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New TE Tony Moeaki unlikely to suit up for Bills on Sunday

By Jay Skurski

Tony Moeaki’s first practice with the Buffalo Bills went well, but he’s not expected to play Sunday, according to coach Doug Marrone.

"Schematically, I don't want to give anything away, but obviously I don't think so," Marrone said. "I think it would be very difficult to get a player ready to go when you bring him in in the middle of the week."

Still, Marrone liked what he saw from the former Kansas City tight end in his first practice with the team.

"I thought he did some nice things out there,” the coach said. ”It’s the first day back. He’s been out for a while, but he looked good. Normally you’re going to be a little bit rusty, but he looked very smooth.”

Moeaki was released from the Chiefs’ injured reserve late in October after suffering a fractured shoulder in a preseason game.

"Obviously we brought him in here for a reason and again, the question is -- and it's not a secret -- can he get back to the level of play when he was in this league and playing?" Marrone said. "Because when he did play, he was extremely productive."

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.

Marquise Goodwin, Scott Chandler added to Bills' injury report

By Jay Skurski

Rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin suffered a minor calf injury that forced him to leave today's practice early, Bills coach Doug Marrone said earlier today.

Marrone, though, expects Goodwin to be available to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Tight end Scott Chandler missed today's practice, but it was not injury related. Marrone said Chandler's wife, Alissa, is expecting a baby.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams returned to practice on a full basis after getting his usual rest day Wednesday.

On the Buccaneers' side, receiver Vincent Jackson was limited for a second straight day because of a hamstring injury.

"You never know," Schiano told Tampa reporters about Jackson's availability. "When you have a leg injury and you're a receiver, your legs are your life and you've got to be able to run. We'll see when we give it a go, which I don't know when that will be -- if it will be tomorrow, or Saturday or Sunday. Vince is a pro. He'll know if he can do it or not, so it will be up to him."

Bucs receiver Chris Owusu was added to the Bucs' injury report as a limited participant today because of a hamstring injury.

Stephon Gilmore having a sophomore season to forget

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills and many observers believe it will happen eventually, but this will not be the year cornerback Stephon Gilmore establishes himself as a shutdown defender.

In Thursday's paper, Buffalo News senior columnist Jerry Sullivan takes a look at Gilmore's unspectacular sophomore season.

Gilmore missed the first five games while recovering from a broken wrist and played his first two games with a heavy wrap on his arm. Unable to get physical with receivers, he has been targeted frequently by opposing quarterbacks since he returned.

ProFootballFocus.com tracks every play, and receivers covered by Gilmore have caught 30 of 49 throws for 455 yards and a touchdown for a 98.6 passer rating.

By comparison, Leodis McKelvin has allowed 38 catches on 77 targets for 480 yards and two TDs, a 77.8 opponent passer rating. Nickell Robey has allowed 24 catches on 49 targets for 225 yards and two TDs, a 58.6 opponent passer rating.

Here is a breakdown of Gilmore's performance in each of his seven games:

  • Week Six versus Cincinnati Bengals: three targets/three catches for 78 yards.
  • Week Seven at Miami Dolphins: four targets/three catches for 72 yards.
  • Week Eight at New Orleans Saints: one target/zero catches.
  • Week Nine versus Kansas City Chiefs: 12 targets/eight catches for 72 yards (Dwayne Bowe 11 targets/seven catches for 67 yards).
  • Week 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers: 11 targets/seven catches for 95 yards and a TD (Antonio Brown six targets/three catches for 58 yards).
  • Week 11 versus New York Jets: six targets/two catches for 45 yards.
  • Week 13 versus Atlanta Falcons: 12 targets/seven catches for 93 yards (Roddy White five targets/four catches for 48 yards).

Gilmore has no interceptions and three pass breakups. He has made 21 tackles.

Does Tony Moeaki signing put Scott Chandler on notice?

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills don't have any injuries at tight end.

But, on the sudden, they decided they needed to bring another one aboard.

The club's decision today to cut running back Tashard Choice and sign tight end Tony Moeaki doesn't sound promising for Scott Chandler's future.

Chandler lost a costly overtime fumble in Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. As Buffalo News reporter Jay Skurski wrote in Tuesday's paper, the Bills have a difficult decision to make when Chandler's contract expires after this year.

Moeaki said the Bills reached out and signed him within 24 hours.

"This all happened pretty quickly," Moeaki said this afternoon at One Bills Drive. "I'm just trying to catch my breath here and get started."

Moeaki, 26, said "every day I will look at as a tryout, just trying to prove myself."

The acquisition is reminiscent of the Bills claiming injury-prone pass-rusher Shawne Merriman off waivers from the San Diego Chargers in November 2010. It's a low-risk tryout for the final few weeks of the season.

Injuries have limited to Moeaki to 15 games over the past three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

A preseason knee blowout ended his 2011 campaign. He suffered a broken shoulder in preseason this year, and the Chiefs released him from injured reserve in October.

While playing at Iowa, he dealt with a broken hand, dislocated elbow, wrist surgery and multiple foot surgeries.

