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Bills Beat Blog



By Joe Buscaglia
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Bills' Watkins named Rookie of the Month for October

Some wonder if the price the Buffalo Bills paid to move up in the 2014 NFL Draft was worth it. After his most recent accolade, Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins is doing his best to prove the front office made the right call.

The NFL announced Thursday that Watkins was named the league's Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. The fourth-overall pick led the Bills in receiving with 21 receptions for 393 yards and three touchdowns in the past month.

For the season, Watkins is also the team's top target with 38 catches for 590 yards and five total touchdowns. He's the first Bills rookie to win a monthly award since Kiko Alonso won the defensive title in September of 2013.

Watkins is only two receptions behind for the most of any rookie player in 2014, has the most receiving yards and is tied for the most touchdown receptions of a first-year player. He also has nearly 300 more yards in 2014 than the next closest Bills wideout.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Upon Further Review: Bills at Jets

For the second week in a row, the Buffalo Bills were able to convert turnovers into a victory. All of the change of possessions and shortened fields helped the Bills do what they have never been able to do before: beat the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Now halfway through the season, the Bills have a winning record and head to the bye week as the AFC’s sixth and final playoff team. Before they get some time off, first is a look at the victory over the Jets. With the help of NFL.com’s Game Rewind package and the All-22 film available with it, ‘Upon Further Review’ brings you a detailed review at how each player on the Bills fared in that specific game.

Every week, WGR will provide you with the standouts, the duds and everything in between.

For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Ed Wang (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual player’s plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.

OFFENSE (55 total plays)

Quarterback
- Even though he only had to do minimal things against the New York Jets, it appears as though the Bills have found themselves a competent quarterback in Kyle Orton (55, 5, 3.3). Orton only had to complete 10 passes total on Sunday, but that’s all that was necessary due to the type of throws he was making. His biggest strength is seeing the field, and allowing that vision to make the right read in the offense. He also displayed anticipation on some of his throws as well, with the touchdown pass to Scott Chandler coming to mind most prominently. Orton, in comparison to how many passes he threw, took quite a few shots deep down the field. Even if he missed he didn’t get discouraged, and then came right back and fired a strike. The 84-yard reception by Sammy Watkins was a phenomenal throw that hit the wideout in stride, and it was just two plays removed from a bad misfire. As long as Orton limits his mistakes and continues to make the right reads, he is the right man to steer the ship for the Bills. There won’t be many games where they are plus-six in the turnover battle, but Orton has shown that he can make a big play when he needs to.

Running Back
- It was a largely frustrating day for the running game for a few separate reason. First, the ball carriers made some poor reads and didn’t maximize their yardage. Second, the offensive line had another day to forget. And third, the Jets’ defensive line is one of the best in the NFL. Anthony Dixon (41, -4, 1.7) got his first crack at starting for the Bills and was quite disappointing. He didn’t display the same type of burst or vision that he did earlier in the season and averaged 2 yards per carry. Bryce Brown (14, 0, 2.3) was just as inefficient, and despite a pair of solid runs up the middle in which he followed his blocks, he channeled his inner C.J. Spiller, too. On two separate plays, Brown didn’t take what was given to him and instead kept trying to bounce them to the sideline in hopes to cut it up field at one point. It didn’t work. The Bills had the lead for almost the entire game, and with a run-heavy approach to try and sustain the lead, it was a bit of a surprise that fullback Frank Summers (11, -1, 2.3) didn’t get more playing time. Summers missed a couple of key blocks in the first quarter that stopped plays before they reached the line of scrimmage. To his credit, he had the Bills only rushing touchdown.

Wide Receiver
- Sunday wasn’t a high volume day for the wide receivers on the team mostly due to holding the lead for much of the game. When Sammy Watkins (53, 2, 3.3) needed to make a play, he delivered. Many will remember the 84-yard reception on a fly route, and the subsequent slowing down to celebrate a perceived touchdown while getting caught from behind by a defender. However, his third and final catch of the day was his most impressive reception. Watkins took a simple slant, saw a tiny crease from the safety and exploded upfield in one cut, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown. He truly has special characteristics that are evident each week he plays. Robert Woods (18, 2, 3.0) was limited with an injury but made his presence felt early on with a pair of catches, one of which for a touchdown. On that scoring play, Woods had to adjust to a pass thrown a bit behind him, but shielded the defender properly and brought in the reception. Chris Hogan (24, 0, 2.3) and Mike Williams (12, 0, 2.3) each had time on the field, but combined for one reception and 14 yards.

Tight End
- In a bit of a surprise, second-year tight end Chris Gragg (37, 0, 2.3) had the most time on the field at the position. Like he has in many other weeks, Gragg failed to make a big impact despite receiving so much time on the field. Scott Chandler (30, -2, 2.3) was used more sparingly, likely due to the run game taking over the second half, but when given one of his two opportunities in the pass game, Chandler roped in a perfect anticipation throw from Orton in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. His blocking still seems to be a problem, and one that the Bills recognize by their personnel groupings. Lee Smith (33, 1, 2.7) is known for his blocking and displayed it on Frank Summers’ touchdown. Smith pulled from the right side of the line to the center and cracked down on an oncoming Jets defensive linemen so hard that he knocked him clean over. Smith also caught a touchdown pass on an elaborate play call on the doorstep of the end zone.

