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C.J. Spiller, Mario Williams say they're OK; secondary not so much

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone needed half a minute this afternoon to rattle off all his team's injuries.

Did not practice

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hand)
  • Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring)
  • Guard Kraig Urbik (knee)
  • Defensive end Mario Williams (ankle)
  • Defensive tackler Kyle Williams (Achilles)
  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist)
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring)
  • Cornerback Ron Brooks (foot)
  • Kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin)

Limited practice

  • Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (ankle)
  • Safety Jairus Byrd (feet)

Full practice

  • Running back C.J. Spiller (quadriceps)
  • Guard Doug Legursky (knee)

Defensive end Alex Carrington had quadriceps surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Spiller and Mario Williams expressed confidence they'll play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"The biggest thing, I wasn't hesitant," Spiller said. "That was really going to be my biggest mental hurdle, if I was going to be hesitant on my cut, and I wasn't. I was able to push off it.

"Still some soreness in it, not completely where I want it to be. But I think by Sunday it'll be completely gone."

Kyle Williams had a rest day, and Marrone indicated his defensive line will remain intact.

"We're fine up front," Marrone said.

The secondary is in trouble. Marrone said, "Leodis is in the mix still, and it's day-to-day," but safety Aaron Williams (last year's coverage foil) and Justin Rogers (Sunday's coverage foil) were the first-team cornerbacks in practice today.

"We're going through different combinations, different combinations of schematics, man, zone, matchups," Marrone said. "We'll see what gives us the best opportunity to be successful. That process is going to be day-to-day."

Doug Marrone admits need to run clock after sack late in half

By Mark Gaughan

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone acknowledged he should have had his offense slow down after taking a sack late in the first half of Sunday's loss to the New York Jets.

The Bills got the ball on their own 25 with 1:41 left in the half. EJ Manuel was sacked for an 8-yard loss on first down. Manuel completed a 9-yard pass on second down, but then threw incomplete on third.

The Jets took possession after a punt on their own 34-yard line with 43 seconds left. The Jets had enough time to drive for a 47-yard field goal.

Marrone explained his thought process and admitted he made a judgment error.

"Looking back, here's exactly what was going through my mind," he said. "We were going to get the ball in the second half. I tend to be aggressive before that. What happened was we took the sack for minus-9. We come back and make it up on second down. We get 9 or 10 yards.

"Now we're down to a manageable third down. We actually wanted to take a shot vertically down the field, and we wound up throwing an intermediate route incomplete."

Marrone said he should have run on second and third down to make the Jets use their times out or to run clock.

"When we took the sack and we were at second and 18 or 19 -- and I told this to the team -- we all make mistakes. In hindsight, we go back, we take the sack, the percentages of making second and 18 to a first down ... Run the football, either to use the timeouts or the clock runs down, and go.

"So you're exactly right. I'm not going to sit up here and defend that it was the right decision. It was a decision that I also questioned after the game."

Some things never change, like the Bills' run defense

By Jerry Sullivan

You can change the general manager and the head coach. You can bring in new linebackers and a new coordinator and assistant coaches. But while many of the faces change, one thing never seems to change about the Bills. Their run defense will rank near the bottom of the NFL.

After three weeks, the Bills are back in their customary spot near the bottom of the league stats. They're allowing 155 yards a game on the ground, which ties them for 30th. The Bills have finished 28th or worse against the run the last four seasons; their average per rush against was 27th or worse all four years. 

In fact, the Bills have not finished better than 22nd against the run since 2004. Their average per rush has been 27th or worse in seven of the last eight seasons. In 2008, they were 21st.

In a pinch, I always blame Tom Donahoe. He was the general manager in 2004 when the Bills' run defense was seventh overall and averaged just 3.6 yards a rush, tied for second in the NFL. But Donahoe decided that nose tackle Pat Williams didn't play consistently hard enough and allowed Williams to walk in free agency.

Williams moved on to the Vikings after the '04 season and was a pillar on one of the best run defenses in recent NFL history. Buffalo's run defense has been horrid since.

The good news on this year's run defense is that the average per rush against is only 4.3 yards, which would be the Bills' best in five years. But they've been on the field for more than 35 minutes a game and have faced the most running plays of any team in the league. That's partly because the offense plays fast and isn't staying on the field enough.

Coach Doug Marrone said third downs are the problem -- on both sides of the ball.

The Bills are 28th in the league in offensive third-down conversions and 27th in getting off the field defensively on third. That's a lethal combination, and one with which Bills fans have become all too familiar.

Bills bring back DT Jay Ross; make practice squad change

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills today filled the roster spot created Monday when defensive end Alex Carrington was placed on injured reserve by re-signing defensive lineman Jay Ross.

