Cody Ford Jersey

The Buffalo Bills picked Cody Ford 38th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Ford ahead of the draft:

I will admit it took a while for Cody Ford to grow on me.

See, not that long ago it used to be that left tackles were supposed to be the “finesse” guys, while right tackles were supposed to be your “maulers.” A lot of that stemmed from the fact most teams wanted a guy at left tackle who could pass block out on an island all by himself against what was usually the opposing defense’s best pass rusher.

On the other hand, because most teams favored running the ball to their right, they usually looked for a “road grader” type run blocker for their right tackle, knowing that they could help him out with tight end bumps and running back chips when it came time to throw the ball.

Obviously times have changed.

The NFL is undoubtedly a passing league now, and more and more teams are starting to open up their playbook. That means more guys out into routes, and fewer guys staying in to help with pass protection.

Couple that with the fact we are living in somewhat of a golden era of pass rushers who like to line up on the defense’s left edge, and it’s clear that your right tackle better be able to hold his own as a pass blocker or your quarterback had better be some kin to Houdini.

What took me a while to come around on Ford was the fact I still have somewhat of that old-school mentality when it comes to right tackles, and I had to check myself on it. He is a big guy at 6’4 and almost 330 pounds, but Ford was not a physically dominating presence when it came to run blocking, and initially that was somewhat of a disappointment.

Which is not to say Ford was a bad run blocker.The truth is, assignment-wise at least, he looked at least solid, if not spectacular. However, he just didn’t have the same initial “pop” on contact that jumps off the screen as, say, a guy like Jawaan Taylor.

Ford also didn’t drive a lot of guys off the ball, either. Mind you, he rarely lost ground after he engaged with a defender, but there just weren’t a lot “explosive” run blocks on his tape.

But you know what, after reflecting on it, I don’t really care all that much about whether or not Ford was pancaking fools left and right. Yeah, that would’ve been nice, but I can live with him being just an “OK” run blocker, because when it came time to throw the ball he was putting clamps on these dudes.

Ford wasn’t flashy, but damn if he wasn’t effective as hell at shutting down edge rushers of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. It all started with how consistent he was with his footwork.

He was always able to get just the right amount of width and depth on his initial kick step, and Ford rarely overset no matter how wide the edge rusher lined up.

That consistent kick step of his allowed Ford to intercept speed rushers before they could turn the corner. It also allowed Ford the ability to recover if that edge rusher tried an inside move instead.

After he got that initial kick step in, Ford was good at mirroring his opponents.

He was able to shuffle laterally quickly without crossing over his feet, and wherever the edge rushers went, Ford stayed on them like their shadow. He was also efficient with his movements, always staying under control and on balance so that he could easily change directions.

In addition to Ford’s impressive footwork, he was also great with his hands. He was patient with his punch, choosing only the most opportune times to strike with them.

When he did get his hands on his opponents, Ford usually locked onto them like he had vise grips for fingers and refused to let go. Whenever Ford was able to grab hold of a guy, the play was pretty much over for him. Trust me, nothing is more demoralizing for a pass rusher than being stuck on a block you can’t get off of.

In the four games of his I watched, I saw plenty of frustrated pass rushers try, and fail, to loosen themselves from Ford’s clutches once he got his hands on them.

But it wasn’t just Ford’s punch or grip that impressed me about how he used his hands in pass protection. He also has already learned how to chop down on a pass rusher’s arms before that pass rusher can try to do a power rush, like a bull rush or a long arm, on him.

The first time I saw him do it I had to rewind the tape a few times just to make sure I wasn’t tripping. There are starting NFL offensive tackles who either don’t know how to do that, or aren’t comfortable enough with the technique to try it in a game. Yet here was this kid mixing it into his regular repertoire, and looking quite good while doing so.

I was also very impressed with Ford’s ability to pass off stunts and pass-rush games. He never seemed to be taken off guard when pass rushers tried to switch lanes, and he almost always smoothly transitioned into blocking the next guy when it happened.

Ford’s remarkable mix of premium talent and technique was accentuated by the fact that he plays like a savvy veteran. The guy looked like he was born to pass block, and he was only beaten two times in four games.

By the way, this sack against Alabama was not one of them. Ford had his guy blocked pretty well, but the quarterback just basically ran himself right into the sack.

But I digress.

Both of the times he did get beat were on moves where the defender was able to swat his hands away. That is going to happen sooner or later, even to the best of blockers; however, only one of those two plays resulted in an actual pressure for the defender.