Offensive Line
- The Buffalo Bills are winning the majority of their games in spite of the play of their offensive line. Once again, the front five was a major weakness for the team and they needed to overcompensate for their inability to get a push in the running game. Center Eric Wood (55, -5, 1.7) turned in his fourth performance out of the last five games that has yielded a negative plus-minus. Wood was unable to secure his blocks and was the sole reason a handful of plays were blown up in the backfield. Coming into the season he was depended on to be a calming force, and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to do it just yet. The debut for Kraig Urbik (55, 1, 2.7) went fairly well. Against a strong defensive front Urbik held his own and really only slipped up a couple of times. He was a tremendous upgrade over rookie Cyril Richardson. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (55, -2, 2.3) hasn’t been able to capitalize on two straight games of positive play during Weeks 5 and 6, and graded out negatively once again. Glenn has looked average in 2014, there is no other way around it. He was beaten around the edge and is having some trouble with twists and stunts in front of him. The right side pair of Erik Pears (55, -3, 2.0) and Seantrel Henderson (55, -3, 2.0) predictably struggled against a powerful Jets defensive line. Pears was beaten by power when trying to run block a few separate times, while it was mostly speed that turned Henderson’s performance into a negative one. Chris Hairston (2, 0, 2.3) was in for a pair of goal line plays, and that was the extent of it.

DEFENSE (84 total plays)

Defensive End
- For the first time this season, the Bills featured a four-man rotation that gave all players involved a high percentage of snaps on the field. Also for the first time this year, Mario Williams (40, 3, 3.0) received less snaps than Jarius Wynn (44, 3, 3.0) in a single game. Between the two, there wasn’t much of a difference: both played at an extremely high level. Williams’ most impressive rep was a bull rush that pushed right tackle Breno Giacomini back into Michael Vick as he was attempting a pass, which forced an errant throw. Of the two, Wynn made more ‘wow’ plays. He has been flying under the radar for much of the season, but for two weeks in a row he has been playing at an extremely high level with heightened reps. Jerry Hughes (53, 1, 2.7) once again was a terror off the edge against the pass, but lapsed in setting the edge against Vick, who is the most mobile quarterback they’ll likely face all season. Manny Lawson (31, 3, 3.0) has seen his snap count dwindle recently, but with extended time Lawson showed what makes him an asset: setting the edge and batting down passes because of his length.

Defensive Tackle
- After two weeks of average play, Kyle Williams (49, 8, 4.0) loudly declared, ‘I’m back!’ Williams went up against Oday Aboushi, who was making his second career start, for much of the game and was in the backfield constantly. It didn’t matter if it was against the pass or the run, Williams was forcing the issue and even helped create a pair of turnovers. With a highly productive game under his belt and a week to rest his knee injury, Williams should be in top form to start the second half of the season. Marcell Dareus (43, 2, 3.0) didn’t flash nearly as much as Williams, but that’s because he had to take on double teams nearly all game long. Even against the double team Dareus held his ground, and there was even one rep that he disengaged from both blockers, spun around and made the tackle on the ball carrier to plug the running lane. Just like the defensive ends, the backup defensive tackles got quite a bit of time on the field. Corbin Bryant (39, -1, 2.3) and Stefan Charles (34, -4, 1.7) each got opportunities against the Jets. Bryant was the more impressive of the two due mostly to his forced fumble, but he was even pushed around in the run game up the middle in the second half. Charles didn’t seem to play at his normally high level, and like Bryant, was pushed around in the run game.

Linebacker
- Following yet another strong performance from rookie linebacker Preston Brown (84, 4, 3.3), it’s getting safer to say that he just needed to get adjusted to speed of the NFL. Simply put, Brown has been outstanding since taking the starting job from Keith Rivers (1, 0, 2.3). The rookie was once again a leading force in limiting the Jets’ rushing attack and now his coverage abilities are coming along as well. The difference between the starting lineup with him in it as opposed to Rivers is quite noticeable. At first glance, one would think Nigel Bradham (79, -3, 2.0) had an atrocious game. However, that simply isn’t true. Was it a performance that was below the standard he has set this season? Yes, it was. However, for the on-field results and abilities, Bradham played fairly well. The biggest point of contention from his afternoon were the three personal foul penalties he was assessed by the officials, which is indicative by his grade for the week. Once Michael Vick entered the game, the Bills didn’t use Brandon Spikes (29, 0, 2.3) much more. Spikes is a good linebacker against the run, but he can’t change direction well and struggles against speedy players in space. Vick is in that mold, which led to Spikes watching much of the game from the sidelines.

Cornerback
- On Sunday, it was a banner day for the secondary against the New York Jets. One could argue that the quarterback play wasn’t exactly sterling, but the cornerbacks still had to make the most of their opportunities — and they certainly did. Leodis McKelvin (75, 4, 3.3) had the top day of the group, showing poise against both the pass and the run against the Jets. He almost added a fifth interception to his season, but after review, it was ruled to be incomplete. He was in the hip pocket of his assignment much of the time. Stephon Gilmore (66, 2, 3.0) showed quite well at MetLife Stadium, starting the game with an interception and then used a continued effort to limit big plays from a Jets team that was desperately trying to claw back in the game. The only man in the secondary that really struggled was Nickell Robey (56, -1, 2.3), and his issue was mostly missed tackles in the open field. Ron Brooks (3, 0, 2.3) played sparingly, but failed to make any impact.

