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Doug Marrone: Bills were in position for Danny Amendola

By Tim Graham

Danny Amendola disemboweled the Buffalo Bills' pass defense Sunday.

Amendola, the New England Patriots' replacement for Wes Welker, was the MVP of a 23-21 victory in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Amendola had 10 receptions for 104 yards, but those stats tell only a smidgeon of the story. He was hobbled by a groin injury. Seven of his catches converted third downs into first downs.

He probably made some more catches in Doug Marrone's dreams Sunday night -- if the Bills' coach slept after such an emotional debut.

After reviewing the game film, Marrone couldn't find much fault with his defense.

"I wasn't discouraged about where we were on a lot of positioning where those balls were completed," Marrone said.

On the winning drive, Amendola caught all four passes Tom Brady threw to him for 26 yards and three first downs.

The critical grab came on a third-and-8 play from Buffalo's 39-yard line with just over a minute left. Amendola gained 10 yards. That play essentially sealed Buffalo's fate.

Marrone praised Amendola, who made several great catches from a Hall of Fame quarterback, rather than fault Buffalo's defense.

"Give them credit," Marrone said. "They had some good man-beaters when we were in man. There's a lot of times when we were right there. Sometimes when you play this game, and I've always been like this as a coach, you tip your hat off to them.

"Tom Brady and Amendola have that type of ability, and they did it."

Nobody could cover Amendola.

Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com noted Amendola made at least one catch against seven different Bills defensive backs. He made two apiece on Justin Rogers, Aaron Williams and Nickell Robey and one apiece on Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Da'Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard.

McKelvin was the only Bills defender to record a pass breakup while covering Amendola. PFF credited Amendola with 32 yards after the catch.

Here's a look at the third-down passes from Brady to Amendola:

  • Third and 7: Complete for 24 yards (first down)
  • Third and 10: Incomplete
  • Third and 4: Complete for 6 yards (first down)
  • Third and 3: Complete for 6 yards (first down)
  • Third and 6: Complete for 19 yards (first down)
  • Third and 10: Complete for 13 yards (first down)
  • Third and 3: Complete for 6 yards (first down)
  • Third and 8: Complete for 8 yards (first down)

Cornerback depth could become an even bigger concern

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills cornerback Ron Brooks did not speak with the media this morning, but he did make a brief stop in the locker room -- on crutches.

Brooks left Sunday's 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots with a foot injury, coach Doug Marrone said after the game. The second-year man from LSU -- who missed the first half of his rookie season because of a broken foot -- played just 10 defensive snaps, although that had as much to do with his spot on the depth chart as it did the injury.

Rookie undrafted free agent Nickell Robey played ahead of Brooks in the team's nickel package as the third cornerback behind starters Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers. Brooks, however, came in on certain dime packages.

Continue reading "Cornerback depth could become an even bigger concern" »

Doug Marrone says replacing Stephon Gilmore a four-player job

By Jay Skurski

When Justin Rogers sat out last week's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions, it was assumed he'd be starting opposite Leodis McKelvin at cornerback in Sunday's season opener against New England in place of the injured Stephon Gilmore.

While that still may be the case, Bills coach Doug Marrone has pumped the brakes on calling Rogers, McKelvin or anyone else on the roster a starter.

"We have four corners that we're rotating through right now depending on what packages and what personnel groups are out there," Marrone said, referring to McKelvin, Rogers, Nickell Robey and Ron Brooks. "We'll make that decision as the week goes on who takes the first snap."

McKelvin and Rogers did line up with the first team Monday at practice. The Bills also claimed Brandon Burton off waivers from Minnesota. Marrone said the team likes Burton's size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) and ability to play press coverage.

But with less than a week to learn a new defensive scheme, it would seem the Bills will be leaning on McKelvin, Rogers, Brooks and Robey to defend Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense. New England has averaged 40 points per game in their last six against Buffalo, going 5-1 in that time.