In four games the only pressure of any kind Ford gave up was the other sack in the Alabama game that wasn’t really a sack. The quarterback managed to stay off the turf as the replays showed, but the refs had already blown their whistles, which means it went down as a sack anyway, unfortunately for Ford.

Regardless, only giving up one pressure in four games is still kind of amazing.

In this day and age, you can’t stick a right tackle out there to protect your $20 million-per-year quarterback if he can’t pass block. The offenses are too wide open, and, as I mentioned before, the dudes rushing off the left edge are too good. Going by that criteria, Ford is probably more ready to start right now than Taylor, even though Taylor showed more flashes of dominance.

Let me go back to Ford’s run blocking for a second, though. He may not have been dominant, but he wasn’t some slappy out there, either. He was more of a position blocker, and he was pretty good at making sure the guys he was blocking couldn’t get where they wanted to go.

While it’s true that he didn’t rack up a bunch of pancakes, Ford was routinely what I would call a “just enough” guy. He would get just enough push on the defender to give the ball carrier a lane to work with. Those kinds of blocks aren’t as exciting to watch, but as long as they’re effective, that’s all that truly matters.

I also want to point out that while Ford wasn’t freight-training guys on the second level like Taylor, once he got on somebody at linebacker depth, he usually stayed on them for the duration.

As a matter of fact, some of his best blocks were out in space where his athleticism was able to shine through yet again.

Oklahoma definitely tried to put that athleticism to good use in the run game. The Sooners had him pull across the formation an astounding 22 times over the course of four games.

I rarely see guards with that many pulls in four games.

But a tackle? Damn near unheard of.

But here’s the thing … he wasn’t really all that good at it.

I mean, he was quick enough and fast enough to get across the formation, usually, but once he actually got there, things frequently tended to take a turn for the worse.

And yet Oklahoma just kept right on asking him to pull over and over again.

Well, hey, the fact he is athletic enough to pull is certainly a plus and not something you see from a right tackle every day. A good offensive line coach should be able help a guy like Ford clean up his mechanics at the end of a pull so he is in better position to actually make a block once he gets where he is going.

He looked fine running out and blocking people on screens, after all.

So while Ford isn’t going to knock guys five yards off the ball, a creative coach should be able to pair Ford’s ability to move in space with some innovative run schemes. The kinds of plays you couldn’t run with an old-school, road grader type of right tackle.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford could slide over to left tackle and hold up well over on that side, too.

I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but with the way he pass blocks, I could seem him being able to do it. That kind of versatility is very valuable and uncommon in offensive tackles.

Usually it’s the other way around — trying to move guys not good enough to play left tackle over to the right side — but I wouldn’t be shocked if it went the other way with Ford.

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s likely. I just think he has that kind of potential as a pass blocker especially.

With the way the NFL continues to evolve, a guy who is more athletic than powerful like Ford at right tackle will probably soon become the norm. If your OC wants to send five eligible receivers out on a route almost every play, then your right tackle is going to have to be able to block an edge rusher on his own, period. Nobody is going to give a damn how many pancakes that guy has if he keeps letting Von Miller run through your quarterback’s chest.

Yes, it took me a few times watching his tape before I came to really appreciate Ford’s play, but now I am completely sold on the guy.

With his ability to protect the passer, his athleticism as run blocker, and his potential to play at either tackle spot, Ford looks to me like a guy who should be drafted in the top half of the first round in a few weeks.

He may well end up being the best tackle to come out of this draft class.

For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched former Oklahoma right tackle Cody Ford play against FAU, UCLA, West Virginia, and Alabama. Those represented the first, second, 12th, and 14th games on Oklahoma’s schedule last season, respectively.

Ed Oliver Jersey

Orchard Park, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane had a laundry list of positions he needed to address after last season heading into arguably the most important offseason of his tenure.

Getting quarterback Josh Allen in place was important, but filling in around him after a solid rookie campaign became critical if Beane wanted the Bills to take another step forward in 2019.

With free agency and the NFL Draft now in the rearview mirror, Beane can consider his mission accomplished.

After adding 14 of 18 total free agents on the offensive side of the ball, including new center Mitch More and receiver John Brown and Cole Beasley, Beane put an exclamation point on the offseason with a stellar draft.

Here are X things I’m thinking about Beane’s 2019 draft.Ed Oliver is a bases loaded home run at No. 9

Beane needed a little luck for Oliver to fall all the way down the board to nine where his team was picking. In every scenario his scouts played out in their war room in the lead up to the draft, the only way Oliver fell was if multiple quarterbacks went in the Top 10.