Safety
- The neck injury to Aaron Williams (46, -1, 2.7), which was re-aggravated last week versus Minnesota, didn’t allow their top safety to take all his reps this week. When he was in the game Williams didn’t provide much against the run, but he made his biggest contribution by forcing one of six turnovers. His interception was a great display of concentration and athleticism, and very nearly resulted in a defensive touchdown. Da’Norris Searcy (55, 1, 3.0) also got into the interception column in the second half. Searcy provided support to the running lanes as well, but it was largely unnecessary because of the job by both the defensive line and linebackers. Corey Graham (50, 2, 2.7) played a majority of the game very quietly. Serving at safety, Graham did well with open-field tackles that could have resulted in more yardage for the offense. Providing depth and starting potential, Duke Williams (47, 3, 3.0) was able to provide some big hits and even helped out in coverage. Since his poor game against New England, Williams has really settled in as a solid rotational safety.

Year to date grades, ranked by aggregate GPA (Last week’s rank)
  1. DT Marcell Dareus - 3.32 (1)
  2. DT Kyle Williams - 3.22 (2)
  3. DE Mario Williams - 3.01 (3)
  4. QB Kyle Orton - 2.98 (6)
  5. HB Fred Jackson - 2.96 (4)
  6. WR Sammy Watkins - 2.93 (7)
  7. LB Brandon Spikes - 2.88 (5)
  8. CB/S Corey Graham - 2.86 (8)
  9. DE Jerry Hughes - 2.84 (10)
  10. S Aaron Williams - 2.81 (11)
  11. S Da’Norris Searcy - 2.75 (14)
  12. DE Jarius Wynn - 2.71 (16)
  13. LB Nigel Bradham - 2.67 (9)
  14. LT Cordy Glenn - 2.66 (13)
  15. WR Robert Woods - 2.65 (14)
  16. TE Scott Chandler - 2.63 (15)
  17. HB C.J. Spiller - 2.62 (18)
  18. WR Chris Hogan - 2.62 (NR)
  19. LB Preston Brown - 2.58 (24)
  20. DT Stefan Charles - 2.58 (12)
  21. CB Stephon Gilmore - 2.57 (21)
  22. WR Mike Williams - 2.53 (19)
  23. TE Lee Smith - 2.53 (22)
  24. CB Leodis McKelvin - 2.49 (28)
  25. DE Manny Lawson - 2.49 (26)
  26. TE Chris Gragg - 2.47 (20)
  27. S Duke Williams - 2.45 (27)
  28. CB Nickell Robey - 2.43 (23)
  29. DT Corbin Bryant - 2.32 (29)
  30. HB Anthony Dixon - 2.31 (NR)
  31. C Eric Wood - 2.31 (25)
  32. LB Keith Rivers - 2.24 (30)
  33. LG Kraig Urbik - 2.20 (NR)
  34. LG Chris Williams - 2.17 (31)
  35. FB Frank Summers - 2.01 (32)
  36. QB EJ Manuel - 1.95 (33)
  37. RT Seantrel Henderson - 1.94 (34)
  38. RG Erik Pears - 1.92 (35)
  39. LG Cyril Richardson - 1.34 (36)
**Minimum 100 plays

Previous Installments:
Week 1 - Bills 23, Bears 20
Week 2 - Bills 29, Dolphins 10
Week 3 - Chargers 22, Bills 10
Week 4 - Texans 23, Bills 17
Week 5 - Bills 17, Lions 14
Week 6 - Patriots 37, Bills 22
Week 7 - Bills 17, Vikings 14

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Hackett on fan criticism from Jets game: "I love it"

Over the span of the first eight games, the number one target that has drawn ire from the fan base of the Buffalo Bills was quarterback EJ Manuel. In a very close second is a man that had his success tied to Manuel for the first quarter of the season: offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

On Sunday the Bills claimed a 43-23 win over the New York Jets, but a predictable game plan in the second half and a lack of yards gained stoked the inner fire of some of the team's faithful. Buffalo gained a total of 280 yards which is 15.1 yards below the lowest league average in 2014.

That's why Hackett, now in his second year as the offensive coordinator, opened up his press conference with an enthusiastic remark:

"Everybody's going, 'hey we've gotta get more offensive yards!' I'm going, 'hey, we're getting so many turnovers, it's hard!'"

To a certain degree, Hackett was right. On six turnovers, the Bills' average drive start was at the New York Jets' 26-yard line. The Bills could and likely should have come away with more points than they did, but the yards gained by the Bills (280) against the Jets is a bit skewed by 40-percent of their drives starting in Jets territory.

The lack of yardage, combined with the lack of conversions for touchdowns, and perhaps a touch of predictability led some fans to continue to call for him to be fired, despite the offense posting 43 points on the afternoon.

