BB:** Moving on toward Buffalo.
Q: How has Don Jones contributed on special teams? It seems like he's played a big role for you guys.
BB: Yeah, he sure has. I think he's a good complement to Slate [Matthew Slater] – just a second gunner, as a second type of penetrator on the kickoff team, that type of thing. I think he's given us some balance with what Matt gives us. Similar type position, but different; a second guy instead of just one.
Q: How familiar were you with him before signing him?
BB: Well, Miami last year and watching in preseason. I'd say going against Miami, he's definitely a guy you have to game plan for. There are some guys in the kicking game you have to – I mean, everybody has to block somebody, but there are some guys you just have to account for that are kind of mismatch guys. He was definitely a guy that we did game plan for and were planning on game planning for against Miami, even though we knew he wasn't going to play in that game, but had he played we would have had to do that. We just felt like he had that kind of ability to impact the kicking game. I'd put obviously Slater in that category, too. Each week you see how teams are going to handle him. Now there's another guy they have to deal with.
Q: When you lose a guy like Nate Ebner, but have Patrick Chung who can go in as the personal protector as the quarterback of the unit, what does it take to replace a guy like Ebner in that position and how valuable is a guy like Patrick who has done it before?
BB: Well, it's really valuable. You're right, that's the quarterback for that team. It's a really important position. There are so many different looks as a punt team that you have to deal with: how many guys they have in the box, the potential of the corners coming in off the gunners, getting the protection right and then there's the whole coverage aspect of it as well. Pat's done that before. He's done a really good job of it. We've been fortunate here that we've had multiple guys do that for us over the past few years and we've been able to – when we've had a situation like that, last year with Steve Gregory, [now with] Chung, but guys that can do that, that's really been valuable for us. Pat's done a good job and he's very good in coverage. So, he gives us not only a good protector and a smart guy who can handle all that, but also gives us a good coverage player which you can never have too many of those on the punt team. It's good. He's done a good job. Nate's done a really good job for us there, too. He's been in on a lot of big plays for us over the last couple years from that position. But Pat filled in for him well last week.
Q: How would you characterize Brandon Browner's ability to pick up your defense?
Q: When you made the decision to hold him out last week and not activate him, how much of that was physical, giving him more time to get up to speed physically versus a comfort level with executing the defense?
BB: I don't think the learning part of it is any issue at all; hasn't been since he's been here.
Q: Specific to the Bills, what they were doing offensively with Kyle Orton last week, is it much different than what they did with EJ Manuel in terms of the way they did I-formation versus split backs? Can you elaborate on that?
BB: Some differences, yeah, some differences. More drop back passing game, a little different running game although Doug [Marrone] has had that running game as part of his offense. They weren't sitting up there drawing up new plays. They just, I think, ran them with more frequency. Orton [was] under center a little more on early downs. But certainly more drop back passing. I think Orton did a good job spreading the ball around. He got the ball to his backs, his tight ends, his receivers. Reading coverages and working different combination parts of the pattern, he did a good job of that; got the ball out quickly.
Q: With Manuel, they ran some zone read. Do you have to balance preparation in the event there's a change at quarterback?
BB: Absolutely. On any one play, anybody out there could get a sprained ankle or something and the other guy is in there. We have to prepare for all the guys that are on the roster. Certainly Manuel, we've got to prepare for him, too, whether they use him by choice or it could be out of necessity. He's certainly made a lot of good plays for them, was productive in the opportunities he got to play this year. Orton has been, too. I'm sure they feel like they have two guys at that position that they can win with because they have won with them. Yeah, we definitely have to be ready for him.
Q: How did their defense change, if at all, without Kyle Williams this past week?
BB: I don't think the 'Xs' and 'Os' changed too much. They did run a little bit of three-man line in passing situations against Detroit, whether they would have done that with Kyle or not I don't know. But they put [Marcell] Dareus on the nose. They still played their nickel or dime concept, but they just had an extra linebacker in the game as opposed to a four-man rush and another guy off the ball. I would say that was one kind of scheme change. They probably ran that four, five times in the game. It wasn't a lot. It was a third down call. Otherwise, I would say not a whole lot of changes.
Q: I know Dareus has been a good player since he's been in the league, but it seems like this year he's been even more productive. What have you seen?