"Injuries happen, and they happen at bad times," Moeaki said. "I'm not worried about them. They have a great training staff and strength and conditioning staff here. I'm just going to work with them and get ready to go."

Moeaki declined to discuss how many tryouts he had or with which teams, but he said he underwent "a couple physicals" before landing work.

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."

Tony Moeaki a productive TE when healthy, which isn't often

By Tim Graham

Three days after tight end Scott Chandler fumbled in overtime, the Buffalo Bills have signed Tony Moeaki.

Moeaki, the Kansas City Chiefs' third-round draft choice in 2010, is a productive tight end when healthy. But he seems to be hurt more than he's active.

Moeaki broke his shoulder in the preseason. The Chiefs released him from injured reserve in October and has been a free agent. The Bills had an opening after they cut running back Tashard Choice.

Moeaki battled a slew of injuries at the University of Iowa (broken hand, dislocated elbow, wrist surgery, foot surgeries). But he caught 47 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns as a Chiefs rookie.

He missed the 2011 season with a torn left knee ligament that preseason. He returned last year to post 33 receptions for 453 yards and a touchdown.

Kiko Alonso first at ILB, fourth among all D-men in Pro Bowl votes

By Tim Graham

Need more proof fans are smitten with Kiko Alonso?

The Buffalo Bills' rookie leads all inside linebackers in Pro Bowl voting. He has almost twice as many votes as Luke Kuechly and more than twice the votes of Patrick Willis.

The weekly Pro Bowl update shows Alonso has 265,232 votes, more than 72,000 votes ahead of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee in second place.

In fact, Alonso ranks fourth among all defensive players. The only defenders with more votes are Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman at 367,076, Houston Texans end J.J. Watt at 278,737 and Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas at 277,482.

Fan ballots make up one-third of the Pro Bowl selection process. Players and coaches comprise the rest.

Other Bills among the top 10 candidates in fan voting are Mario Williams (second to Watt among defensive ends), Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams (third and fourth at defensive tackle behind Dontari Poe and Jason Hatcher), Aaron Williams (sixth at strong safety), Dan Carpenter (10th at kicker) and Marcus Easley (10th among special-teamers).

Kyle Williams-Marcell Dareus pairing impresses Gerald McCoy

By Jay Skurski

There will be an embarrassment of defensive tackle riches on the field Sunday in Raymond James Stadium when the Buffalo Bills visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bills' defensive tackle duo of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus is the best in the NFL, according to Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, a good judge of talent considering he made the Pro Bowl last season at the position.

"That tandem I think is the best D-tackle tandem in the NFL," McCoy said this afternoon on a conference call with the Buffalo media. "When you get those guys going, it's hard to slow them down. Not to mention you've got Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes coming off the edge, but those two guys in the middle, that's what makes the engine run."

Williams and Dareus have combined for 108 tackles and 13 sacks this season -- most in the NFL for a defensive tackle pairing.

"Kyle, he's a vet, and he's been doing it for a lot of years," McCoy said. "Marcell, he's been dominant since college. There's a reason he was the third overall pick. I think this year is really a breakout year for him. He's starting to really show what he can be when he wants to be. When he goes, it's hard to find anybody better. So those two together, they're definitely dominant."

McCoy likewise was a third overall pick, the year before Dareus in 2010. He's already set career highs with 33 tackles and six sacks through 12 games.

"That's going to be hard for me to answer. I don't really like talking about myself, but I'll try and come up with something," McCoy said when asked what has gone right for him personally this year. "At the beginning of this season, I was asked 'how do you build off a Pro Bowl year?' I told the media I didn't want to remain stagnant. I just wanted to get better and move forward, to build off of last year. I think I've been able to do that."

Doug Marrone loves St. John Fisher, wants camp to last longer

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills boss Russ Brandon proclaimed this morning everything about how the club operates will be reviewed to maximize winning.

His comments on WGR pertained to playing regular-season games in Toronto, but Brandon also mentioned the Bills will re-evaluate their training-camp partnership with St. John Fisher College.

Bills coach Doug Marrone also would like the front office to reconsider St. John Fisher. He wants to stay longer.

"I'm a very firm believer, and I said this during the interview process, of going away for training camp," Marrone said. "I love it."

Marrone has experienced taking camp on the road twice in his NFL career, the summer Hurricane Katrina chased the New Orleans Saints to Jackson, Miss., and again this year in Pittsford.

"I did think we got everything we wanted out of that experience," Marrone said. "I liked staying there. If anything, I'd like to stay there longer, to be honest with you. ... I like staying away as long as possible."

The Bills opened camp July 28 and left the St. John Fisher campus Aug. 21, three days before the third preseason game.

Marrone didn't have much to say about Brandon's comments on Toronto.

"My job is to win football games, whether it's at home, in Toronto, on the road, whatever we have to do," Marrone said. "That's my focus. My focus goes outside of that ... what I believe in my core, then I'm not doing my job.

"I've got to get this team ready. We have to play better. We're not consistent."

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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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