"I love it. I love it," Hackett said with a smile of the criticism. "It's a challenge. You win by 20 points, you score 43 points. What, I think we had five offensive touchdowns? I mean, I want more too. I hope everybody does, because otherwise why are we doing this stuff? The defense played outstanding. I'm up there cheerleading for them the whole time going 'Get another one! Get another one!' So it's great, we all love it."

Over the first four weeks of the seasons with Manuel as the quarterback the Bills averaged only 320.8 yards of offense per game. That total, compared to the team averages over the first eight weeks of the season, would be the sixth-worst total in all the NFL.

In the three games before the one against the Jets, the offense under Kyle Orton averaged 350.7 yards per game, which would be the 18th-best average in the league by the same standards. Even with the offensive output against the Jets, the offense is still averaging more per game with Orton than with Manuel.

Still, many weren't enthralled during the Jets game about the, at times, refusal to throw the ball on a secondary that had been struggling all season. Hackett said with the lead, they had a bigger goal in mind than racking up passing yards.

"I don't want to turn the ball over," he remarked. "I think that was the big thing that we stressed as a group, as an offense. We said, we've been a turnover machine for the past three games and as long as we don't turn the ball over we're gonna be in every single game with the people that we have on this team. I think that was something we wanted to focus in and you've gotta run the ball to do that."

Hackett and the Bills will get the rest of the week off and return to work to start preparations for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and Monday.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills place Ladler on IR

The rookie season for Buffalo Bills undrafted free agent safety Kenny Ladler ended before it really even began. The Bills placed Ladler on the Injured Reserve list Tuesday which will end his season prematurely, barring an injury buyout.

The safety was promoted off of the practice squad during the week leading up to the team's victory over the Minnesota VIkings. The game against the New York Jets was only the second of his career, but his afternoon and season were both claimed by an arm injury.

Ladler originally signed with the Bills in May of 2014 as a highly decorated defensive back from Vanderbilt. He was released by Buffalo on the final cutdown day, but was brought back that same week on the team's practice squad.

The Bills have yet to make an addition to their roster in place of Ladler, which means the roster is now at 52, one shy of its maximum allotment. The team will get the rest of the week off and return to practice next Monday.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
 
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Bills not taking 5-3 start for granted as they prepare for crucial November

For only the fourth time since 2000, the Buffalo Bills carry a 5-3 record through the first half of the season and the last two times it happened for the organization -- 2008 and 2011-- the team collapsed and ended the year with a losing record.

Especially with the bye week on the way for Buffalo, it could serve as a breeding ground for complacency. But the current Bills squad knows that the job isn’t close to complete. 

Most of the veteran leaders on the team aren’t allowing the team’s current place in the AFC Wildcard standings get into their heads.

“The great thing about the NFL and the tough thing about the NFL: there's always a game next week to get ready for,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said Monday. “I think that guys have been around a while, the guys that have been here, the message will be that we have to move on. Obviously we're gonna enjoy it, we're gonna enjoy our bye week. But when we come back, we know that we've got some big games in front of us, and I really don't think what we're talking about is gonna be an issue.”

Williams is one of 14 members on the active roster that saw the 2011 Bills win five games in the first half of the season, only to lose seven of their final eight games and finish with a 6-10 record. He’s also one of only three active players, Fred Jackson and Leodis McKelvin are the others, that have been with the team for the 2008 fall down the standings in the second half of the year as well.

What is it about that second half of the season that made it such an issue for those two Bills teams? Head coach Doug Marrone outlined what makes it so tough:

“Pressure,” the head coach succinctly said. “It gets harder as it goes. [You] start competing against teams that are in the same position you are. When you're not, you're competing against teams that want to knock you off and we're not even in that position yet. We've got a long way to go before we get into that type of position.”

The Bills very well could have been in that position that Marrone alluded to if a few more things went their way in the first half of the season. Safety Aaron Williams still thinks the Bills’ start should have yielded a superior record.

“We're happy, we're not satisfied. We know this record should have been a lot better than 5-3. If we didn't hurt ourselves the last couple of games, we would be in the first place position right now,” Williams remarked. “We're happy where we're at right now. We're gonna take this time to relax and let our body heal a little bit and then get ready for these two big games coming up with Kansas City and Miami.”

Williams was another part of the 2011 team that finished the season with a 1-7 record. He and his other teammates face a November schedule that could very well shape the landscape of the 2014 playoff race.

The Bills will be up against three teams over the next four weeks that have a 4-3 record, which is only half a game back from the Bills current place in the AFC Wildcard standings. Kansas City, Miami and Cleveland could either make or break Buffalo’s 2014 campaign — and the Bills know it.

With a tough December schedule ahead (Green Bay, Denver and New England), the time to rack up wins for a push to the postseason is in November. It’s a month that has plagued the Bills, who have sported a 6-18 record in the month since the fateful 2008 season.

“I don't think [being over-confident is] the case at all when you haven't been to the playoffs in such a long time,” Marrone said. “I think the one message I tried to tell them today that it doesn't get easier, it gets harder.”

The Bills will be on campus at One Bills Drive on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and then have Thursday through Sunday off for the bye week.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Dixon outsnaps Brown by wide margin: Bills' playtime percentages vs. Jets

The Buffalo Bills captured a victory at MetLife Stadium over the hapless New York Jets and answered some personnel questions along the way.