BB: Yeah, I agree. He's a hard guy to block. He's strong, quick, he's got good instincts. He reads blocks well, does a good job attacking the leverage, does a good job in the pass rush of beating, based on how the guard or how he gets set. He had a big play against Detroit where the center slid to him and he split the double team. You don't see that a lot. He's got the quickness and the strength to do that. He runs games well. They run a lot of games. He does a good job with that, as does Kyle Williams. They have that penetrating quickness that makes those games effective and also the athleticism to come around and contain a quarterback if the end goes first or if they run an inside tackle game. Yeah, I agree. I think he's been good and he's been even more productive this year. He's playing [at] a high level in the running game, too. He's a hard guy to block. He's strong, uses his hands well, he reacts well to blocking schemes.
Q: You mentioned earlier this week that they run their ends wide. Is there anything to the idea that they're trying to funnel plays into those two guys in the middle?
BB: Yeah, that's totally what it is. It's the same thing that we saw at Tennessee, same thing that we saw at Detroit with Jim [Schwartz], going back to [Kyle] Vanden Bosch. Change the names, but it's the same type of scheme and players. Yeah, they definitely do that. They like to play the ends out wide. Now, they'll pinch them in to keep you honest. They don't do it every play. But yeah, they get the ends out there wide and pinch them into those tackles and they have three guys inside, whether it's three linebackers or when they're in nickel sometimes it's two linebackers and a safety. They definitely try to funnel that. They're a really hard team to get outside on. They don't give up many outside plays. Jim never has. It's just hard to get outside those guys. They're wide plus they're big and they're athletic. That's definitely the foundation of that defense – set the edge with the ends and then like you said, force the ball inside. That's definitely what they're trying to do.
Q: They seem to run the ball a lot out of the shotgun. Is that advantageous to them because of the type of backs they have or is that just a scheme thing?
BB: Yeah, I'd say it's a scheme thing. These backs make yards wherever you give it to them. But a lot of teams in the league are doing that.
Q: What are some of the challenges that that presents to a defense?
BB: Every running play presents some challenge however it's designed. They have a lot of different plays, they don't just have one. You know, reading the blocking schemes, the backs are good. They have the ability to make guys miss and get outside. They have the speed to get outside, especially [C.J.] Spiller. They have the ability to make guys miss. They have good vision. Spiller runs, plays strong for a smaller guy. [Fred] Jackson we know is we know a strong, powerful runner. He's got great lower body strength. [He] runs over a lot of tacklers but he has good quickness as well. I don't think there's anything magical about them [the scheme]: you still have to block them, you still have to run. But they have a good complementary scheme. They go inside, they go outside. They have counter plays; they use them in the passing game. It's just the way they decide to do it.
Q: It seems like through the years, the special teams for the Bills have always been good. Dan Carpenter seems to be continuing that with kick last week.
BB: He's kicked well for them, yeah. They have four specialists, which is a little unusual. They're like 80 percent touchbacks on kickoffs, something like that. Carpenter has done a good job for them. Their coverage team has been good and their return game is explosive with Spiller and [Leodis] McKelvin. But even going back to last year, their return game, whether it was [Marquise] Goodwin or McKelvin, it just seemed like whoever they used back there, like you said, they always got production out of somebody. Go all the way back to the last 15 years; they've always had good returns, a good return game.
Q: You mentioned vision in terms of their running backs. They have pretty good vision.
BB: Very good.
Q: I think that was something we noticed from both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in some of their big runs. It seems like that's sort of an interesting quality in that it's not just eyesight. What allows a running back to have good vision? Stevan talked yesterday about being patient and setting up blocks.
