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Bills activate some young scratches to see what they can do

By Tim Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- A few Buffalo Bills youngsters will get a chance to show what they can do this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.

Activated today are a few players who haven't been dressing. Among them are running back Ronnie Wingo, guard J.J. Unga and linebacker Ty Powell. Tight end Chris Gragg, who played six straight games but was benched last week, will dress again today.

Buccaneers who were listed with injuries but will dress include cornerback Darrelle Revis and receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Owusu, who had hamstring strains.

Buccaneers defensive end Steven Means, a Buffalo native, will dress.

Here are all the inactives for today's game:

Buffalo Bills

  • Quarterback Jeff Tuel
  • Fullback Frank Summers
  • Tight end Tony Moeaki
  • Guard Mark Asper
  • Guard Antoine McClain
  • Linebacker Jamaal Westerman
  • Cornerback Brandon Smith

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Fullback Lonnie Pryor
  • Guard Patrick Omameh
  • Guard Carl Nicks
  • Defensive tackle Gary Gibson
  • Linebacker Danny Lansanah
  • Cornerback Deveron Carr
  • Safety Bradley McDougald

Stevie Johnson on Darrelle Revis: 'We'll see who's the better man'

By Jerry Sullivan

Stevie Johnson will attempt to bounce back from his late, crucial fumble against the Atlanta Falcons when the Buffalo Bills travel to Tampa this weekend to take on the Buccaneers. He'll get a pretty stiff test --against his old nemesis, Darrelle Revis.

Johnson had a lot of success visiting Revis Island when the star cornerback was playing for the Jets. He couldn't say how much he'll see of Revis against the Bucs' zone defense.

"Who knows?" Johnson said. "I know we'll be competing. I feel like we'll match up more times than not, and when we do, we'll see who's the better man throughout the game. But once again, my concern is about getting the win, not an individual person."

Johnson is having his worst season in his four as a starter. Due to injuries and a dip in production, he has only 46 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns. He would need to average 119 yards a game to reach 1,000 for the fourth year in a row. Considering that Stevie hasn't had a 120-yard receiving game since November of 2010, that's not likely.

Bills coach Doug Marrone, who met with Johnson last week to discuss the wideout's general frustrations, said he met with him against after Johnson's fumble late in regulation cost the team dearly in Toronto.

Marrone wouldn't characterize either meeting as a "clear the air" session, but more so as a chance to reassure Johnson that things will be fine as the team moves forward.

""Yes, we did have another meeting," Marrone said. "You have to appreciate that my meetings with the players are private. But it's the same thing. What I'm trying to do is push this team forward, making sure that when we look back we learn from our mistakes, no matter what they may be."

His division battle with Darrelle Revis over, Stevie Johnson focuses on Antonio Cromartie

By Tim Graham

Stevie Johnson, regardless of his success against him, isn't busted up about Darrelle Revis' departure from the New York Jets.

Revis is one of the NFL's best defenders. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"The battle with Revis was fun while it lasted in the division," Johnson said, "but that's not any of my concern right now."

The Jets have reshuffled. Johnson expects to see much more of Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Ninth overall draft pick Dee Milliner had been the Jets' slot corner, but he was benched last week for poor play and his status is uncertain Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"I've got to focus on Cromartie now," Johnson said. "If he's the one that's going to shadow me around this game, then that's where my attention will be."

Continue reading "His division battle with Darrelle Revis over, Stevie Johnson focuses on Antonio Cromartie" »

Jairus Byrd is a gamer, but he often has played hurt

By Tim Graham

Jairus Byrd has missed only two games throughout his NFL career, both of them in his rookie season.

But the Buffalo Bills safety has been hurt frequently, and that's something to consider as we monitor his integration back onto the team. His contract squabble with the Bills kept him unsigned and unavailable for voluntary workouts, minicamp, training camp and two preseason games.

What kind of shape is Byrd in? How much of new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's system must he learn?

NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport tweeted some interesting Byrd info Wednesday night, noting that "ill will remains" between Byrd and the Bills and that Byrd will be "extra careful" in getting back into the flow.

Players can be susceptible to injuries when returning from a prolonged contract dispute.

Darrelle Revis sat out the 2010 preseason with the New York Jets and then injured his hamstring in their second game. He missed the next two games after that.

How Revis wriggled his way from the Jets with another contract standoff this year also is a reminder that a star player's stock doesn't fall significantly over how he handles contract spats and whatever injuries or performance slippages occur because of them. Another team always seems willing to write off those concerns.

But given the thought of Byrd joining the Bills after missing so much time plus Rapoport's astute observation, I decided to take a look at how often Byrd appeared on an injury report last year.

Byrd was on an injury report before nine of the Bills' 16 games last year. Six different body parts were listed.

Byrd has played hurt often. Does being "extra careful" affect that track record?