There were a few changes along the starting lineup and even some of the usages were interesting. What are some of the notable percentages from Sunday’s snap counts?

Some tidbits from the 43-23 Bills’ victory:

- Many were wondering how the running back situation would shake out, and the Bills made a statement by their usages of Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown. The Bills significantly favored Dixon, giving him 75-percent of the snaps while Brown got the remaining 25-percent.

- A shift in the starting lineup has continued for the second straight week at linebacker. Keith Rivers as a starting player seems to be a thing of the past unless there is an injury. Rookie Preston Brown received 100-percent of the defensive snaps against the Jets, as opposed to Rivers who was only on the field for one play total.

- The general snap counts with the tight ends usually give Scott Chandler the majority, while Lee Smith and Chris Gragg get a near even amount of time on the field. On Sunday, Gragg was the leader in the clubhouse with 37 snaps to Smith’s 33 and Chandler’s 30.

Here are the rest of the playtime percentages in full:

OFFENSE
QB Kyle Orton - 55 (100%)
LT Cordy Glenn - 55 (100%)
LG Kraig Urbik - 55 (100%)
C Eric Wood - 55 (100%)
RG Erik Pears - 55 (100%)
RT Seantrel Henderson - 55 (100%)
WR Sammy Watkins - 53 (96%)
HB Anthony Dixon - 41 (75%)
TE Chris Gragg - 37 (67%)
TE Lee Smith - 33 (60%)
TE Scott Chandler - 30 (55%)
WR Chris Hogan - 24 (44%)
WR Robert Woods - 18 (33%)
HB Bryce Brown - 14 (25%)
WR Mike Williams - 12 (22%)
FB Frank Summers - 11 (20%)
OL Chris Hairston - 2 (4%)

DEFENSE
LB Preston Brown - 84 (100%)
LB Nigel Bradham - 79 (94%)
CB Leodis McKelvin - 75 (89%)
CB Stephon Gilmore - 66 (79%)
CB Nickell Robey - 56 (67%)
S Da’Norris Searcy - 55 (65%)
DE Jerry Hughes - 53 (63%)
CB Corey Graham - 50 (60%)
DT Kyle Williams - 49 (58%)
S Duke Williams - 47 (56%)
S Aaron Williams - 46 (55%)
DE Jarius Wynn - 44 (52%)
DT Marcell Dareus - 43 (51%)
DE Mario Williams - 40 (48%)
DT Corbin Bryant - 39 (46%)
DT Stefan Charles - 34 (40%)
DE Manny Lawson - 31 (37%)
LB Brandon Spikes - 29 (35%)
CB Ron Brooks - 3 (4%)
LB Keith Rivers - 1 (1%)

Season-long Playtime Percentages:
  1. LT Cordy Glenn - 100.00%
  2. C Eric Wood - 100.00%
  3. RG Erik Pears - 100.00%
  4. RT Seantrel Henderson - 100.00%
  5. WR Sammy Watkins - 96.93%
  6. LB Preston Brown -89.96%
  7. WR Robert Woods - 85.22%
  8. CB Leodis McKelvin - 81.34%
  9. CB Stephon Gilmore - 76.23%
  10. S Aaron Williams - 73.94%
  11. DT Marcell Dareus - 73.59%
  12. TE Scott Chandler - 67.95%
  13. DE Mario Williams - 67.25%
  14. DE Jerry Hughes - 64.96%
  15. DT Kyle Williams - 61.44%
  16. CB Corey Graham - 60.74%
  17. S Da’Norris Searcy - 58.98%
  18. CB Nickell Robey - 57.22%
  19. S Duke Williams - 55.63%
  20. LG Cyril Richardson - 53.74%
  21. LB Brandon Spikes - 51.06%
  22. QB Kyle Orton - 50.86%
  23. QB EJ Manuel - 49.14%
  24. HB Fred Jackson - 47.79%
  25. DE Jarius Wynn - 41.02%
  26. WR Mike Williams - 34.93%
  27. DT Corbin Bryant - 30.81%
  28. HB C.J. Spiller - 30.13%
  29. DT Stefan Charles - 29.40%
  30. TE Chris Gragg - 28.98%
  31. LB Keith Rivers - 28.52%
  32. DE Manny Lawson - 27.99%
  33. TE Lee Smith - 25.91%
  34. LG Chris Williams - 25.14%
  35. FB Frank Summers - 22.65%
  36. WR Chris Hogan - 21.31%
  37. LG Kraig Urbik - 21.11%
  38. HB Anthony Dixon - 20.54%
  39. WR Marquise Goodwin - 10.94%
  40. CB Ron Brooks - 5.46%
  41. OL Chris Hairston - 3.65%
  42. LB Ty Powell - 3.52%
  43. HB Bryce Brown - 2.69%
Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Observations: Bills 43 - Jets 23

It wasn’t always pretty for the Buffalo Bills. In fact, at times, it was damn near ugly... again.

But with only their fourth 5-3 start of the millennium on the line, they took advantage of the disinterested, unraveling and self-destructing New York Jets to assure a winning record through the first half of the season.