Two ended up going ahead of the Bills and they walk away with Oliver, who improves and already elite-level defense that should be equipped to shut down any offense it faces in 2019. The Bills added at almost every position on the defense. They brought in veteran cornerbacks to push Levi Wallace for the No. 2 job in E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson. They drafted depth at linebacker and safety in Florida’s Vosean Joesph and Miami’s (FL) Jaquan Johnson. And they added Oliver in the middle to replace longtime staple Kyle Williams.

Oliver’s quickness off the line, athleticism on the rush and finishing ability from the three-technique position adds an entirely new dimension to the Bills defense. They were No. 2 in the league last season and could be the best in 2019. Improvement almost guaranteed on the offensive line

Beane signed six new offensive linemen in free agency and then drafted blue-chip prospect right tackle Cody Ford with the No. 38 pick (second round) on Friday night.

There is going to be legitimate battles at every position except center. Incumbent left tackle Dion Dawkins will get a push from new tackle Ty Nsekhe. Quinton Spain and Wyatt Teller will battle at left guard. On the right side, Spencer Long and Jon Feliciano will duke it out and then Ford should probably be expected to wind up at right tackle.

That’s a new-look line that has a chance to be much better than last season. Allen is going to have to get Beane a nice Christmas present this year.Should the Bills have drafted a receiver?

Simple answer? No.

Brown is the new No. 1 and Robert Foster did enough last year to be the No. 2. Zay Jones will float all over the place and could still end up being the top target among receivers. Beasley should be the man in the middle of the field and there’s plenty of competition below the top four guys.

Isaiah McKenzie and Cam Phillips will be in camp, along with new signing from the CFL Duke Williams. The Bills also reportedly signed West Virginia’s David Sills to a UFA deal.

Beane has proven that he can find hidden talent at the position and it’s hard to argue with his stance of not reaching for a receiver in the draft.What to make of the new-look running backs room

But wait, didn’t he reach for running back Devin Singletary at No. 74?

Not exactly. There was a run happening at the position and he wanted to secure what could be LeSean McCoy’s eventual replacement. Singletary does all the same kind of things McCoy does but he’s nine years younger and significantly cheaper.

New running back TJ Yeldon is an intriguing addition because of his well-rounded game and acumen as a pass blocker in the backfield. Frank Gore is there to share some wisdom and keep McCoy motivated. With a new o-line and plenty of competition, McCoy must produce if he wants to stick around.
Dawson Knox makes all kinds of sense at tight end

The Bills could make a run at Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings are reportedly shopping him and he could be a nice one- or two-year option at TE1.

But with the singing of Tyler Kroft and the addition of Knox in the draft the Bills have adequately addressed the tight end position. Kroft’s 2017 was impressive and if he can be that player this year it would be an upgrade over anything the Bills got at that spot in 2018.

Knox is a developmental talent but could flash earlier than expected. Beane said that Ole Miss didn’t use him the way the Bills plan to utilize his talents. He’s athletic, fast and plans to prove that he can make plays.Wait and see on Vosean Joesph

Joseph is a nice project for Bills coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. He has huge upside because of his good film, speed and athleticism. But when he played sloppy or was out of position he doesn’t look like the same player.

Expect McDermott to get him on track and if that happens he becomes a viable starter and potential high-level player. Remember McDermott snagged Matt Milano in the fifth round two years ago. This group understands how to evaluate talent.
Hat tip to Beane and McDermott

It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes the Baltimore Ravens put it on you and a 47-3 beatdown brings out the criticism. But when things are going right it’s time to give some credit.

Beane and McDermott set forth a vision and have patiently executed despite some tough patches along the road. They haven’t won a single game in 2019 just yet but the upgrades and choices they’ve made, at least, deserve some praise. Next season should be a fun one.

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Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane’s off-season priority was to build around quarterback Josh Allen and improve the league’s No. 30-ranked offense. Major holes, especially on the offensive line and at receiver, were plugged during free agency. That means Beane has the luxury of taking the best player available in the NFL draft this week instead of trying to fill a positional need.

The Bills have a lot of draft capital with 10 picks, including the No. 9 overall selection, so Beane has multiple options: He could stand pat or swing a deal, either to move up and grab a marquee player before he comes off the board or to trade down and acquire more first-round or second-round picks. Oakland, which has four picks in the top 35, could be a trade partner.