"I feel we're going to get great production out of those guys we put out there. Right now we're planning on putting people out there rotating through and getting the same amount of production," Marrone said. "Obviously it’s difficult; Stephon Gilmore is a very good player for us. We have to try to get that same productivity out of a couple of players now rather than what we were getting out of one."

Brandon Burton coming to Bills, as per Brandon Burton

Burton
The Bills have reportedly added former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Brandon Burton to their 53-man roster. (Associated Press)

 

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills have reportedly filled one of the three holes on their 53-man roster with cornerback Brandon Burton.

While there has been no official announcement from the team, that report comes directly from the player himself, on his verified Twitter page.

Burton, 24, is a former fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2011. He played in 14 games over the past two seasons with the team, including one start, before being released Saturday. Burton, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, played collegiately at Utah.

The Bills now have five healthy cornerbacks on the roster: Burton, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks and Nickell Robey. No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore is also on the active roster as he recovers from a broken wrist.

Doug Marrone on preseason finale performance: 'We are not going to be that football team'

By Tim Graham

Many Buffalo Bills fans certainly are tempted to dismiss Thursday night's putrid preseason finale as a meaningless exhibition.

Head coach Doug Marrone won't be with them.

"I'm a little bit of the opposite," Marrone said. "I think everything means something."

Marrone seethed after the 35-13 loss to the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills are trying to reverse their culture of losing, and whether the players on the field Thursday night will be on the roster after it's pared to 53 men by 6 p.m. Saturday, they were in Bills uniforms.

"It's easy," Marrone said, "to stand up here and, when things go well, I can promote it to the people in front of me and say, 'Hey, this is what we're doing really well,' and I think when things don't go well it's very easy for me to turn around and say, 'Well, it's just the preseason.'

"I think it's the opposite, too, when things go well you can turn around and say, 'Well, it's just the preseason,' and if things don't turn around, if things don't go well, you can turn around and say, 'Oof, are you nervous about this?' "

Marrone readily admitted he was concerned about the Bills' depth, which looked onion-paper-thin against the Lions.

The Bills already could be down to their third-string quarterback for the Sept. 8 season opener against the New England Patriots. So the Bills felt compelled to rest undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. They also protected cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks. Does that mean they will be the top three to face Tom Brady?

"I think for me, honestly, and it's the truth, I take everything in," Marrone said. "I look to see the individuals. I look to see how they play.

"I'm big on when we're out on the field and we have the Bills helmet and the Buffalo Bills uniform on, that's who we represent. It's our responsibility of who we put on that field, that when we put people on that field that we believe we can get it done."

The Bills committed three turnovers deep in their own territory. They committed nine penalties for 60 yards.

"I told the team that we are not going to be that football team," Marrone said. "Whatever we have to do as coaches, as players to make sure that we don't do that, that's what we need to do because history has shown, if we've learned one thing, that's the one way that we don't give ourselves a chance.

"If we give this football team a chance, then they'll have the opportunity to win some games."

What to look for in tonight's Lions at Bills blockbuster

By Tim Graham

Yes, that headline is sarcasm.

But as far as exhibition finales go, there's some interesting stuff to monitor.

Here are a handful of things I'll be looking for tonight, when the Buffalo Bills wrap up their preseason against the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium:

What in the world is going on at quarterback? We won't get any definitive answers for opening day until presumptive starter EJ Manuel's injury status is known. In the meantime, we have undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel and two guys who weren't Bills five days ago. Matt Leinart wasn't even in the league. Thad Lewis was fourth-string with Detroit. How coach Doug Marrone divvies up the reps will be interesting, especially for Leinart. The former Heisman Trophy winner might be suiting up for his final chance to stay in the NFL.

Cornerbacks in focus. Buffalo's best, Stephon Gilmore, will be out six to eight weeks after surgery to repair a broken wrist. The next-best cornerback was in disconcerting dispute when Gilmore was healthy. So now what? Leodis McKelvin would appear to have one spot cinched up, while Crezdon Butler, Justin Rogers, T.J. Heath and Ron Brooks jockey for the other assignments.

