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Doug Marrone wants Marquise Goodwin to get more chances

By Tim Graham

Doug Marrone wants to give Marquise Goodwin more work.

Marrone wants T.J. Graham to work more.

As colleague Miguel Rodriguez wrote earlier today, the Buffalo Bills' speedy receivers have been shut out over the past two games.

After they combined for eight catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns in a big victory over the New York Jets with leading receiver Stevie Johnson sidelined, Goodwin and Graham have been targeted nine times -- all unsuccessfully -- in losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Goodwin had zero targets Sunday.

"We could get them more involved," Marrone said today at One Bills Drive. "I think those guys have talent. No doubt, they have talent. They have, obviously, better-than-average speed.

"We have to get a way to get the right group of people in the game that can be productive. That's what we're looking at with anybody."

Asked specifically about Goodwin and Graham having zero catches in back-to-back games, Marrone noted he has spoken to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about getting one of them more opportunities.

"Marquise Goodwin -- and I've talked to Coach Hackett about this -- we have to get him in there more," Marrone said. "I think T.J. has to keep working and become more consistent."

Goodwin, a third-round rookie, has 16 receptions for 261 yards. His three receiving touchdowns are tied with Johnson for the team lead.

Graham, a third-round draft choice last year, has 18 catches for 272 yards and one touchdown.

Nathaniel Hackett? Come on down! Bills coordinator leaves press box

By Tim Graham

When I asked Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone in the preseason who would keep EJ Manuel calm on the sideline during games, Marrone indicated that wouldn't be a problem.

At the time we discussed it, the Bills' backup quarterback was undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, while Thad Lewis (one NFL start) was on the practice squad. Nathaniel Hackett, the Bills' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, called plays from the press box.

Who would be Manuel's soothing voice of reason when a game got squally? Marrone said if that ever became an issue he'd handle it himself -- even while overseeing his team's game plan.

The Bills apparently discovered this shortcoming last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Manuel struggled at Heinz Field in his first game back from a knee injury.

So for the first time, Hackett called plays from the sideline this afternoon instead of the press box. The Bills beat the Jets, 37-14, and Manuel played his best game.

"We thought it would be better for the quarterback to have Nate down there," Marrone said. "With a young quarterback, trying to get him back ... it's a different sense."

Marrone conceded it's easier to call plays from the higher perch, but the Bills plan to keep Hackett on the sideline for the rest of the year.

Manuel's performance certainly validated that plan. He rebounded with only eight incomplete passes, 245 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers. Manuel's 121.9 passer rating is his best through seven pro games.

"Just being able to look him in the eye," Manuel said of the benefit. "I haven't had face-to-face communication. Instead of being on a mike or a telephone or things like that, it was really good having him down there.

"He's not going back up. He'll be down there for the rest of my career."

C.J. Spiller insists usage not a touchy issue for him

By Tim Graham

C.J. Spiller has not and likely won't meet with Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about how the running back is being used.

"No," Spiller said, "I've never done that in my whole career. I've never sat down with the offensive coordinator.

"Probably from the outside, people would say, 'Well, you need to do it.' But since I've been playing football I never done it. I didn't do it in high school, didn't do it in college. I don't think I'm going to change now."

Union County High coach Buddy Nobles or Clemson coach Dabo Swinney almost certainly didn't limit Spiller to 33 percent of his team's plays.

But the Bills used Spiller on 22 of their 67 snaps in Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Spiller had 11 touches, eight rushes for 23 yards and three catches for 11 yards.

Spiller has been battling various injuries and played 29 percent of the snaps a week earlier against the Kansas City Chiefs. But he seemed to be sufficiently healed, turning his 14 touches into 155 yards from scrimmage.

"I just go in when I'm told to go into the game," Spiller said.

Asked about his frustrations, Spiller replied, "I'm just frustrated that we're on a three-game losing streak. I'm not frustrated with the amount I done touched. I'm just sick and tired of the losing."

Marrone defended the team's backfield deployment by pointing out the Bills rank eighth in rushing and are the only team with two 500-yard rushers.

"Both of those players are playing well," Marrone said. "So when both of those guys are in there, I view both of those guys as No. 1s for us.