Ross, 25, is a 6-foot-3, 319-pounder who was released two weeks ago after making the 53-man roster out of training camp. The East Carolina product played in one game for the Bills last season, spending most of the year on the team's practice squad. Ross was released after being inactive for the season opener against the New England Patriots due to a numbers crunch at cornerback. The team lost Ron Brooks in Week One, and promoted Johnny Adams from the practice squad to take his place.

Carrington had surgery for a torn quad Monday, an injury that ended his season.

The Bills also made a change to their practice squad, releasing defensive end Izaan Cross and signing defensive end Adewale Ojomo.

Ojomo, 24, is a 6-foot-4, 270-pounder who played in college at Miami. He joined the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2012, appearing in one game. He was most recently on the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad.

Luke Tasker lands job with CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats

By Jay Skurski

From the in-case-you-missed-it department comes this: St. Francis graduate Luke Tasker has signed to the practice roster of the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Tasker, 22, spent training camp with the San Diego Chargers after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Cornell following the 2013 NFL Draft. He was released as part of San Diego's final cuts Aug. 30.

In Hamilton, he reunites with coach Kent Austin, who was Tasker's coach for three years with the Big Red.

"A lot of the terminology is still the same. There's a lot to learn with the 12th man out there and some of the things are more complex than what we did at Cornell," Tasker told the Guelph Mercury after his first practice last week. "The big thing is that there's a lot of memorization that I already have down."

A 5-foot-11, 191-pounder, Tasker will attempt to earn a spot on the active roster as a receiver, Austin told the paper. The Ticats are 6-6 this season, in second place in the CFL's East Division behind Toronto (8-4). Hamilton has six games remaining in the 18-game regular season CFL teams play, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Calgary.

How the locals fared: Week Three

By Jay Skurski

Our weekly rundown on the Press Coverage blog of the players from Western New York (along with the University at Buffalo) currently in the NFL:

Steven Means: The Buffalo native and Grover Cleveland and University at Buffalo product -- a rookie defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- was inactive in Week Three, the second week in a row he was a healthy scratch. Means made his NFL debut in Week One, playing five snaps on special teams in an 18-17 loss at the New York Jets. He did not register any statistics.

Mike Williams: The Tampa Bay receiver -- a Buffalo native and Riverside product -- was targeted a team-high nine times by quarterback Josh Freeman, making five catches for 65 yards in a 23-3 loss at the New England Patriots.

James Starks: The Green Bay Packers running back, a Niagara Falls and University at Buffalo product, carried 14 times for 55 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in a 34-30 loss. All of those carries came in the first two quarters, however, as Starks suffered a knee injury shortly before halftime and did not return. The injury comes at a tough time for Starks, who became his team's first 100-yard rusher in the regular season since 2010 when he gained 132 yards on 20 carries during a 38-20 victory over Washington in Week Two. Starks and the Packers have a bye week coming up, so he has a chance to get healthy.

Continue reading "How the locals fared: Week Three" »

Henry Melton's injury shows risk Jairus Byrd faces upon return

Jairus Byrd
Bills safety Jairus Byrd is playing under a one-year contract as the team's franchise player. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

By Jay Skurski

Exhibit A as to why NFL players hate the franchise tag can be seen in Chicago, where Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on Sunday night against Pittsburgh, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Melton, 26, was playing this season on a one-year contract as the Bears' franchise player, a designation that pays him a guaranteed $8.45 million as a defensive tackle. Melton's in his fifth year in the NFL, and coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He's entering the prime of his career, but his earning power for what should be the biggest contract of his life is now significantly in question because of a serious injury.

Continue reading "Henry Melton's injury shows risk Jairus Byrd faces upon return" »

Add Powell and Vereen and make it a Fabulous Fourteen

By Jerry Sullivan

Last year around this time, inspired by Brandon Bolden's 137-yard rushing day against the Bills, I put together a list of 12 running backs who had enjoyed a breakthrough game against the Buffalo defense.

I've been asked by a couple of readers to update it after two more obscure backs went for career highs against the Bills this season -- New England's Shane Vereen more than doubled his career high with 101 yards rushing in the opener and the Jets' Bilal Powell set a new high with 149 in Sunday's game. Powell's previous rushing high was 78.

At any rate, here's the list of a dozen runners that I put together early last October after Bolden went off against the Bills in Orchard Park. If you're wondering, Bolden's game against the Bills remains his career rushing high -- by 83 yards.

I'll leave it to you to tell me where you would slot Vereen and Powell on the list. A look back at my "Coming of Age against Buffalo" Dirty Dozen backs from the last nine years:

Continue reading "Add Powell and Vereen and make it a Fabulous Fourteen " »

Video: Monday Bills report

Jay Skurski reviews Bills coach Doug Marrone's Monday news conference. Most troubling: Alex Carrington is out  for the season.

Video: Marrone addresses the media Monday

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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 |

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 |

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 |