Even with as many things that went their way early on in the game, the Bills couldn’t seem to finish off the Jets. When push came to shove, the Bills at last clinched the 43-23 victory. 

How did it all happen? Some observations from the Week Eight win:

Defense, defense, defense
- If the Bills defense was only having an average day rather than a great one, the Jets, for as bad as they were, stood a fighting chance in the contest. As it stands, the defense was nearly flawless against an offense that was begging to get beaten. The biggest part of the game, and the one that the Bills very nearly didn’t take enough advantage of, was all the turnovers they forced. Buffalo ended the day plus-6 in the turnover battle due to four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and an additional two fumbles that were forced by the defense. They dominated the line of scrimmage, didn’t give the receivers an inch and held the Jets’ top two running backs to 50 yards on 16 carries. It was as suffocating an effort as the Bills have had defensively, and if it weren’t for a lack in preparation to contain backup Michael Vick from scrambling, the Bills would have had a perfect game on that side of the ball.

Sammy doing Sammy things
- The song remains the same: when the Bills get Sammy Watkins involved into their offense good things tend to happen. For the third time in four weeks Watkins has set his career high in receiving yards — this time with 157 on only three receptions. In five wins, Watkins has averaged six catches for 102.8 yards and a touchdown. It's isn't a coincidence that when he gets touches, the Bills tend to do well. In an encouraging development for the Bills, they kept giving the rookie chances to make a big play: a prime example of that — which is something they shied away from with EJ Manuel at the helm — was after they missed on a deep throw to Watkins, they loved the matchup and went right back to it two plays later and converted on an 84-yard reception that should have been a touchdown. Still learning as a professional, the rookie likely won’t make the same mistake to ease up and celebrate before he gets into the end zone like he did on Sunday. That play could have ended up far worse than it did, or it could have even kept the Bills out of the end zone entirely. Luckily for him it was merely a teaching moment and nothing more and the Bills converted on the touchdown try in the red zone. With the offense stumbling to finally grab a hold of the game for good, Watkins took things into his own hands with a 61-yard, yards after catch infused touchdown reception. Only halfway into his rookie season, the 21-year old is already a legitimate number one wide receiver in the NFL.

Run game disappears once more
- Heading into the game against the Jets, the Bills had a distinct disadvantage in the offensive line going up against New York’s extremely young and talented defensive line. The Jets are one of the best run defending units in the NFL, and even though they had to face a high volume of carries against the Bills, they turned the former identity of the offense into a shell of itself. Granted, the top two running backs on the roster were injured last week and inactive for Sunday's game, but there isn’t usually that distinct of a drop off in yards per carry production unless the opposing team had a talented front and a good day. That was the case Sunday with the Bills only gaining 59 yards on 29 carries, which averages to a pedestrian 2.0 yards per carry. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown were stymied throughout the game by the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, which held the Bills back from finishing the game in the way that they wanted to.

Predictability and the R.R.P. theory
- In the NFL — especially on offense — it behooves head coaches to stay ahead of the curve and keep their opponents guessing while predictability in play calling is usually universally frowned upon. Against the Jets, the Bills really didn’t seem to care about how predictable they were being. Throughout the game, the Bills ran a sequence of run, run and pass on first, second and third down seven separate times. Of those seven times, five resulted in a fourth down. Another featured a defensive penalty that kept the drive alive, while the final of the seven was a touchdown after the first two runs. The Bills were playing with the lead the whole time, but it reeked of conservatism rather than burying the opponent while they were down. Quite simply, Buffalo was playing not to lose. Who does that fall on? Is it offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett? Is it head coach Doug Marrone? When you analyze both individuals, one should always err to the philosophies of the head coach. In more decisions than just play calling, Marrone has showed that he is one of more conservative head coaches in the NFL. To this point it has not backfired on the head coach, but if any common media member or fan can pick up on their tendencies with a lead, a head coach on a different team will do the same. The Bills were overthinking their approach in the second half to a large degree, mostly because the Jets’ secondary is atrocious and was waiting to be picked apart. The wasted possessions could have burned the Bills, but they got out of MetLife Stadium with the victory.

The secondary’s statement
- Two weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills secondary allowed 361 yards through the air and let one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history pick them apart. For the second straight week, the secondary appears to have rectified those errors. The Jets could only complete 12-of-26 attempts to their wide receivers for 87 yards. Not only that, but the Bills secondary did something that has evaded them: they forced turnovers. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had an interception, safety Aaron Williams had an interception, safety Da’Norris Searcy had an interception and cornerback Leodis McKelvin had one that was reviewed and later ruled incomplete. That positional grouping now has five interceptions in their past two games, which is as much of a reflection on the job defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson is doing as anything.

Bradham’s mental errors
- The start to Nigel Bradham’s season couldn’t have gone much better. He was the fast, aggressive linebacker the Bills were looking for without the injured Kiko Alonso. The past two weeks, though, Bradham has struggled to maintain the same form and it was especially evident against the New York Jets. Bradham was missing tackles, taking improper angles and allowing yardage to happen on the perimeter once again. To exacerbate all those problems, the linebacker took three separate personal foul calls that put the Bills in poor positions on the field. Marrone said after the game that he couldn’t repeat exactly what he said to Bradham about all the penalties, insinuating that it wouldn’t be appropriate for public consumption. It's safe to assume Marrone's message largely circled around the 'be smarter' principle. The third-year pro is a better player than what he has exhibited each of the last two weeks and they’ll need him to be a huge piece of the puzzle in the second half of the season.

