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Video: Discussion of Bills, Jaguars receiving corps

Andre Reed, Steve Tasker make Hall of Fame semifinalist ballot

By Tim Graham

Andre Reed and Steve Tasker are among the 27 semifinalists for the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot.

Names of the semifinalists were announced this afternoon.

Reed has been on the verge of enshrinement. He has been one of the 15 finalists each of the past six years. He's part of a three-man receiver logjam with Cris Carter and Tim Brown, both of whom are semifinalists again this time.

Tasker has been a semifinalist before but never has reached the finalist stage.

Fifteen modern-era finalists will be announced in January and join two Seniors Committee nominees (defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson) for the last vote.

The other semifinalists:

  • * Offensive lineman Larry Allen
  • * Kicker Morten Andersen
  • * Safety Steve Atwater
  • * Running back Jerome Bettis
  • * Head coach Don Coryell
  • * Running back Roger Craig
  • * Running back Terrell Davis
  • * Owner Eddie DeBartolo
  • * Defensive end Kevin Greene
  • * Defensive end Charles Haley
  • * Tackle Joe Jacoby
  • * Cornerback Albert Lewis
  • * Safety John Lynch
  • * Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg
  • * Owner Art Modell
  • * Tackle Jonathan Ogden
  • * Coach Bill Parcells
  • * Defensive tackle Warren Sapp
  • * Guard Will Shields
  • * Defensive end Michael Strahan
  • * Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
  • * Defensive back Aeneas Williams
  • * Contributor George Young

MJD still out; Blackmon and Shorts to play for Jaguars

By Tim Graham

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is out for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, but the Jacksonville Jaguars will have both of their top receivers.

Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey announced Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts will play. Newly acquired defensive end Jason Babin also will play and could be in the starting lineup.

Blackmon (groin) and Shorts (hamstring) sat out Thursday's practice, but were back today.

Shorts has been a star in recent weeks. He leads the NFL at 20.8 yards per catch. He has 36 receptions for 747 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns.

Blackmon's 38 catches lead the Jaguars. He has 548 yards and three touchdowns.

Jones-Drew, one of the NFL's best running backs when healthy, will miss his sixth straight game with a left foot injury. Rashad Jennings has been his replacement, averaging just 2.8 yards a carry.

Jairus Byrd not worried about contract extension yet

By Tim Graham

Free agent-to-be Jairus Byrd didn't make any definitive declarations about his future with the Buffalo Bills, but he said he wouldn't mind coming back.

"If everything works out, I have no problems with Buffalo," Byrd told reporters today at One Bills Drive. "But I know around this time, it's about business."

Byrd is in the final season of his rookie contract and having a great campaign. He's second on the Bills with 64 tackles. He leads them with four interceptions, is tied for the lead with three forced fumbles and two recoveries. He has five pass breakups.

Byrd would be one of the most attractive free agents of 2013. ProFootballFocus.com rates him the NFL's third-best safety this year. The Bills could be forced to apply the franchise tag on him if negotiations sputter.

"It's exciting," Byrd said of being a free agent for the first time. "Everybody is excited about that possibility, but I'm just trying to finish this season and then go from there."

ESPN.com blogger James Walker reported today the Bills have had talks with Byrd's camp about an extension.

Byrd said he was unaware of any negotiations.

"I've talked to my agent, but it hasn't been about that," Byrd said. "He'll tell me what's going on. ... We communicate. He just kind of lets me focus. I'll let him handle that."

Byrd didn't make any pronouncements about finishing his career with Buffalo, but spoke kindly of the organization and region.

"Re-signing with Buffalo, I have no problems," Byrd said. "We just have to win. That's the biggest thing, just winning.

"And I want to be somewhere I'm wanted, too. I want to be wanted here, and if that's the case, then I have no problems with Buffalo, Coach Gailey. Everyone is great here."

Donald Jones misses practice, status for Sunday uncertain

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills might be without receiver Donald Jones for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Jones, limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, didn't practice at all today because of a calf problem.

"Donald Jones has had some tightness in his calf," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "We keep trying to get it out, but we haven't been able to do that yet."

Jones is Buffalo's second-leading receiver with 38 receptions for 410 yards and four touchdowns. His 68-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Week Four against the New England Patriots is the Bills' longest play from scrimmage this year.

"Missing practices like he has, parts of two and then an entire one, it hurts us," Gailey said. "But if he can play, he would know what to do. That's not an issue.

"We try to make sure guys practice Wednesday or Thursday. If you miss Wednesday and Thursday, then it's hard to play, in my opinion, because that's the major work days. But if you miss one or the other, then I think you can live with it."

H-back Dorin Dickerson also missed practice to attend a funeral and will be available Sunday.

Defensive ends Mark Anderson (knee) and Chris Kelsay (neck) already have been ruled out.

One for bad, two for good: Nick Barnett big liability in coverage

By Tim Graham

Once again, we take a look inside the Buffalo Bills' numbers in a way Raymond Babbitt would approve. It's one for bad, two for good ...

One for bad

* ProFootballFocus.com grades Nick Barnett as the second-worst 4-3 linebacker in coverage based on passer rating. PFF has charted opposing quarterbacks throwing into Barnett's coverage area 37 times for 32 completions, 358 yards, 209 yards after the catch and three touchdowns. Barnett has broken up one pass.

