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Bills continually plowing under bottom of roster, practice squad

By Tim Graham

To everything, churn, churn, churn ...

In hopes of maximizing personnel, the Buffalo Bills have been busy rototilling the bottom part of their roster and practice squad this fall.

Over the past nine weeks, the Bills have made 33 player transactions. Few were forced by injuries. Most were made simply to improve depth and bring aboard raw prospects.

"That's something that we're always trying to do because I believe development in this league is extremely important," Bills coach Doug Marrone said, "and that's the way that we can develop players, bringing players in and out and seeing which one sticks."

While the Bills are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, much of the focus has shifted to player evaluation for the future. That's why veteran running back Tashard Choice was cut, and former practice-squad player Ronnie Wingo will get a look-see over the final four weeks.

Marrone said he meets "constantly" with General Manager Doug Whaley and player personnel director Jim Monos about tweaking the roster with an eye toward the future.

"That's where sometimes those guys pop, and that's where they come from," Marrone said. "I think when you look at the situation that we're in, when I think you look at salary cap, I think that there are certain positions you need to develop. If you don't develop those positions, you're going to get in trouble from a salary cap standpoint and not be the best team you can be if you're relying on paying players at the highest price to play certain positions."

As you'll see below, the Bills regard some developmental positions more prominently than others.

In the final season with GM Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey, the Bills made 28 practice-squad signings or releases. That total does not include players who were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, only those who were added to the developmental squad or released outright.

After the 2012 Bills signed their eight practice-squad players at the start of the year, they didn't make another move for four weeks.

Under Whaley and Marrone, the Bills have made 25 practice-squad moves already. They've also patrolled other teams' taxi squads, plucking defensive tackle Stefan Charles and guard J.J. Unga for the 53-man roster.

After signing their original eight, the Bills made three moves in September, six in October and six in November. The Bills have made two transactions so far in December.

The Bills already have matched last year's number of practice-squad players promoted to the active roster. They've elevated five, most notably quarterback Thad Lewis.

Of last year's promotions, receiver Marcus Easley is the only one still on the active roster. Wide receiver Kevin Elliott is on injured reserve. Safety Mana Silva left the team without permission in training camp, but remains Bills property.

A breakdown of practice-squad transactions the past two years:

2012

Final practice squad: running back Zach Brown, tight end Derek Buttles, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson, tackle Adam Grant, defensive end Corbin Bryant, defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, linebacker Brian Smith.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 28.

Moves by position: nine offensive lineman, five receiver, four defensive back, three tight end, three defensive tackle, two linebacker, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: defensive tackle Jay Ross, offensive lineman David Snow, receiver Marcus Easley, safety Mana Silva, Ross again after being cut and re-signed and receiver Kevin Elliott.

2013

Current practice squad: quarterback Dennis Dixon, receivers Cordell Roberson and Tommy Streeter, tackles Edawn Coughman and Jamaal Johnson-Webb, defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, linebacker Jacquies Smith, cornerback Mario Butler.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 25.

Moves by position: eight defensive end, five cornerback, five guard, two quarterback, two receiver, two offensive tackle, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: cornerback Johnny Adams, quarterback Thad Lewis, cornerback Brandon Smith, guard Mark Asper, running back Ronnie Wingo.

The breakdown shows the developmental emphasis shifted to defensive end, from one move last year to a team-high eight so far this year.

Also interesting is that previous Bills management didn't bother with a developmental quarterback, but the new regime has placed an importance there. Good thing, because Lewis helped the Bills remain competitive when rookie EJ Manuel missed four games with a knee injury.

What in the world is going on with the Bills' QB situation?

By Tim Graham

Want to know where things stand with each Buffalo Bills quarterback as of right freaking now?

Read forth ...

EJ Manuel

Update: Practiced today, but limited with injured right knee. ... Bills coach Doug Marrone already has ruled out Manuel for Sunday because doctors haven't cleared him.

Quote: "He looks good out there." -- Marrone

Thad Lewis

Update: Missed practice with rib contusions from multiple hits in Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints. ... X-rays negative. ... Also has the flu.

Quote: "Do we want him to play? Yes." -- Marrone

Jeff Tuel

Update: Shared first-team reps in practice today. ... Has been backup quarterback all season, but leapfrogged by Lewis after Manuel got hurt in week 5.

Quote: "I feel better about Jeff right now because I know Jeff. ... The Cleveland game is probably the worst situation you could ever have for him. He's a rookie free agent. We all know that. But we do like what he does, and we like the tools. In a perfect world, we'd love to have him on the practice squad and work with him." -- Marrone

Matt Flynn

Update: Shared first-team reps in practice today. ... Still learning the Bills' offense after being signed two weeks ago. ... Was scratched for both games he has been on the roster.