Curious what the AFC East rival Patriots, Jets and Dolphins will be up to in the draft? Check out Forbes’ complete NFL draft coverage.

Team Needs

The Bills could use more help on the defensive line with the retirement of defensive tackle Kyle Williams last season and with defensive end Jerry Hughes going into the last year of his contract. They also will need a replacement knowing that outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, 35, will call it a career after this season. The Bills also need another running back, another tight end and a true No. 1 big receiver who will augment a new receiving corps with slotback Cole Beasley and John Brown. Meanwhile, Robert Foster and the club’s leading receiver, Zay Jones, will be better with another year of seasoning.The Bills addressed weaknesses on the offensive line with six free-agent acquisitions, including center Mitch Morse, a big-ticket signing who will help in pass-protection schemes. The Bills made a big step to shore up the running back position by signing former Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon to a two-year contract just before the draft. Yeldon, who served mainly as a reserve running back after starting as a rookie in Jacksonville in 2015, is a dual threat as a runner and receiver. He adds some fresh legs to a backfield that has LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, who are both north of 30 years old.This is a deep tight-end class, led by T.J. Hockenson, who won the John Mackey Award handed out to the best tight end in college. He has the frame for a prototypical tight end at 6-5 and 250 pounds. Hockenson can be used as a run blocker or as a pass target on mid-range or short-yardage situations. He presents a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties. Last year for Iowa, Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards, good for a 15.5 average gain per catch. Hockenson would be a valuable complement to returnee Jason Croom and free-agent acquisitions Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher.Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has both size, at 6-3 and 228 pounds, and speed with a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. The Bills need an explosive deep threat who can catch up to Josh Allen’s bombs, and Metcalf would be that guy. A criticism is that he lacks agility after slow times in the 3-cone drill and short shuttle at the combine. But on the positive side, he’s got the length and size to go up and get those jump balls, he can make quick adjustments in his route running, and he’s got great hand-to-eye coordination to make one-handed catches if he’s overthrown. Another knock against him is that he’s injury prone after suffering season-ending injuries in 2016 (foot) and in 2018 (neck).Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver would fill a need on the interior of the defensive line with the retirement of Kyle Williams. Oliver is coming off a three-year college career that saw him record 53 tackles for a loss, in addition to 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. But he may not be still on the board when the Bills are on the clock because he could be the best player available in the draft. Some mock drafts have him going as high as No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders. He has elite speed off the snap, although he is considered a little undersized for an interior lineman at 6′ 3” and 292 pounds.

Later-Round Targets

After the first round, the Bills have nine picks: one in the second round, one in the third round, two in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.Day 2 of the draft will likely see running backs start to come off the board. The best available might be Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, although some don’t like the fact he never posted a 1,000-yard campaign or spent a full season as a starter. Last season, he averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns. Jacobs excels at blocking and receiving, too.While the Bills have filled in with Cole Beasley and John Brown at wide receiver, the club is missing size at the position, and that’s where North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon, at 6-3 and 214, would be a good fit in the later rounds. He’s a big-play receiver. Last year, he caught 81 passes for 1,186 yards and seven touchdowns.Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson set an NCAA record for career sacks with 47, including 17.5 last season, beating the record of Arizona State star Terrelle Suggs. He’s not off the charts with his measurables, but he has a complete arsenal of pass-rushing moves with the speed, power and length to develop into a quality edge rusher.

Best-Case Scenario

This is the second go at this for GM Brandon Beane, who was hired 10 days after the 2017 draft. With so much draft flexibility, the Bills are dealing from a position of strength and, if they can add a couple of impact players, Buffalo could become the surprise team of the NFL next season. Coming off a 6-10 record, the Bills appear to be only a few pieces away from being considered a playoff contender.

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Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane’s off-season priority was to build around quarterback Josh Allen and improve the league’s No. 30-ranked offense. Major holes, especially on the offensive line and at receiver, were plugged during free agency. That means Beane has the luxury of taking the best player available in the NFL draft this week instead of trying to fill a positional need.

The Bills have a lot of draft capital with 10 picks, including the No. 9 overall selection, so Beane has multiple options: He could stand pat or swing a deal, either to move up and grab a marquee player before he comes off the board or to trade down and acquire more first-round or second-round picks. Oakland, which has four picks in the top 35, could be a trade partner.

Curious what the AFC East rival Patriots, Jets and Dolphins will be up to in the draft? Check out Forbes’ complete NFL draft coverage.

