-agent acquisitions in the offseason, some who are new and some who are returning for a year. Why does a player sign up for a one-year contract? Often, there are injury concerns by the team signing the player or said player may wish to have a “prove it” year, as it were. This year, Beane picked up eleven important one-year contracts, and below is a power ranking of their potential impact for this season. One-year free agent power rankings 1. LB Lorenzo AlexanderIn 2018, 35-year-old Lorenzo Alexander had an excellent statistical year: two interceptions, nine passes defended, two forced fumbles, 6.5 sacks, and 74 tackles (the most in his career). But Alexander’s importance this year is not so much his stats. No, there are two qualities he brings to the Buffalo Bills that they need desperately in 2019: leadership and versatility. Alexander is the elder statesman on the Bills, and with the retirement of “heart and soul” team leader, Kyle Williams, Zo is going to need to step up in that role. Also, since the Bills did little to improve their defensive end room, Alexander’s ability to both play outside linebacker and defensive end in certain situations offers some great defensive flexibility for Coach McDermott and Leslie Frazier. 2. CB Kevin JohnsonKevin Johnson was selected in the first round (16th overall) in 2015 by the Houston Texans out of Wake Forest University. This signing is the ultimate boom or bust free agent for the Bills this season. Johnson has top-end talent, but he is injury-prone. In his four years with the Texans, he only started a total of 18 games, and he only managed to play in 35 of Houston’s 64 games. Brandon Beane invested heavily in the second cornerback position opposite Tre’Davious White. Head coach Sean McDermott has a way of bringing out the best in defensive backs. If Johnson can stay healthy this season, the Buffalo Bills will have a secondary to be reckoned with. 3. G Quinton SpainQuinton Spain comes over from the Tennessee Titans, where he played for four years. This young man is massive at 6’ 4” and 330 lbs. Spain is a solid pass protector, having played left tackle while at West Virginia, but his real strength is as a road-grading run blocker. He’s strong at the point of attack, and his value will be measured by the success of the power run game and the holes he opens for the Buffalo Bills’ AARP backfield, allowing for a more balanced attack. Spain may be the replacement for Richie Incognito the Bills lacked in 2018, and he may well become LeSean McCoy’s best friend. 4. DE Eli HaroldEli Harold played outside linebacker for Virginia in college, and he’s spent his NFL career playing linebacker for both the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. The Buffalo Bills picked up Harold with the intent of converting him to a defensive end. Harold is long and lean and, in his bit parts in the NFL, he’s shown some ability to pressure quarterbacks. While Harold is not going to push for a starting role, he’s extremely important on this Bills team that did little to address their pass-rushing needs in the offseason. If Harold can turn into a solid fourth defensive end, it would be a giant boon for McDermott’s defense. 5. RB Frank GoreFrank Gore is a known commodity, but at the age of 36, can the Bills really hope for much production from him? Gore is that rare running back who seems to show no signs of age. Last year, on a struggling Miami Dolphins team, Gore averaged 4.6 yards per carry—his best since 2012—and he ran for a total of 722 yards on the season. Those 722 yards would have made him the leading running back on the Bills in 2018 by over 200 yards. Gore has been content to be more of a role player in recent seasons, but if he can bring his consistency to the Bills in 2019, paired with the veteran McCoy and the rookie, Devin Singletary, the Bills’ rushing attack will be much improved. 6. CB E.J. GainesE.J. Gaines is a known commodity for the Bills, having played opposite Tre’Davious White in the famous “end the drought” season. Gaines isn’t flashy. He’s a solid zone cornerback, but he lacks high-end talent. Like Kevin Johnson, he also has had injury problems throughout his career, as he has only played in 43 of a possible 80 games since entering the NFL in 2014. Still, should Kevin Johnson not work out or if Taron Johnson doesn’t live up to the team’s hopes at the nickel spot, Gaines represents excellent depth at the position, and McDermott will make the most of having him. 7. DT Jordan PhillipsThe Bills drafted Ed Oliver to start at the three technique at defensive tackle, but McDermott’s defense utilizes a lot of rotation for players, keeping them fresh. Phillips is built more like a one technique at 6’6” and 341 lbs., but Harrison Phillips seems slotted right now to back up Star Lotulelei, and Jordan will back up Ed Oliver. Oliver and Jordan Phillips offer extremely different body shapes and sizes with Oliver more undersized and quick. If Jordan Phillips can make a difference in stuffing the run this season against excellent backs like Zeke Elliot, Le’Veon Bell, Saquon Barkley, etc., he will provide great help to an already stingy Buffalo Bills defense. 8. T LaAdrian WaddleMr. Waddle may not be quite as famous as Mrs. Waddle in Buffalo, as the latter helped Del Reid to raise a great deal of money for a children’s advocacy center in Nashville, TN in response to the famous “Titans fans buying votes for the best fan base Twitter poll controversy” of 2019. While Mrs. Waddle has endeared herself to Bills Mafia, LaAdrian represents solid depth at the tackle position for Buffalo, something the Bills lacked in 2018. It’s unlikely Waddle challenges to start this season, but Beane and McDermott can take comfort that they have depth at an important position. 9. RB Senorise PerryComing from the Dolphins, Perry played on two-thirds of Miami’s special-teams snaps in 2018, and his 12 special-teams tackles tied him for 13th in the NFL. Perry may have a difficult time making the 53-man roster because of Buffalo’s stacked running-back room, but if he does, it will certainly be because of his special-teams abilities. Perry is a good returner and an excellent gunner. Special teams was a weakness for the Bills in 2018, leading to the firing of special-teams coach Danny Crossman. If he makes the team, it’s unlikely Perry will see any snaps in the backfield, but he may make great contributions on punts and kickoffs. 10. DE Eddie YarbroughIf Yarbrough makes the team in 2019, and there is no guarantee of that, this will be the season he will need to step up and contribute as a solid role player. Yarbrough is known for his work ethic and is well-liked by the coaching staff, but in the past two seasons, he’s only had a single sack and eight QB hits (only one last season). Yarbrough represents the sort of high motor, blue-collar, trust the process type players, but motor without a baseline of talent can equal a sweaty man with no results. He’s been on the Buffalo Bills for two seasons, and it stands to reason that Beane and McDermott might go with a defensive unknown over a failing known and cut Yarbrough before the season. Time will tell. 11. LB Maurice AlexanderAs a converted safety, Maurice Alexander has been solid on special teams in his NFL career. McDermott, a fan of the “big nickel” defensive package, may try to utilize Alexander in that role on defense, though it’s more likely that his main contribution would be on special teams. It doesn’t seem likely that Alexander makes the final roster with players like Rafael Bush, Siran Neal, and Vosean Joseph all more likely to make the final cut. Still, if Alexander does make the team, he, like Perry, may help the Bills as a special-teams ace. […]

