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Kelsay

When I led my column Monday with the reports that Chris Kelsay was getting a four-year, $24 million contract extension, a lot of people thought I was joking. I wasn't. The news became official today. The Bills affirmed their belief that Kelsay is a $6 million a year player. I'm sure Aaron Schobel -- who liked to point out Kelsay's deal when people questioned his $7 million contract -- is laughing on his ranch in Texas.

I'm floored. I never thought I could say this, but the Tim Connolly contract extension is actually starting to seem reasonable.

Same Old Bills

Three weeks into the NFL season, the league statistics begin to take shape and somewhat define a team. Not surprisingly, the Bills are settling into their customary place near the bottom in some of the more vital categories.

The Bills are 32nd and last in total offense with 242 yards a game. That tells you how bad it was in the first two weeks with Trent Edwards at quarterback. The Bills had their best offensive game against New England in a decade and still couldn't climb out of the statistical basement. They're tied for 31st in passing yards with the Steelers -- who are 3-0. Buffalo is 17th in rushing yards.

Defensively, they're 22nd in the NFL, 27th against the rush. The pass defense has taken an early tumble, too. Last year, they were second in the league in interceptions with 28. They don't have an interception this season after three games. They're one of three teams without a pick. The Bills held opposing quarterbacks to 56.8 percent passing last year, third in the league. Through three games this year, they're 27th, allowing opposing QBs to hit 67.8 percent of their throws.

OK, so they've faced Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers the past two weeks. The secondary is bound to get better as the quality of opposing quarterbacks gets worse. This week's game against the Jets will be an interesting test. The Bills picked off Mark Sanchez five times in the teams' first meeting in New Jersey last year (they had six picks in all). But Sanchez is much-improved this season and is coming off consecutive good games.

The secondary probably isn't as bad as it's looked thus far. Certainly a pass rush would help matters. But they're not the elite unit they appeared to be a year ago, either. They benefited from some horrible quarterback play last season. Anyway, no interceptions is no interceptions. It's time for the Bills' secondary to prove just how good it really is, starting with this week's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

 

Live Chat With Sully

Time to Chat.Thanks for chatting. We'll do it again next week.

Chat Trick

I wish I could take credit for it. But our intrepid editor, Flick Doyle, has coined an appropriate phrase for today's chat lineup. It'll be a rare Chat Trick for the on-line crowd. Bucky Gleason started at 9 a.m. and is currently still going on the Sabres Edge blog. Mark Gaughan will follow at 11 a.m. on the Billboard. Then I'll finish it up at 1 p.m. with my weekly Sully on Sports chat.

I hope people have enough energy after dealing with Bucky and Mark for four hours. 

 

Depends on the Package

Chan Gailey has a pat answer whenever anyone asks about his running backs: "It depends on the package." When Gailey was asked if Marshawn Lynch would start again this week, the head coach said, "Depends on the package, Depends which we start with."

I asked Gailey about Trent Edwards' assertion after the Green Bay game that he wasn't aware who the starting running back would be until the game started. Is that customary, I asked. "It depends on the packages we go with," Gailey said. "It could have been someone different in each package."

Well, I have a suggestion for the head coach. Go with the Fred Jackson package. It's time to give one of the three running backs the bulk of the carries, and Jackson deserves to be the featured guy. Jackson has been especially productive against the Patriots. In two games against New England a year ago, Jackson had 30 carries for 137 yards (4.6 per carry) and nine catches for 112 yards. That's 252 yards from scrimmage. Jackson also rushed for 136 yards against the Pats in the final game of the '08 season, in snowy conditions where New England knew the Bills would run the ball.

Lynch has played against New England three times in his career. He has 145 total yards and has averaged a shade under 3.5 yards a carry.

Jackson is averaging 4.5 a carry this season. He's averaging 4.5 yards a carry for his career. I detect a pattern here.







 

Questions, questions ...

Chan Gailey admitted after Sunday's game he didn't have the answers. Then, on Monday, he benched Trent Edwards and made Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter. I don't have any answers, either. But as we contemplate the new Fitzpatrick era, I have 25 burning questions:

1. What did Gailey find out about Trent during the first two regular-season games that wasn't clear as day on the game films from the last two Bills seasons? If he was going to hand the job to Fitz' after the first crisis, why didn't he have a true open quarterback competition, as he promised? 

2. Wasn't it astonishing to hear Edwards say he had no idea who was going to be the Bills' starting running back against Green Bay until he got to the game? Are you telling me the coaches don't let the quarterback in on the game plan?

3. Is there much doubt that the Bills' offense, which after Sunday was dead last in the NFL by more than 60 yards a game, will finish in the bottom quarter of the league for an eighth straight season?

4. Might Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best, who gained 232 yards from scrimmage against the Eagles, have been a better value with the 30th overall pick than C.J. Spiller was at No. 9?

5. Do you think Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will enter next year's NFL draft if the Bills have the No. 1 pick, knowing there might not be a season and his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, wanted no part of Buffalo?

6.  Did the Bills' defensive leaders bolt the locker room early Sunday because they were afraid they'd say what they really felt about the offense?