Team Needs

The Bills could use more help on the defensive line with the retirement of defensive tackle Kyle Williams last season and with defensive end Jerry Hughes going into the last year of his contract. They also will need a replacement knowing that outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, 35, will call it a career after this season. The Bills also need another running back, another tight end and a true No. 1 big receiver who will augment a new receiving corps with slotback Cole Beasley and John Brown. Meanwhile, Robert Foster and the club’s leading receiver, Zay Jones, will be better with another year of seasoning.

This is a deep tight-end class, led by T.J. Hockenson, who won the John Mackey Award handed out to the best tight end in college. He has the frame for a prototypical tight end at 6-5 and 250 pounds. Hockenson can be used as a run blocker or as a pass target on mid-range or short-yardage situations. He presents a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties. Last year for Iowa, Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards, good for a 15.5 average gain per catch. Hockenson would be a valuable complement to returnee Jason Croom and free-agent acquisitions Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher.

Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has both size, at 6-3 and 228 pounds, and speed with a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. The Bills need an explosive deep threat who can catch up to Josh Allen’s bombs, and Metcalf would be that guy. A criticism is that he lacks agility after slow times in the 3-cone drill and short shuttle at the combine. But on the positive side, he’s got the length and size to go up and get those jump balls, he can make quick adjustments in his route running, and he’s got great hand-to-eye coordination to make one-handed catches if he’s overthrown. Another knock against him is that he’s injury prone after suffering season-ending injuries in 2016 (foot) and in 2018 (neck).

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver would fill a need on the interior of the defensive line with the retirement of Kyle Williams. Oliver is coming off a three-year college career that saw him record 53 tackles for a loss, in addition to 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. But he may not be still on the board when the Bills are on the clock because he could be the best player available in the draft. Some mock drafts have him going as high as No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders. He has elite speed off the snap, although he is considered a little undersized for an interior lineman at 6′ 3” and 292 pounds.

Later-Round Targets

After the first round, the Bills have nine picks: one in the second round, one in the third round, two in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.Day 2 of the draft will likely see running backs start to come off the board. The best available might be Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, although some don’t like the fact he never posted a 1,000-yard campaign or spent a full season as a starter. Last season, he averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns. Jacobs excels at blocking and receiving, too.While the Bills have filled in with Cole Beasley and John Brown at wide receiver, the club is missing size at the position, and that’s where North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon, at 6-3 and 214, would be a good fit in the later rounds. He’s a big-play receiver. Last year, he caught 81 passes for 1,186 yards and seven touchdowns.

Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson set an NCAA record for career sacks with 47, including 17.5 last season, beating the record of Arizona State star Terrelle Suggs. He’s not off the charts with his measurables, but he has a complete arsenal of pass-rushing moves with the speed, power and length to develop into a quality edge rusher.

Best-Case Scenario

This is the second go at this for GM Brandon Beane, who was hired 10 days after the 2017 draft. With so much draft flexibility, the Bills are dealing from a position of strength and, if they can add a couple of impact players, Buffalo could become the surprise team of the NFL next season. Coming off a 6-10 record, the Bills appear to be only a few pieces away from being considered a playoff contender.

Curtis Rush is a Toronto-based writer who began in this business when newsrooms had typewriters. I am a contributing writer to The New York Times, the Washington Post, the WSJ and the Guardian.

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As a life long Bengals fan, I am excited to see new life and energy being breathed into a team that seemed to have had the fire put out of them. I understand there have been some major injuries, but even last season when they started off better than expected, it felt like we were just waiting for the other shoe to drop (and boy did it!)

My question is with all the talk that Andy Dalton is still our guy and rumors that we are interested in Dwayne Haskins, what is the likelihood that we draft a QB like Will Grier in the second round? He was a pretty efficient and consistent player, and has more years as a starter than Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray. He also has swagger and attitude, which I feel is something we are going to need playing Baker Mayfield twice a year. Keep up the good work and as always WHO-DEY Taylor Smith, Columbus, OH

TAYLOR: Thank you for the nice note. My sense is the longer the draft goes, the higher probability they take a quarterback. I could see them taking one at No. 11, but I’m not sure the top guys (Murray, Haskins and maybe Drew Lock?) have that drop-dead whiff of a No. 11 while guys at other positions (pass rusher, offensive and defensive tackle) do. But if a guy’s value matches the pick, I could see them picking a quarterback at any point. It would just seem to be more likely after the first. But, really, if they like those top QBs, they’d be killing themselves by advertising it. So yeah, No. 11, they could.