  • Week One: N/A
  • Week Two: N/A
  • Week Three: Ankle
  • Week Four: N/A
  • Week Five: Hip
  • Week Six: Chest
  • Week Seven: N/A
  • Week Eight: Bye
  • Week Nine: N/A
  • Week 10: N/A
  • Week 11: N/A
  • Week 12: Back
  • Week 13: Back
  • Week 14: Back
  • Week 15: Shin
  • Week 16: Foot
  • Week 17: Ankle

Report: Bills want Darrelle Revis; Mike Pettine mum on subject

By Jay Skurski

Mike Pettine was lucky enough to have two of the best cornerbacks in football while he was the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets.

One of those players, Darrelle Revis, is rumored to be on the trading block. Mike Freeman of CBS Sports reports today that the Buffalo Bills are one of the teams rumored to be interested in Revis. Freeman, though, rules out the possibility, saying "not happening -- division rival" about the possibility of the Jets trading Revis within the AFC East. 

Pettine was asked about Revis today, but predictably couldn't give much of an answer, lest the Bills risk tampering charges.

"He is a player that is under contract to another team," Pettine said. "We are evaluating this roster, when the smoke clears from that we'll look to address any potential additions to this roster."

Revis is coming off surgery to repair a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee, which he suffered in September. He's entering the final year of his contract, and will want a lucrative contract extension. He'll also fetch a steep price in the trade market -- Freeman reports the Jets are seeking a first- and second-round draft pick.

All of those factors seem to indicate the Bills are an unlikely trading partner, but as the team showed last year when it signed Mario Williams, nothing should be completely ruled out.

Pairing Revis with Stephon Gilmore would give the Bills one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL, something Pettine had with the Jets.

"It helps. For me, anytime you can lock down the outside and play nine against nine, I think that's to your advantage," Pettine said. "Again, those guys aren't here and we are evaluating some talented players here.

"Are we going to build the structure of the system the same way as New York? Absolutely not. This is going to be the Buffalo Bills' defense. And we're excited, like we mentioned before, in just the early evaluations of the roster, there are some talented football players here."

Jets dismiss Stevie Johnson's success over Revis

JohnsonRevis

By Tim Graham

The New York Jets scoff at the notion Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is something special when it comes to matching up against all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis.

When asked about Johnson's success against them, Jets coach Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, linebacker Bart Scott and Revis himself delivered a harmonious response:

Puh-lease.

In a New York Daily News story, reporter Manish Mehta explored the idea Revis had trouble covering Johnson last season. The Bills will open the season Sunday against the Jets at the Meadowlands.

"That's the position I'm in," Revis told Mehta. "The success that I've had is the reason why maybe people criticize me a different way. ... I'm not panicking over nothing. I know how to play ball. I play great ball. I'm not panicking because a guy got 70 yards."

The story focuses on Johnson's numbers versus the Jets last year: three catches for 84 yards in the first meeting and eight catches for 75 yards and the only touchdown Revis allowed all year in the rematch.

A receiver who can average 5.5 receptions, 79.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns a game over a full season would have 88 receptions for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns.

That's excellent versus mediocre opposition. Against an elite, shutdown cornerback, Johnson's production is remarkable.

(Note: In a previous version of this article, I mistakenly included stats from two 2010 Jets games in which Revis didn't play.)

The Jets defended Johnson better when Revis wasn't on the field. Revis missed both 2010 meetings, the first with a hamstring injury and the second to rest for the playoffs. If you factor in those two games against the Jets and cornerbacks such as Antonio Cromartie, Marquice Cole and Kyle Wilson, then Johnson's pace would drop to 76 receptions for 1,048 yards and eight touchdowns.

Johnson's stat line last season -- 76 catches, 1,004 yards, seven touchdowns -- against a mixed bag of cornerbacks was remarkably close to what he has done against the Jets the past two years. Johnson signed a lucrative contract extension in the offseason.

"Stevie Johnson's a good receiver, and he's caught some balls, but I wouldn't say he's got Darrelle Revis' number," Ryan said. "He goes up against all types: big, strong, fast, shifty. He goes against them all. And I've never walked out of a game saying, 'This player got the best of Darrelle Revis.' Never. Never felt that way. Do you realize how special this guy is? It is amazing what we ask him to do.

"That's their No. 1 receiver. If they're going to spend a ton of their time throwing [at Johnson], we'd probably say, 'If you're going to catch seven balls for 70 yards, go for it. That's fine.' That doesn't usually beat you."

That's true. But a healthy Revis hasn't allowed other star receivers to have that kind of success. He's known for practically shutting out the likes of Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Bowe, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White.

In my preseason series on the AFC East's top 25 players, I ranked Revis No. 2 behind Tom Brady and Johnson No. 17.

Head-to-head, though, back-to-back games could indicate a trend. Unless, of course, you ask the Jets.

"It's like Michael Jordan playing against Dominique Wilkins," Scott said, "and Dominique gets 20, and it's like, ‘Oh! He lit Jordan's a-- up!' Come on, man. Nobody's indestructible. A lot of times when [Revis] gives up yards, he's got the whole half of the field with no help. Everybody was doubling everybody else on the other side. It's easy for [Johnson] to get [some yards]."

But nobody else, apparently.

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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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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