"I've always said it from the beginning when I had the job that I like to different backs, two different styles. That's what we have. If someone would ever get the hot hand, I would keep him in there and going. But until then, until someone gets extremely hot, I'm going to keep playing both of those players."

Video: With season on the ropes, what do we make of these Bills?

By Tim Graham

On Tuesday's edition of "All Sports WNY" on WBBZ-TV, host Bob Koshinski and I talked about some of the most pressing issues facing the Buffalo Bills, particularly rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's development and the offense's inability to produce.

We also spoke about the Miami Dolphins' turmoil and how it further could impact the culture of football moving forward.

Nathaniel Hackett: Bills moved ball at will, 'just couldn't finish'

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett met with reporters after Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs to explain what happened on the pivotal 100-yard interception for a touchdown in the third quarter.

The Bills had a first down on the Chiefs' 1-yard line. Fred Jackson ran for no gain twice, and then Jeff Tuel threw an interception right to cornerback Sean Smith.

How frustrating is it?

Nathaniel Hackett: "You get a plan together, and you do everything you want. You move the ball at whim all the way up and down the field, and we just couldn't finish.

Continue reading "Nathaniel Hackett: Bills moved ball at will, 'just couldn't finish'" »

Bills OC plans to give C.J. Spiller the ball 'until he throws up'

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- The way former Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey deployed C.J. Spiller last year caused indigestion among fans.

The new coaching staff wants to transfer that feeling to Spiller.

Rookie offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was a guest on WGR's "The Howard Simon Show" this morning and delivered the most definitive comment to date on Spiller's expected role.

"It's real simple," Hackett said. "We're going to give him the ball until he throws up. So he's either got to tap out or throw up on the field. Let's just put it that way."

Continue reading "Bills OC plans to give C.J. Spiller the ball 'until he throws up'" »

People's Poll: Which new Bills coach excites you most?

By Tim Graham

Back from vacation and gearing up for the start of a milestone Buffalo Bills training camp, I wanted to revisit my most recent solicitation for poll topics by posting this one from @AvaDad11 a couple weeks ago:

What about it?

If you want to learn more about them before you vote, then be sure to read their feature stories in The Buffalo News. Mark Gaughan recently took an in-depth look at how Marrone arrived as an NFL coach and profiled Hackett for Tuesday's section. Jay Skurski cast the spotlight on Pettine for Wednesday's edition.

Defense shows no mercy in second minicamp practice

By Mark Gaughan

The Buffalo Bills' defense ended the second minicamp practice of the week in all-out piranha mode Wednesday.

It was a feeding frenzy of sacks as the Bills' first-string offense under quarterback Kevin Kolb tried to move downfield in a two-minute drill in need of a touchdown.

Kolb managed to elude a rush and improvise a quick-thinking throw over the middle to Fred Jackson for a gain of about 25 yards on a third-down play.

After that, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine dialed up four straight blitzes and ended the series with four straight sacks.

"I'm glad Coach Pettine's on our team, that's for sure, and all those guys they have out there," said offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. "Any time you have a defense like we're facing, every single day it's going to be a roller-coaster of emotions. I mean, they're bringing everybody from every place and you have to do your best to try to get a foundation and make things happen.

"There's some things that do good and other things that you're just putting your hand on top of your head and just trying to get to the next play."

Continue reading "Defense shows no mercy in second minicamp practice" »

Bills can have an elite running offense, but that's not enough

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is young and considered a progressive.

Even so, just last week Hackett commented it's never a bad idea for a quarterback to pivot and hand off the ball.

"You always want to be running the ball," Hackett said. "When in doubt, give the ball to a back."

No doubt, it's a much better idea when the running backs are C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

Continue reading "Bills can have an elite running offense, but that's not enough" »

Stevie Johnson returns to practice after back injury

By Tim Graham

For the first time in voluntary offseason workouts, Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson was on the field. He had been forced to watch previous practices because of a lower back injury.

"It definitely feels good to just be out there on the field, even through the little pains I have," Johnson said.

"It's getting better every week. They gave me a six- to eight-week thing to even get on the field, and it's only been about three, so I feel good."

Continue reading "Stevie Johnson returns to practice after back injury" »

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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 |