I don’t think the other shoe dropped. I think it twisted an ankle and missed four to six weeks. And I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop on Mayfield. He’s got swagger, yes. Will it bring a locker room together or tear it in two? After watching how he treated Hue Jackson, I wonder. But, yeah, Mayfield is a force to be reckoned with, no question. Sweet passer.

Dear Hobson, With a full healthy WR core, would it be odd for ZT to give Erickson some more snaps in the slot this year?? I think with his explosiveness, and the combo of Tyler Boyd and AJ Green healthy we could be deadly. I truly think that we undervalue him by just giving him his special team role. He could 100% make us a better WR core. When he had to step in last year during injuries, I felt like he kept the offense going when the season was out of reach. He’s the hustle guy that we need to give us a boost late in games and especially when we need it most late in the season! Thanks for all you do! WHO DEY! Ryan Townsend, Vandalia, OH

RYAN: Thanks very much for weighing in. I, too, love wide receiver Alex Erickson, but I don’t think he’s undervalued at all. The guy has great hands tailor-made for the slot, he can play all three spots and he can win games returning punts and kicks. My thing is, why change his role? Tyler Boyd is clearly their best slot guy but Erickson seems to be at his best as a spot guy in the pass game and a very productive returner. Nothing wrong with that. He played 36.5 percent of the snaps last season and he’ll probably play a little less with A.J. Green healthy while adding a veteran presence to special teams. And that’s a very valuable spot already. You know what you’re going to get in that role and that’s quality. But I’m with you. Great guy to have.
Hi Geoff, Alex here, writing to you from Richmond, VA. Been reading your pieces for write a long time. All of my adult life to be honest and I would like to take a moment to commend you for the excellent work you do with the Bengals. Your connection to history and geography always impresses me. My question today in this perhaps boring time of the year is focused on uniforms and its relation to the recent coaching changes. I’m not here begging for a new uni change this season, but if one does happen, when do you think it might happen and do you think the Bengals will get it right? By right I mean keeping the stripes on the helmets but updating the jerseys, pants and socks. If you take the stripes off the helmets, are we really the Cincinnati Bengals who play in the jungle? The coolest helmet design in the NFL in my opinion. Alex, Richmond, VA

ALEX: Thanks for reaching out with the compliment. It certainly means a lot. I think new unis are on the radar and they’re looking at it, but it is a multi-year process. Just going back to the last coaching change, they went to new uniforms in Marvin Lewis’ second season so that might mean it’s not imminent but I also think it’s a point of discussion. Couldn’t agree with you more on the helmet and I would say that’s an organization-wide sentiment.

It was 38 years ago last week when the Bengals unveiled that striped helmet and founder Paul Brown observed, “When the Rams came out with their helmets and those horns on them, everybody rolled off their chairs, laughing. But now they’ve probably got the most distinctive helmets in the league and the other teams would like to have the same thing … Now when people see us on TV, they know it’s our team.”

Brown’s words ring as true today as they did then. And it puts another wrinkle into the London game against the Rams given it is only the 14th time the NFL’s two most recognizable helmets have butted against each other.

Greetings my Friend, I hope that all is well with you and your family.

My question is framed in a novice-like prediction. I believe (note: Believing presupposes a doubt lol) that our Cincinnati Bengals brain trust has planned to travel two distinctly different routes that depends heavily on how the 1 thru 10 picks play out on April 25th. Due to the super-high quality of defensive talent available for the top of the scale, and the always present desire for taking QBs early in every draft, I believe that TWO decisions have been made. If the run on defenders pushes down QB then the trigger is pulled on QB. If the panic for QB pushes down DL/LB then that choice is made. I need to State that I have always been a big supporter of Andy Dalton, and that hasn’t changed. If Dewayne Haskins is available at 11 (or even at 8-10), I think that he is an excellent choice for a reason outside of his excellent talent. DH has shown that he is a team first player who has no problem being patient as a backup until his time arrives. His presence would elevate the QB room.

VICTOR: Good to hear from you again and I’m also hoping you and yours are well. For someone who has followed the Bengals for as long as you have, I wouldn’t call it novice. And you’re exactly right. You show your experience. What the Bengals do at No. 11 is going to be decided by the teams in front of them. This thing isn’t as clear other drafts because there are no drop-dead elite QBs, wide receivers or running backs on the board this year, so they could be choosing from about five or six potentials.