Quote: "I'm in a competition with myself to learn the playbook and get myself as ready as I can. ... I feel very confident. Schematically, it's a West Coast system. I've been in a West Coast since my rookie year. I'm very comfortable with the football portion of it. To me, football's football. It's just a matter of learning how to call it." -- Flynn

Dennis Dixon

Update: Still on the practice squad. ... No intention to promote him to 53-man roster. ... Marrone confirmed Dixon is not in the competition to play Sunday.

Matt Flynn, Jeff Tuel might be battling for Bills QB job this week

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' quarterback situation has gotten even murkier.

Thad Lewis, their starter for the past three games, has the flu and sore ribs from Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints. He was unable to practice today and is iffy for Thursday.

Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel and veteran Matt Flynn split the first-team reps in practice today and could start Sunday's game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

EJ Manuel was limited in practice but already has been ruled out because of his injured right knee. Bills coach Doug Marrone also announced practice-squad quarterback Dennis Dixon is not an option for Sunday.

If Lewis can't play, then Marrone said he feels better about Tuel but only because he's less familiar with Flynn, who has been the third quarterback since he was signed two weeks ago.

Marrone said he's evaluating the position "rep by rep" this week.

Bills make a pair of changes to active roster; sign QB Dennis Dixon to practice squad

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills continued to tweak the bottom of their 53-man roster by signing linebacker Ty Powell and cornerback Brandon Smith. To make room for them, the team released linebacker Marcus Dowtin and cornerback Johnny Adams.

Powell, 25, was signed off the New York Giants' practice squad. The 6-foot-2, 249-pounder entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in April. He was released prior to the start of the regular season and has spent time on the practice squad for both Seattle and the Giants. He started his collegiate career at DeAnza College and finished it at Harding -- proving if you can play, NFL scouts will find you.

Smith, 26, is a converted wide receiver who joined the team's practice squad Sept. 10 after being released by Green Bay on Sept. 10. The 6-1, 205-pounder originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers in 2011.

Continue reading "Bills make a pair of changes to active roster; sign QB Dennis Dixon to practice squad" »

Report: Bills among teams who have contacted QB Josh Freeman

By Jay Skurski

A report early this afternoon from Fox Sports' Jay Glazer says the Buffalo Bills are one of the teams that has reached out to free agent quarterback Josh Freeman.

Glazer, whose track record is impeccable, spoke directly to Freeman on Saturday night. The quarterback told him he wants to go to a team that will allow him to compete for the starting role, naming the Bills, Raiders, 49ers, Vikings and Packers as those who have contacted him.

Continue reading "Report: Bills among teams who have contacted QB Josh Freeman" »

With Bills down to two, a rundown of QBs who didn't make final cuts

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills this afternoon cut their second quarterback in 24 hours, releasing the recently acquired Thad Lewis.

That leaves the Bills with rookies EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel on the QB depth chart. While some teams keep only two quarterbacks on the active roster, going with an injured rookie and an undrafted rookie would seem like a trailblazing (i.e. reckless) idea.

Manuel is coming off a knee procedure and might not be ready for the Sept. 8 opener against the New England Patriots. Tuel didn't start a preseason game and didn't play a down Thursday night against the Detroit Lions.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the quarterbacks other teams cut over the past two days to reach their 53-man rosters by 6 p.m. today:

  • David Carr, New York Giants
  • Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers (injured)
  • Aaron Corp, Miami Dolphins (injured)
  • Dayne Crist, Baltimore Ravens
  • Austin Davis, St. Louis Rams
  • Dennis Dixon, Philadelphia Eagles
  • Trent Edwards, Chicago Bears
  • Ryan Griffin, New Orleans Saints
  • Caleb Hanie, Baltimore Ravens
  • Chandler Harnish, Indianapolis Colts
  • Mike Kafka, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • G.J. Kinne, Philadelphia Eagles
  • Greg McElroy, New York Jets (injured)
  • Jordan Palmer, Chicago Bears
  • Brady Quinn, Seattle Seahawks
  • Matt Scott, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • John Skelton, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Rusty Smith, Tennessee Titans
  • Alex Tanney, Dallas Cowboys
  • Tim Tebow, New England Patriots
  • Seneca Wallace, San Francisco 49ers
  • Vince Young, Green Bay Packers

Dennis Dixon is the Baltimore Ravens' Rich Little

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- Dennis Dixon is on the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad.

Though if the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, Dixon will have earned his championship ring.

Dixon has been the Ravens' secret weapon, imitating the 49ers' hard-to-replicate quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is difficult to prepare for. He has a big arm and is a threat to run in the 49ers' read-option offense. Dixon is familiar with the read option from his days at the University of Oregon.

"That guy has been doing a major job," Ravens cornerback and Turner-Carroll alum Corey Graham said of Dixon. "You'd think he might want to go somewhere that runs that offense so he can have an even bigger role in this NFL.

"But he's done an outstanding job. He's run this offense at Oregon. He knows it, and he's done an amazing job of preparing us for this stage."

Continue reading "Dennis Dixon is the Baltimore Ravens' Rich Little" »

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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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