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Bills bring back Brian Moorman

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills have brought back a familiar face to handle the team's punting job, signing Brian Moorman late this morning.

The 37-year-old Moorman holds or shares eight team records for the Bills. He replaces Shawn Powell, who had replaced him last season. Powell was released Friday.

Moorman has been out of work since being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the start of the regular season. He spent the first 11 full seasons with the Bills after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2001 out of Pittsburg State. Moorman then beat out Powell -- an undrafted free agent out of Florida State -- in training camp in 2012, but the team made a change after a Week Three victory at Cleveland by releasing Moorman and bringing back Powell.

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Doug Marrone cites lack of hang time for Shawn Powell's release

Powell
Shawn Powell appeared in 18 games over two seasons with the Bills. (Photo by Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills' decision to release Shawn Powell today was based largely on his inability to get enough hang time on his punts, according to coach Doug Marrone.

"We've been trying to get that for the last couple weeks," Marrone said. "It's not very difficult. You look to see how many times you're covering. You're covering more than anyone else; it's only a matter of time in this league before you get exposed."

That time came Thursday night for the Bills in Cleveland, where Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin had a huge impact in his team's 37-24 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium. Benjamin set a Browns record with seven punt returns for 179 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown.

Continue reading "Doug Marrone cites lack of hang time for Shawn Powell's release" »

After another rough game, Bills punt Shawn Powell off team

By Tim Graham

Call it the Mistake by the Shank.

For the second straight year, the Buffalo Bills have cut their punter the day after playing in Cleveland.

The Bills dumped Shawn Powell this morning after an awful evening against the Cleveland Browns in FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Bills cut Brian Moorman last year after beating the Browns in Week 3.

Travis Benjamin broke the Browns' 20-year-old record with 179 punt return yards. He had a 79-yard return for a touchdown.

Not all of that can be pinned on Powell, but Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan puts the stopwatch on all punts, and Powell's hangtimes were brutal. One punt was in the air for less than three seconds.

Powell had a difficult game last week against the Baltimore Ravens, including a 29-yard shank in the fourth quarter.

Third-quarter analysis: Worst-case scenario

By Jay Skurski

Bills Nation is holding its collective breath.

Rookie franchise quarterback EJ Manuel suffered a right knee injury tonight against the Cleveland Browns during a wild third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Manuel was hurt after he scrambled for a 14-yard gain to the Browns’ 13-yard line midway through the quarter. He took a hit directly on his right knee from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson and stayed down as a half dozen trainers came out to look at him.

Manuel walked to the sideline under his own power. He continued to be looked at by trainers before jogging off to the locker room with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter.

Manuel’s injury cast a shadow over a wild quarter in which the Bills tied the game, then went up by a touchdown only to see the Browns come back and tie it again at 24-24.

Buffalo opened the second half with a three-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in which running back C.J. Spiller ran 54 yards for a score on one ankle. After forcing three and out on defense, the Bills took the lead on their next possession, going 55 yards in 12 plays. After Manuel was hurt, rookie backup Jeff Tuel handed off twice. Tuel’s first pass was intended for tight end Scott Chandler in the end zone. Chandler was interfered with on the play, setting up the Bills with a  first and goal from the Cleveland 1-yard line. Running back Fred Jackson scored on the next play.

Continue reading "Third-quarter analysis: Worst-case scenario" »

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.

Bills end kicker competition by cutting incumbent Rian Lindell

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills have released the player who had been with them longer than anyone else.

The Bills this morning announced they've cut kicker Rian Lindell. The move ends one of the summer's biggest competitions. The Bills drafted kicker Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round, and the rookie's livelier leg was evident in practice.

Lindell was entering his 14th NFL season and 11th with the Bills. He holds franchise records with an 83.3 career field-goal percentage, a 92.0 field-goal percentage in 2006, 18 consecutive successful field goals in 2007 and 225 consecutive extra points.

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Points after: Bills 20, Vikings 16

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Minnesota Vikings tonight in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: Kevin Kolb wasted a precious opportunity to impress the coaching staff. He started the game and completed just three of his first eight passes with an interception. Kolb finished 13 of 21 for 111 yards and no touchdowns.

Bills star of the game: Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, starting for Mario Williams on the right side, sacked Christian Ponder on the game's first snap and added a strip-sack of Matt Cassel in the second quarter.

Stat line of the day: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel completed all six of his passes for 44 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown toss to Brad Smith, on his first drive to start the second half.

Dirty laundry: Bills coach Doug Marrone was upset when his players committed nine penalties for 74 yards in their first preseason game. The Bills had nine penalties by halftime tonight and finished with 14 accepted for 106 yards.

Kicker duel: Sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins again took the first kicks. Hopkins made field goals from 39 and 35 yards. Rian Lindell didn't get any attempts in the second half and kicked off once. ... Punter Shawn Powell, who apparently won the job when the Bills cut Brian Stahovich a few days ago, shanked his first punt 19 yards out of bounds.

Preliminary injury report: Wide receiver Kevin Elliott was carted to the locker room in the second quarter with an apparent left leg injury.

Coming up: Buffalo will visit Washington at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday.

What to look for tonight in Vikings at Bills preseason game

By Tim Graham

Here are a handful of things I'll be looking for tonight, when the Buffalo Bills play the Minnesota Vikings in Ralph Wilson Stadium:

Will Kevin Kolb insist the quarterback competition remains open? Tonight's start for Kevin Kolb surely seems ceremonial. EJ Manuel left Kolb behind when the veteran twisted a knee and then left the team for a funeral. Manuel then played well in Sunday's preseason opener, while Kolb didn't take a snap. Kolb needs a strong performance to remind fans why the Bills signed him.

How will the Bills' first-team run defense look against Adrian Peterson? The Bills' run defense was the NFL's second-worst last year. Although it's only preseason, Peterson provides a measuring stick. Rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso won't play for precautionary reasons, but it would have been nice to see how well he could chase a star running back.

What kind of opportunities will the receivers have? They're fighting for reps, and with Stevie Johnson, Brad Smith and T.J. Graham out with injuries, the chances should be there. Fifteen different Bills were targeted for passes Sunday in Indianapolis. Seven of them were wide receivers. While so much of the attention was given to other wideouts, Marcus Easley caught all seven passes thrown his way for a game-high 94 yards. DeMarco Sampson was next with four catches for 49 yards. Anybody could step up tonight.

Can Rian Lindell assert himself in kicking competition? Telling attempts weren't available in the preseason opener. Sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins made his field goals from only 24 and 23 yards. Lindell made his from 30 yards and was more reliable on kickoffs, albeit with less power. The Bills already have released punter Brian Stahovich, essentially awarding that job to Shawn Powell. They probably wouldn't mind naming their kicker, too.

What will Bills' secondary look like? The Vikings don't present much of a threat in the passing game with dink-and-dunk Christian Ponder, but the Bills' defensive backs have shown troubling tendencies to get beat, especially deep.

Selection of sixth-round kicker a bad sign for Rian Lindell

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills have a matching set of kicking specialists after drafting Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins with their sixth-round pick.

Bills punter Shawn Powell was Hopkins' holder at Florida State. Long snapper Garrison Sanborn is a former Seminole.

The Hopkins addition doesn't bode well for incumbent kicker Rian Lindell, who former head coach Chan Gailey didn't feel comfortable with on field-goal attempts over 50 yards. Lindell is the Bills' longest-tenured player.

Continue reading "Selection of sixth-round kicker a bad sign for Rian Lindell" »

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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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