One last look at the wide receivers. It's totally unfair that players such as Brad Smith, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Brandon Kaufman are down to their last audition and will have to track down passes from Leinart and Lewis. The Bills have difficult decisions to make after the top four: Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.

Strong undercard battle for the third running-back role. C.J. Spiller is away from the team to mourn with his family after Saturday's tragedy in Lake Butler, Fla. Fred Jackson will be preserved. That leaves beaucoup carries for Tashard Choice, Kendall Gaskins and Zach Brown. Expect the Bills to run as much as they can tonight given their quarterback situation.

Stephon Gilmore out 6-8 weeks with broken wrist

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills will be without top cornerback Stephon Gilmore for 6-8 weeks because of a broken wrist.

Coach Doug Marrone delivered that sobering news following practice today. Gilmore, 22, was hurt during the Bills' 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday.

"We felt really good about him and he's put a lot of work in to try to be the best player at his position. I give him a lot of credit for that," coach Doug Marrone said. "He's really had an outstanding camp and has really played extremely well for us. It’s unfortunate the amount of work that he’s put in, but to be in a situation now where he’s not going to be able to participate for a period of time.

"Whenever you lose a player like that -- we consider a very good player -- someone has to step up and play that position."

Continue reading "Stephon Gilmore out 6-8 weeks with broken wrist" »

What to watch for in today's Buffalo at Washington exhibition

By Tim Graham

Here is a handful of areas I'll be looking at this afternoon, when the Buffalo Bills play Washington at FedEx Field:

Kevin Kolb can't win the job, but he can lose it. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was the frontrunner before a knee injury cropped up. Kolb is coming off a 55.9 passer rating in his preseason debut against the Minnesota Vikings. Even if he's sensational today, he won't capture anyone's imagination like Manuel has. But if Kolb struggles, then it's Manuel's job as soon as the rookie is healthy enough to play.

Several notable injured players could see action. The Bills could have their full complement of receivers, with Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham and Brad Smith on the field. All have missed time with hamstring injuries. Johnson has yet to dress. Pass-rusher Mario Williams (foot), middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (shoulder) and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin (groin) and Justin Rogers (hamstring) also are expected to play.

Can cornerbacks not named Stephon Gilmore provide reassurance? The sight of Gilmore's right foot being examined by athletic trainer Bud Carpenter on Tuesday night was unsettling for any Bills fan in attendance at Growney Stadium. The other cornerbacks have been erratic at best. Injuries have made the depth chart look more disconcerting.

Receivers, receivers, receivers. As mentioned already, Johnson will be back. But it would be more educational if he didn't play much. We know what he can do. The Bills will have some difficult decisions to make at receiver, and we'd learn a lot more if players such as Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Da'Rick Rogers got as many targets as possible.

Special-teamers aren't safe yet. The Bills recently awarded their kicking jobs by cutting kicker Rian Lindell and punter Brian Stahovich. Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins hasn't lined up for a field goal longer than 39 yards in a preseason game yet. Powell shanked an ugly punt last week against the Vikings. They need to be consistently good to maintain Doug Marrone's trust.

Mario Williams scratched for Bills; Adrian Peterson to play?

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills have not announced why, but defensive end Mario Williams won't play tonight against the Minnesota Vikings in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here are all of the Bills' scratches:

  • Receiver Stevie Johnson
  • Receiver T.J. Graham
  • Guard Keith Williams
  • Defensive end Koutnei Brown
  • Defensive end Mario Williams
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin
  • Cornerback Justin Rogers
  • Cornerback Crezdon Butler

Bills receiver Brad Smith is in uniform after missing the preseason opener with a hamstring injury, and middle linebacker Kiko Alonso is dressed even though coach Doug Marrone said Alonso woudn't play tonight.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, last year's rushing leader, will dress for his preseason debut. The only Vikings listed as not being in uniform are fullback Jerome Felton, cornerback Jacob Lacey and defensive tackle Christian Ballard.

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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