7.  Do you think right guard Eric Wood thinks Aaron Maybin is earning his signing bonus yet?

8. Isn't it a little troubling that Alex Carrington, a third-round pick, can't even get on the field for this team?

9. How many losses before Jerry Jones comes to his senses and admits Wade Phillips is a mediocrity as a head coach?

10.  Is it still Dick Jauron's fault that safety Donte Whitner isn't making any game-changing plays?

11. On second thought, would a franchise like Green Bay really want Marshawn Lynch to be set loose in the community?

12. Isn't it sad that the Bills have gone 56 games since their last 300-yard passer? Heck, is 200 yards so much to ask?

13. Why do so many NFL coaches leave their starting quarterbacks in the game at the end of blowouts?

14. So do you figure Gailey thinks the hecklers had a point?

15. Isn't a shame that Kawika Mitchell wasn't as good at tackling as he is at tweeting?

16. Don't you think Riverside's Mike Williams would be a better option at No. 2 receiver than Stevie Williams?

17. Does Marcus Stroud seem like a guy who's just playing out the string?

18. The tackles are a joke, I know, but are the Bills' interior offensive linemen any better than average right now?

19.  Are you feeling sorry for Fred Jackson? Isn't it amazing that he averaged 4.5 yards a carry for this offense last year?

20. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see some genuine sign of passion from inside that Bills locker room?

21. Why, oh why, don't they ever have Lee Evans run patterns over the middle of the field? Why doesn't Evans demand it?

22. Will Bill Belichick keep a straight face on Wednesday's conference call when he gushes about the talent on the Bills' roster?

23. Can Maybin be any worse in coverage than Chris Kelsay?

24. Wasn't this going to be a break-out year for Chris Ellis?

25. So what happens if Fitzpatrick flames out the next two weeks? Gailey said the change is permanent, but is anything permanent at One Bills Drive, including the franchise?

Live Chat With Sully

Welcome to this week's chat. I moved it up a day so I could play in my neighborhood golf tournament tomorrow. ?Thanks for chatting. We'll talk next week before the New England game.

Hardy Visits Seattle

James Hardy, who was released before the opener by the Bills, worked out with the Seattle Seahawks, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. There's been no other report about Hardy, a former second-round pick who joined Tom Modrak's list of draft busts. It would be a surprise if Seattle or any other NFL team added him to the active roster. 

Chan's Not Alone

Evidently, Chan Gailey isn't the only head coach in the AFC East who is having problems with his offense after one week. Rex Ryan, the voluble Jets' coach, is openly criticizing his offense after Monday's 10-9 loss to the Ravens on national TV. Ryan wants his team to throw more passes down the field and -- same as Gailey -- said it might be a good idea to simplify the attack.

The difference, of course, is that Gailey is his own offensive coordinator. Ryan's blast was a direct shot at his offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer, as you might recall, was a hot candidate for the Bills' vacant coaching job before the Bills settled on Gailey.

The Jets certainly looked bad on Monday. Mark Sanchez threw for only 74 years and seemed tentative against pressure. Sounds a lot like the situation with Trent Edwards in Buffalo. The Jets had 176 total yards and six first downs. The Bills had 166 yards and nine first downs against Miami.

Anyone care to bet the under when the Jets come to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Oct. 3?

Pick a Feature Back

Bills coach Chan Gailey blamed himself for the sorry state of the running game in Sunday's opening loss to Miami. Gailey called only 14 running plays. If you ask me, he gave up on the running game too early, considering the sorry state of the passing game and the windy conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Still, the running game is a concern. The Bills had just 50 yards on the ground. Rookie C.J. Spiller had 6 yards on seven carries. Counting pass receptions, Spiller had five negative plays out of 11 touches from scrimmage. Those plays put the Bills in these down-and-distance situations; third-and-12, third-and-14, second-and-11, third-and-2, third-and-14.

No offense can dig out of those holes on a regular basis. You need to make consistent yardage on first and second down to put yourself into manageable situations and keep defenses from teeing off on the quarterback. So the question is, which running back is best suited to run the ball inside on early downs and give the offense a chance to put together drives?

I say it's Fred Jackson, who proved himself as a feature back a year ago. Jackson had 1,062 yards and averaged 4.5 yards a carry, remarkable for such a weak offense. Jackson also had 46 catches for 371 yards. As a starter, he averaged about 120 combined yards from scrimmage.

Of course, the Bills didn't take Spiller ninth overall to sit him on the bench. But they can use him judiciously as a runner and receiver and get production from him. Based on Sunday's game, Spiller isn't ready to carry the load as a featured back. Gailey has to make a decision and give one of his backs the bulk of the carries. Jackson has always said he needs a lot of carries to get into a rhythm. All running backs say that. The Bills aren't going to establish any rhythm in the running game by spreading out the carries among Spiller, Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. There simply aren't that many carries to go around, especially if the offense continues to struggle in the passing game.

After the game, I asked Gailey if getting the running game going meant deciding on one main back.

"It means getting the running game going," Gailey said. "I think it has less to do with who's running it than us making sure we're blocking it right and getting the ball in the spots where we need to get it run. That's the biggest thing. And that's something we've got to get better at."

The Bills made a big investment in Spiller. He's their best breakaway threat. The team isn't going anywhere, so they have an incentive to give him a lot of playing time and allow him to develop. But that doesn't mean he's the best guy to carry the running load. If Gailey wants to give his team the best chance to win, he has to pick a lead back. Right now, that guy is still Fred Jackson.




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