Two for good

* STATS Inc.'s data shows C.J. Spiller ranks sixth in the NFL and third among running backs with 389 yards after the catch. This includes yardage gained on receptions behind the line of scrimmage because Spiller officially has only 332 yards.

Spiller is averaging 12.2 yards after the catch. The running backs ahead of him in total YAC, Ray Rice and Trent Richardson, are averaging 8.8 and 9.7 YAC.

* STATS Inc. also sheds some insight on how valuable Stevie Johnson has been on third down. He's tied for third in the NFL in first-down receptions of third and longer than 7 yards (seven catches) and tied for second in first-down receptions of third and shorter than 3 yards (four catches).

Overall on third down, Johnson is tied for sixth with 16 first-down catches.

Buddy Nix: Stop asking about Gailey and Fitzpatrick, or I'll hang up and listen

By Tim Graham

Buddy Nix acknowledges that Buffalo Bills fans are fed up with the idea of Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick returning next year.

Nix is fed up with the questions.

Buffalo's general manager threatened to end his weekly show on WGR about two minutes after it started if host Howard Simon didn't talk about something else. Simon asked some pointed questions about how committed the Bills are to keeping Gailey as coach and Fitzpatrick as quarterback.

"Howard, you can change the subject, or we can let this thing go dead," Nix said after hearing one too many questions about Gailey and Fitzpatrick.

Simon's opening question to Nix regarded the difficulties of maintaining a stay-the-course philosophy when the team is 4-7 and about to miss the playoffs a 13th straight season.

"I don't think you preach that all is well because it's not," Nix said. "We haven't won enough games. But to keep saying 'Stay the course' is not hard. I think the hard part of that is listening to it. You people that have to hear it, they get tired of it, and I don't blame them.

"But I do know this: You have to do it. You just cannot have complete turmoil and turnover all the time. Again, it's not hard for me to sit here and say that that's the right way. It's just hard for fans and you guys to hear it."

Simon followed up by asking if Nix expected Gailey and Fitzpatrick to be back in 2013.

Nix had said on his Nov. 9 show he wanted to draft a franchise quarterback. A week earlier, Nix told reporters at One Bills Drive that Gailey has at least two more years left on his contract and that Gailey's job is not in jeopardy.

"You know, I addressed that about two or three weeks ago, and the reason was so that I wouldn't have to do it every week or after every loss," Nix said. "So I'm through discussing that."

Simon asked if Nix has total control of football operations.

"You know, I got a boss just like you do," Nix said. "Mr. Wilson is, obviously, the owner and anybody that says he don't have the final say is living in a dream world."

Nix's ultimatum came after a question about whether Ralph Wilson has given Nix any indication of whether he wants Gailey and Fitzpatrick back.

Later in the segment, Nix made another acknowledgement that the final say will be Wilson's.

In speaking of how long Nix, who will turn 73 next month, wanted to remain the Bills' GM, he said: "I came here to help try to get us on stable ground and get this football team moving in the right direction and get a basis of players that could compete and build it where it would last. That's my goal, and as long as I got enough energy to keep the pace, I'm going to keep doing it -- unless Mr. Wilson tells me I'm not. That's a guy that could decide that, obviously."

Chat replay: Inside the NFL with Mark Gaughan

Video: Bills red zone problems on offense

Mark Gaughan discusses why the Buffalo Bills can't score touchdowns once they get inside the 20-yard line.

Jaguars preview with Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran

By Jay Skurski

Ryan O'Halloran is in his first season covering the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Florida Times-Union after eight years covering the Washington Redskins.

He joined me this week to discuss Sunday's game between the Bills and Jaguars. The complete audio of the conversation is at the bottom of this post, along with some hightlights.

Question: How much has the change at quarterback helped the offense?

Ryan O’Halloran: "Well it's helped a lot because they've actually looked like an NFL offense. They're still last in yards, but they dug themselves such a big hole. They may get out of that cellar spot eventually. What Henne's done is he's sparked the passing game because he's not afraid to make some throws. One thing the Jags' coaches told Blaine Gabbert publicly before he was hurt is don't be afraid to take some chances down field. Chad Henne doesn't need to be told that. He's got a lot more experience and has made a concerted effort to get everybody involved."

Q: How has Mike Mularkey done in his first year?

RO: "He definitely has the locker room on his side. These guys respect the fact he's pretty even keel, pretty consistent in his message, which is a departure from Jack Del Rio. Mike came in with his staff and there wasn't a lot of roster turnover because General Manager Gene Smith is still on the job in his fourth year. It terms of game management with Mularkey, he's made some passive decisions, a lot of them earlier in the year when he could have given this team a little spark. … I think he has ownership's support and even at 2-9, I'd be surprised if he's not back next year."

Q: Where have been the biggest problems for the Jaguars?

RO: "On defense, they can't stop the run and they can’t get to the quarterback. Those are two big problems. Those have been consistent throughout the year. Just last week in their 11th game they finally got a sack from a player who wasn't a defensive linemen, so that shows you they don't blitz a lot because they've been banged up a lot in the [defensive backfield].

On offense, up until last week they were last in third-down conversions, and they're still last in time of possession. So they don't have the ball a lot. When you throw in [Maurice] Jones-Drew being hurt, that's basically left their running game impotent."

Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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