BB: It's a good question. It's kind of probably a hard thing to put into words and define. But I think patience, a key to it is knowing when you have time to set blocks up and use the blocking scheme ahead of you to pull defenders one way or the other and cut off them and when you don't and you just have to hit it and get through there because there's just not enough time. That's an instinctive thing that backs I'm sure learn through experience and some have better than others. When you have that ability to have a little bit of space and you have the patience to set up those blocks and force a defender to declare one way to set the block for whoever it is – lineman, guard, center, tackle, whoever it is – and then be able to cut off, that's really ideal. Sometimes you just don't have that luxury as a back. You have guys closing in on you and you just have to get through there and run with good pad level and get what you can. But patience is a key to that when used at the right time. We all hate to see the backs that run in there and have patience and then don't gain any yards. You want them to get the ball into the line of scrimmage and go. So, there's a fine line between when you have time to do that and when you don't. I thought that the run that Shane had on the third-and- play, last week where he set the block for [Dan] Connolly, he would have gained the three or four yards there. The linebacker, I think it was [Emmanuel] Lamur was there coming over the top and he started outside to take the linebacker outside, set the block for Dan and then cut up inside and ended up going for the first down. Those are yards you kind of have to give to the running back for making that run happen. He didn't break a tackle, but the way he set the block gave him an extra 10, 12 yards, whatever it was. Vision is part of that, patience is part of that. Having an understanding of how to draw the defender to the blocker and then cut off it is all part of it. I don't know where one starts and the other one ends. They all merge together, but there are elements in that in terms of running and I'd say using your blockers. Some backs sometimes tend to run away from them which sometimes that works, too. But sometimes you see guys run, they have a blocker, but they run past them and the defender makes a tackle. If they had waited a little bit and set it up, but they have to decide whether they have time to do that or sometimes they think they can beat the guy without the block.
Q: What have you seen from Stevan Ridley in terms of development and growth as a player?
BB: I think Stevan has come a long way in three and a half years. Certainly his ball security this year has been very good. He's always had real good toughness as a runner. That's never been a problem. But I think his patience and vision – the run he had on that play down the sideline was really an inside play that on paper was designed to go between the guards and it ended up bouncing outside and then bouncing outside even further to going down the sideline. I'm not sure that that's a run that would have turned out that way for him a couple years ago. His vision, his confidence and understanding the entire lay. Knowing sometimes where you can't go as much as where you can go is important. When the line stunted in, he had a chance to get out into a little bit of space and then eventually get to the edge. Those are good runs by backs. It's one thing when there's a hole there and a guy just runs through it. Great, but there are other times when they've got to have the vision to pick the soft spot and be able to get positive yards. So, he's done a good job of that.
Q: Talking about Buffalo's special teams – Steve Tasker is the first guy that I remember as really standing out as being a special teams specialist. As important as that role has always been in the game, when did that idea of a guy who really made his niche in special teams begin?
BB: I'd say probably George Allen when Dick Vermeil was special teams coach going back to the Redskins days. I think George, if I'm not mistaken, I don't want to speak out of turn here, but I want to say George was the first coach to employ strictly a special teams coach. When I came into the league I would say a few teams, maybe a quarter of the teams if I had to guess, had a true special teams coach and the rest of them it was broken up, kind of like it is now with a lot of college teams because they're limited in their staff size. You'd have maybe the defensive coaches would have the coverage teams like punt and kickoff and the offensive coaches would have the return teams like punt return and kickoff return, field goal, where more of the offensive guys were on, that type of thing. Or maybe it would be one coach on the staff would have running backs and special teams or whatever. I came right during that transition period. I wasn't at the beginning of it, but I was still before everybody had a special teams coach and also before every team had a snapper, a holder and a kicker. There were times where there were some teams there that had guys that played other positions and snapped and even in a couple cases where you had guys that kicked or punted that also played another position. Less of that, but there weren't very many pure long snappers in the early to mid-70s. There were a few but not [many] – that was kind of the whole evolution of the coach, the specialists, soccer style kickers. That was a kind of transitional period there. So, I'd say Allen had a couple guys like that that were just really special teams players, impact type guys. When I was at Baltimore my first year, I think we had Howard Stevens who was a little 5-5 running back, was the returner. I think the Patriots might have had Mack Herron then, who was another kind of returner only. That was the same thing, too. Not every team had a specialized returner. A lot of teams had position players that also returned. But there was, again, a little bit of trend toward using a roster spot for a guy that just returned kicks. Those roster spots were pretty special back then because you had fewer players. To dedicate one to a snapper or a returner – you could really, back in those days, you could really save a spot if you added a guy that could do both like we had at Baltimore with the snapper situation. [Ken] Mendenhall did PATs and I'm trying to remember who did field goals [Toni Linhart]. There were a lot of guys, the [Bob] Kuechenbergs and guys like that that were good players that also snapped so that was an extra roster spot there if you had a position player that could also double up for you. But those days are long gone. We've seen the end of that, quite a few years now. But I would take it back to Allen.