Bills’ MVP: WR Sammy Watkins
- Three receptions, 157 yards and one touchdown that probably should have been two. Watkins is the best player on offense, bar none. It’s a shame they only targeted him six times.

Bills’ LVP: LB Nigel Bradham
- Three personal foul penalties and a whole bunch of tackles, but a few key missed tackles along the way, too. He needs to get back to his beginning of the year form.

Up Next: The bye week! The Bills will rest up, get a few days off and return for their Week 10 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Final Thoughts:
- The Buffalo Bills have made it interesting over each of the past two weeks, but really, it doesn’t matter how they did it. The Bills are 5-3 and enter the most crucial stretch of the season in November. The next four games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns are all against teams that they should conceivably beat. The Bills can take the bye week to reflect on the first half of the season and get back to work for what they hope to be the franchise’s first postseason berth since the Music City Miracle. Despite some of the limitations this team might have, the defense has been overwhelming and Kyle Orton has rejuvenated the passing attack to be the team’s strength on offense. The mission is simple: beat teams that you should beat. If they do that, the Bills could have 8 or 9 wins by the time December comes along.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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5 things to watch for during Bills - Jets

The Buffalo Bills can do something on Sunday that they have only done three times since the 2000 season: The Bills can finish the first half of the regular season with a winning record.

The 2014 version of the team can match the 2002, 2008 and 2011 teams with a 5-3 record to start the season. A victory on Sunday would also ensure another milestone for the Bills as well.

Since the New York Jets have started playing their home games at MetLife Stadium, Buffalo has yet to come away with a victory. Can the Bills defy the odds and further the disappointment of the 1-6 Jets?

Some keys to the game:

1) Here comes the pass attack
- Coming into the season the Buffalo Bills thought they had their identity pegged. They had a full stable of running backs, a revamped offensive line (in their minds) and a young quarterback that needed to depend on the rushing attack. They wanted to be a ball control, run-based attack that kept ahead in the turnover department. That was their formula. Just like most things, it didn’t go according to plan. EJ Manuel took a step back, the offensive line couldn’t get the proper push in front of the running backs and one of their top two ball carriers was not a fit for the scheme. With that — and a change at quarterback — comes a change in philosophy that the Bills will utilize until they need to adjust once more. Get ready for the pass-heavy Bills in Week Eight, at least. Both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are sidelined with an injury, which could pave the way for Kyle Orton and the Bills to attack the porous Jets secondary on Sunday. The Jets are in the top half of pass defense from a yards perspective, but don’t let the season totals fool you: this roster is deficient of a true stopper in the secondary. The Bills can find advantages in picking on cornerback Antonio Allen, rookie safety Calvin Pryor and others when given the opportunity. Given how good their defensive line is attacking through the air, with dynamic rookie Sammy Watkins, may be the best policy.

2) Another plus matchup for the DL
- It seems like every week the Bills line up against a new opponent, they have a distinct advantage over that team’s offensive line. That could be a statement about just how dominant the team's defensive line has been in 2014, the widespread state of poor offensive line play across the NFL, or, more likely, a distinct combination of the two. The Jets are no different than the other teams the Bills have faced in 2014: they struggle mightily at certain spots along their offensive line. The right side of their line has been a disaster, with both guard Willie Colon and tackle Breno Giacomini performing at a low level since the season began. The Jets also have a player, left guard Oday Aboushi, making only his second career start at left guard. Even left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson has seen a decline in his play. It all adds up to one thing: the Bills should dominate the line of scrimmage once again and turn the Jets into a one-dimensional unit. They were not able to do that against Minnesota and nearly lost the game because of it. Ferguson, despite his struggles, is still a solid pass blocker and will be a challenge for Jerry Hughes, which means the key matchup to get heat on Geno Smith will be Mario Williams against Giacomini. It will be critical for Buffalo’s defensive line to dominate the game.

3) Run D’s new challenge
- Along the same line, the run defense took a minor step back against the Vikings. Minnesota challenged them on the perimeter, got their linebackers moving and found some open space outside of the edges. Once they established that, the Vikings ran it right up the middle and were able to pick up yardage that way, too. It will be a big week for linebacker Nigel Bradham to prove that last week was just a fluke, because he struggled against the perimeter-based rushing attack. Another player to keep an eye on is Kyle Williams, who hasn’t played to his normal level since returning from a knee injury two weeks ago. The Bills will likely see the Jets try to follow the Vikings’ blueprint and attack the perimeter with Chris Johnson, while allowing Chris Ivory (107 yards last week) to take the work between the tackles.

4) Harnessing Harvin
- It’s yet to be seen how much, and in what capacity, the Jets will use wide receiver Percy Harvin in his AFC debut. New York just acquired the mercurial wideout after their Week Seven, Thursday night loss to New England that dropped their record to 1-6. Head coach Rex Ryan hinted that Harvin might only see a handful of plays in his first week with the team, but those plays could be designed just for him, whether it be as a runner or a receiver. Despite his off-the-field concerns, Harvin is as dynamic a player as you’ll find on offense and needs to be accounted for at all times. When he’s on the field, look for the Jets to try and attack struggling nickel corner Nickell Robey with Harvin. At the very least, he’ll take pressure off of Eric Decker when on the field.