It’s all based on the grades. Will Haskins even be there? And if he is, do they grade him better than someone at another position or trade back to somebody that wants him? We pretty much know they’re not trading up.

Haskins is no doubt an interesting prospect. But given he had just one full season and he would come in behind Andy Dalton in what would seem to be a Chiefs’ model of Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes, Bengals history would say no. Akili Smith burned them on one-year wonders at QB and I’m not sure you could say Haskins’ development is near where Mahomes was on draft day. But, like I say, they’re not taking anything off the table, so if Haskins is there, maybe. But I’d say that’s slim that he’ll be there.

Hi Geoff, love what you do for the fans with answering their questions and also for some fantastic reading material, I am a big fan. Now with the draft approaching want to know what way they may be leaning. I am hoping for a defensive pick, mainly linebacker. Do you think White or Bush will be available when we pick? I believe the offense has a ton of talent and no need for a high pick, especially at QB. I think the next 2 years will produce much better QB’s that can be the heir to Dalton. Hearing rumors of Haskins stock falling scares me to think we will take him if available. He just reminds me too much of another 1 year college starter in Akili Smith. Do you feel if he is available that they will draft him? Thanks again. Joe Pollack, Mayfield, PA

JOE: I thank you much for the very kind words. I channeled you in the previous answer when it came to Akili and you ask a good question. The consensus is that Michigan linebacker Devin Bush and not LSU’s Devin White is going to be there at No. 11. Before they draft Bush, they’ll have to come to grips with his safety-like size. Same deal with Haskins. If he’s there, they would have to come to grips with the fact he did it just once. I hear you about defense and pending how the first ten picks go, there could be some interesting pass rushers. But I wouldn’t eliminate offensive line, either, if they thought they could get a tackle that’s going to start for a long time, or a productive D-tackle.

Geoff, Hello again. Hope all is well. With the draft two weeks away. I hope this team reinforces the trenches. LB play was suspect last year, but the inconsistent play at DT didn’t exactly help. What do you think? Maan Aboulhosn, Titusville, FL

MAAN: Always good to hear from you. I’m not sure the defensive tackle spot has the same value as other positions that might be available at No. 11, but let’s see, maybe. My sense is Andrew Billings, a 2016 fourth-rounder, is undergoing a sort of renaissance with the new staff and last year’s fifth-rounder, Andrew Brown, flashed in training camp and on the practice squad before he got hurt. Plus, the very productive Ryan Glasgow is coming off an ACL, so the cupboard next to Geno Atkins isn’t bare.

Given a lot of the pre-draft chatter and how the defense struggled last year I believe that the Bengals are going to emphasize defense in the draft. The injuries to both Ryan Glasgow and Adolphus Washington really hurt us because they provided solid depth and allowed Sam Hubbard to kick outside more often. Do you think that the Bengals are going to address the interior defensive line in the draft or bank on Glasgow and Washington returning to form? Jason Wheeler, Staffordsville, KY

JASON: Yes, at some point I see them taking a D-tackle, maybe even at No. 11. I mean, I’m a big Christian Wilkins guy. But if not there, I would think later in the draft they’d take a D-tackle. But, you’re right, Glasgow and Washington (and Brown) are on the way back. Will that impact them at No. 11? It may, if there’s another position with a similar grade available. But tough to say when you don’t know the first ten picks or the Bengals’ grades.

Hi Mr Hobson, long time follower of your work from across the pond. My question is simple:

Close your eyes and imagine the best case draft scenario for April 25th… what happens. Cheers, Paul, Manchester UK.

PAUL: Thanks for reading about Bengaldom from The Kingdom. We’ll see you Oct. 27. Here you go:

Old friend Jay Gruden calls Mike Brown after the Lions pick at No. 8. If Haskins is there, Gruden wants to swap first-round picks with Washington going to No. 11 and the Bengals getting the 15th pick along with Washington’s third-round pick at No. 76. At No. 15, maybe the Bengals can grab an offensive tackle or defensive tackle, and with picks Nos. 72 and 76 in the third round you’re looking at slots where they’ve drafted solid guys like Michael Johnson (No. 70 in ’09), Mohamed Sanu (No. 83 in ’12), Shawn Williams (No. 84 in ’13), Nick Vigil (No. 87 in ’16), Jordan Willis (No. 73 in ’17) and Sam Hubbard (No. 77 in ’18).

So whatever you don’t get in the first, grab it with that second third-rounder. Linebacker? Tight end? You know there’ll be a good wide receiver there. And maybe that’s where they get the QB. After all, Kenny Anderson was No. 67 in 1971.