  • Low Madden ratings to serve as motivation for Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills
    by John Boccacino on July 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images White says he feels the team “was robbed” in the video game’s rankings Athletes are always searching for extra motivation, and for Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, the release of the annual Madden video game ratings has provided extra incentive heading into the 2019 season. On an appearance Tuesday on NFL Network, White, who said he isn’t much for video games, expressed his frustrations over how Madden’s video-game designers assigned their ratings for the Buffalo Bills. “I feel like they robbed us on a lot of our guys, man,” White said on NFL Total Access. Safety Micah Hyde received the highest overall ranking for a Bills player from the popular video game (an 86), followed by White (85). Seeing how poorly Hyde was graded by Madden drew the ire of White, who felt Hyde should have at least received a rating in the 90s. “He’s one of the best safeties in the game,” White told Syracuse.com. “From the last two years, him and Jordan Poyer, I pretty much think those guys are the best safety duo in the NFL. If you just look at the numbers and the way those guys take the ball away.” White said Madden was particularly harsh when it came to rating second-year quarterback Josh Allen (a 74), who ranked 28th among quarterbacks and only beat out Joe Flacco, Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, and Eli Manning among Madden’s ratings for projected starting quarterbacks this year. Safety Jordan Poyer (80), running back LeSean McCoy (82), and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (82) were among the other Bills with below-expected ratings in the video game, according to White. “We got Shady at an 82, which is very disrespectful. Then you got Josh Allen at a 74, man,” White said. “It’s something that those guys are pretty much gonna take it into the season. That’s the extra motivation that we need to get the acknowledgement that we deserve.” Whatever it takes to inspire and motivate White, Bills fans will take it—even if it comes in the form of virtual rankings on Madden. […]

 

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