5) Monstrous Muhammad
- The Jets feature one of the most young and talented defensive lines in all the NFL, and its led by defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. The 25-year old is a matchup nightmare with his combination of size, speed and length and dominated the Bills in both meetings in 2013. Wilkerson ended up with 14 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and multiple tackles for loss as the two teams split the season series. Wilkerson was one of the key reasons that led to the downfall of former starting left guard Colin Brown, which points the responsibilities at the brand new starting left guard Kraig Urbik this week. Urbik replaces rookie Cyril Richardson, and will have his hands full with both Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.

Injuries
Buffalo
OUT: HB Fred Jackson (groin), LB Ty Powell (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: S Aaron Williams (neck), WR Marcus Easley (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Sammy Watkins (groin), DE Mario Williams (thumb), LB Brandon Spikes (ribs), CB Ron Brooks (groin)

New York Jets
QUESTIONABLE: WR Greg Salas (ankle), LB Trevor Reilly (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Eric Decker (hamstring), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), LB David Harris (shoulder), G Willi Colon (knee), HB Chris Johnson (ankle), G Oday Aboushi (shoulder), CB Darrin Walls (knee), HB Bilal Powell (foot), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), CB Phillip Adams (groin)

Prediction: Jets over Bills
- Just like the Kansas City Chiefs were a fluke of an undefeated team around this time last year, the New York Jets look the part of a fluky 1-6 team. They have more talent than most will give them credit for and have played a very hard schedule over the first seven weeks. Second-year quarterback Geno Smith will not get the opportunity to throw at Justin Rogers like he did last year, but he also has better wide receivers this time around. This game will be determined by which defensive line and scheme is more dominant. That edge could go slightly to the Jets defensive line, who will be going up against the worst of the two offensive lines featured in this contest. Rex Ryan always has unique blitzes up his sleeve, so Kyle Orton could be forced into some poor throws as the game goes along. These teams are much closer than the records indicate so the edge, in a division game, is given to the home team.

Twiter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Jackson ruled out vs. Jets, Goodwin doubtful

The Buffalo Bills officially won't be with the top two running backs on their roster Sunday against the New York Jets.

As expected, the Bills announced that Fred Jackson would not be available for the team's upcoming game after the runner suffered a groin injury last Sunday. Both Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who was placed on the short-term Injured Reserve list earlier this week, will be unavailable for the Bills in their AFC East showdown.

Without the duo, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown step into the lead back roles against the Jets. New York have been the eighth best team in the NFL this year against the run.

It could be yet another game missed for second-year wide receiver Marquise Goodwin as well. Goodwin had to leave practice last Thursday with a hamstring injury and has not been an on-field participant since. He was inactive against the Vikings and is listed as 'doubtful' for the game with the Jets.

Safety Aaron Williams (neck) and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) were both labeled as 'questionable' for the upcoming contest. Williams re-injured his neck against Minnesota and has been limited at practice all week. Head coach Doug Marrone said giving Williams some rest over the next day would be beneficial for the safety.

Easley returned to practice for the first time in four weeks since sustaining at sprained MCL. Marrone said the special teams contributor didn't have much soreness in his first three days back at practice, and that the team will work him out ahead of the game to determine if he can play.

Cornerback Ron Brooks suffered a minor groin injury at Friday's practice but was listed as probable to play against the Jets. Brooks, wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) and defensive end Mario Williams (thumb) are all probable as well. Linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) has been declared out.

The Bills and Jets square off Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Aaron Williams limited for second straight practice

The Buffalo Bills came into the year depending on Aaron Williams to become the top safety on the roster. When he has been on the field, he's taken to the role quite well. The only problem is over the past three weeks, a neck injury has limited Williams in what he can do on the field.

Since initially suffering the injury in practice leading up to the Bills' Week Six contest against New England, the safety has had to miss snaps on the field during practice. In fact, the injury even cause him to miss that game against the Patriots.

Williams was able to come back to practice the next week and suited up versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7, but once again, the neck injury didn't go away completely. He aggravated the ailment during the Bills' win and had to miss some time on the field.

As a result, the Bills have limited Williams' reps at practice once again this week, with Thursday being the second consecutive day with that specific course of action. His status for Sunday's game against the New York Jets is not yet known.

Williams and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) were the only two limited players at practice Thursday. Easley has participated in the last two days after missing four weeks of action due to a sprained MCL. Head coach Doug Marrone said he's running and progressing well with the injury, but that they're going to monitor his level of soreness before making a decision for Sunday.

The Bills were without running back Fred Jackson (groin), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) and linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) at practice for the second straight day. If all three do not practice for a third straight day on Friday, there won't be a strong likelihood that any will play against the Jets on Sunday.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) and defensive end Mario Williiams (thumb) were full participants at practice for the second straight day. Barring a setback, all three are expected to play against New York.

The Bills resume practice Friday at 11am.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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