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Lee Smith's work often unnoticed, which means he's doing it well

By Tim Graham

Of the Buffalo Bills' four tight ends, the one who gets talked about the least is Lee Smith.

That's because he has been quietly doing his grunt job all year.

Smith has three catches for 47 yards without a touchdown. But his primary job isn't to make downfield plays; it's to get in the defense's way.

ProFootballFocus.com rates Smith the NFL's best pass-blocking tight end.

Among tight ends who've played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps, Smith is the only one not to have allowed a sack, hit or pressure. The Bills have used him on 98 pass plays and kept him in to block on 39 percent of them.

Smith has been used as a run blocker on 212 snaps, PFF's data shows.

PFF's charts also show why Scott Chandler, the Bills' second-leading receiver, rarely is asked to protect the quarterback.

He has played 416 snaps, but only 25 of them in a pass-blocking role. He has allowed a sack and three pressures.

First-quarter analysis: Weather winning so far

By Jay Skurski

It’s shaping up to be a long day for the offenses of both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Neither team has gotten on the scoreboard after one quarter of play. The Jets had the best chance, but a 48-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk was pushed wide right by the wind.

Folk started the ball to the left of the uprights, but the wind carried it way right.

The Jets have punted twice on three possessions, while the Bills have punted twice. Both have been good punts by Brian Moorman – going 39 yards each time, with no return. The second Moorman punt went out of bounds at the Jets’ 6-yard line.

Geno briefly hurt: Jets quarterback Geno Smith was attended to by trainers on New York’s first possession of the game after taking a big hit by Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Smith got up after the hit, but then fell back to the turf. He appeared to get hit in the ribs. After being helped up, Smith walked off under his own power. Backup Matt Simms came in for one play, handing the ball off, before Smith came back in.

Gilmore beat again: Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to struggle this season. Gilmore had tight coverage on Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, but never located the ball and Holmes was able to grab it for a 35-yard gain, helping New York set up Folk’s field-goal attempt.

Bad penalty: Blocking tight end Lee Smith took a bad false start penalty for the Bills prior to a third-and-1 play at the New York 41-yard line. On the following play, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel’s pass was batted down by Muhammad Wilkerson. 

Snap counts: Marquise Goodwin doesn't get much work

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills went big in an effort to protect quarterback Thad Lewis on Sunday in Miami.

No. 2 tight end Lee Smith played 32 of 67 offensive snaps for the team against the Dolphins, which was 48 percent. Smith, as he usually is, was used almost exclusively in a blocking role, although he did make his second catch of the season, for 18 yards.

Even with the bigger lineup, the Dolphins still managed to get four sacks of Lewis, and hit him six times.

The Bills also used Frank Summers on 11 snaps (16 percent). He got his first two carries of the season, and gained 14 yards.

Most interesting among the snap counts for the Bills' offense was the use of rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin. Coming off his huge 40-yard touchdown catch against the Bengals in Week Six that sent the game to overtime, Goodwin saw only five offensive snaps (7 percent) against Miami. Robert Woods (63 snaps, 94 percent) and Stevie Johnson (60 snaps, 90 percent) played almost the entire game, most often joined by T.J. Graham (34 snaps, 51 percent) when the Bills went three wide.

Running back Fred Jackson (39 snaps, 58 percent) came back from a knee injury in the first quarter to lead the team with 11 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 49. Jackson's leadership, however, doesn't show up in the stats book. C.J. Spiller managed just 14 snaps (21 percent), while third back Tashard Choice played 12 snaps (18 percent).

The starting offensive line -- including left guard Doug Legursky in his first start of the season -- played the entire game (67 snaps).

Rookie tight end Chris Gragg (six snaps, 9 percent) also saw his first action of the season.

Continue reading "Snap counts: Marquise Goodwin doesn't get much work" »

Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 4

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Three times already in training camp, the Buffalo Bills have expressed dissatisfaction with their tight end depth.

Before the first air horn, they cut Mickey Shuler. The Bills added Nick Provo on Aug. 4. They waived Mike Caussin on Wednesday.

Rookie tight end Chris Gragg knows he's not supposed to pay attention, but it's difficult when a player at his position isn't there one day or a new guy shows up.

"It just shows you that this NFL is a business," Gragg said after Wednesday night's practice at St. John Fisher College. "You try not to really think about it. You hear about it in the media and Coach tells us the business of the day, everyday. You just try to focus on your job."

That can be difficult when your father is keeping such close tabs on roster spots and makes it a point to keep score.

"He texts me every time somebody gets released and tells me he's glad it wasn't me," said Gragg, the seventh-round draft choice who has agreed to share his rookie journey with BuffaloNews.com throughout training camp.

"I try to block it out, just focus on your job at hand," Gragg said. "Coach Marrone told us [Tuesday] in the team meeting, when you think about stuff like that and you're always worried, it can affect your play, and I just don't want anything to affect my play.

"I think if I put everything good on film, I think I have a good chance to be on the team."

Gragg's NFL career began well Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He started along with Dorin Dickerson in a two-tight formation and saw more snaps than any other Bills tight end. Gragg called it "a great experience."

He took 57 offensive snaps. Provo was next at 32 plays, followed by Lee Smith with 16 and Dickerson with 15.

Gragg caught two of the four passes thrown his way. His catches went for 6 and 8 yards. He had one drop.

"I would probably give myself a B," Gragg said. "I never try to give myself an A. I mean, it was my first game.

"I know I had a pretty good day blocking. I know that's one of the things my coaches want to see from me, could I block at the NFL level? I think I did that."

With only four preparation days between games, Gragg is eager for Friday night's exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. It'll be his first game in Ralph Wilson Stadium and a chance to square off against a high school and college teammate, Vikings receiver Jarius Wright.

The quick turnaround between games provides a healthy whirlwind for Gragg, who doesn't have enough downtime to dwell on NFL realities.

"You just look at the schedule and know the cut days are coming close," Gragg said. "That's the only thing. When the cut days get closer, it might be a little harder. Right now, I'm just getting prepared for Minnesota."

As focused as Gragg is supposed to be on the here and now, he admitted he's already looking beyond next Wednesday, the last day of training camp at St. John Fisher.

"It's been hard, especially my rookie year," Gragg said. "It's been a long year. From January, I've been living out of suitcases, getting ready for the combine, getting ready for rookie minicamp and things like that. ... I'm ready for it all to be over and get settled."

Dwayne Bowe? Mike Wallace? Maybe Bills should go 'all in' at TE

By Tim Graham

Buddy Nix has been up front about the Buffalo Bills' offensive needs.

Nix has stated publicly his desire to draft a quarterback, acquire receivers and get help at tight end. In other words, the Bills need to overhaul their passing game for new coach Doug Marrone.

Options at quarterback are limited in free agency, and the college prospects will be dissected ad nauseum.

But the Bills can improve their targets with an assortment of moves through free agency and the draft.

Continue reading "Dwayne Bowe? Mike Wallace? Maybe Bills should go 'all in' at TE" »

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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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