How will the Team focus on maintaining Discipline this offseason on and off the field? Patrick Foulke, Springfield, OH

PATRICK: See Walton, Mark.

Shaq Lawson Jersey

Bills fans open wallets and hearts after Twitter poll buying

The Bills were in the lead of the @NFLonFox Twitter competition for the best fan base in the NFL. With just over an hour left, fans of the Tennessee Titans bought thousands upon thousands of votes from bots to win the poll and steal an appearance in the championship from Bills fans. Instead of getting upset, the Buffalo faithful decided to spend their money on something more meaningful than a Twitter poll.

One of those helping lead the charge is Shelby Waddle, wife of new Bills offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle. Bills fans have already raised over $10,800 to the Nashville Children’s Alliance. The Nashville Children’s Alliance is a charity that works with children ages 3-17 and their families to cope with severe physical and sexual abuse.

Waddle has only been in Buffalo for three weeks, but is quickly learning about the Bills faithful. She wants to prove that Buffalo fans are number one in the NFL through their charitability.

Bills fans have previously come together to donate. They donated $400,000 to Andy Dalton’s foundation after he led the Bengals to a win over the Ravens in Week 17 of the 2017 season to send Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Shaq Lawson: “We’re going to turn a lot of heads”

Shaq Lawson is entering his fourth year in the NFL and the last of his rookie contract. Lawson is one of the last holdovers from before Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane joined the club. Buffalo does have the ability to pick up Lawson’s fifth-year option, and have about a month to decide.

“I would love to stay in Buffalo,” Lawson said. “Buffalo gave me my first opportunity in the NFL and that’s my second home. I hope they pick it up. I enjoy the fans and it’s a football town and they all care about you. That’s the great thing about it, I would rather stay than leave.”

Lawson has totaled 76 tackles, 10 sacks, 20 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles through his first three years starting in 17 of 35 games. Lawson knows it’s his contract year which gives him extra motivation to succeed. For this season, his mindset is to go out and be the best that he could be.

“I’m looking forward to this year, I’m ready to come back and get ready for this 2019 season. It’s going to be a special season. I can’t wait.”

Lawson is currently in Arizona and recently finished up at the C.J. Fuller Foundation football camp in honor of his former teammate’s tragic passing after suffering complications from ACL surgery. Lawson was honored to keep his teammates name alive along with other players from the Clemson football program, including former Bill, CJ Spiller.

Lawson will return to Buffalo in a couple weeks with a new practice facility awaiting him. Lawson’s goal this season is for more sacks and to play in his first career playoff game.

“It’s coming, Coach McDermott preached it all last year,” he said. “This team is about to be so special and we’re going to turn a lot of heads this year.”
Bills top tacklers in 2018

The Bills are returning three of their four top tacklers from last season. Shaq Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander and Harrison Phillips placed first, second and fourth by Pro Football Focus for the highest tackling grade. Players qualified by playing a minimum of 25 percent of a team’s snaps.

Lawson in his third season led the Bills with a grade of 81.6, narrowly edging out the 13-year NFL vet Lorenzo Alexander who finished with a 81.1. Phillips finished with a grade of 75.7 in his rookie season. Phillip Gaines had a 80.5 but signed a deal with Cleveland after being cut.

Dion Dawkins Jersey

Hyde and teammates take the field for a good cause

Bills safety Micah Hyde is once again going above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of children in the Western New York area. This time however, he and his teammates will trade in their football pads for a bat and mitts when they take to the diamond to play in the inaugural Micah Hyde Charity Softball Game. The game, which will benefit Hyde’s IMagINe for Youth Foundation, will take place on June 2 at the home of the Buffalo Bisons. Featuring an anticipated offensive versus defensive matchup, Hyde is ecstatic to serve the community, spend time with fans and have fun in the process.

“It means a lot,” said Hyde on Thursday to the media. “Every year we have our annual events that we put on here in Buffalo. We have a back to school [backpack] drive for the kids. We have a Thanksgiving dinner for the kids and we also have a Christmas event. So, we wanted to bring this, something that we’ve done in the past, and bring it to Buffalo. We just know how excited fans here will be…it’s a day where we all just have fun, laugh, joke around. We interact with the fans. You might see me up in the crowd, talking to some kids [and] throwing some baseballs out. It puts our faces out there in front of the community and I think it’s very important.

“You know, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in it when I was in Green Bay and in my opinion, I think Bills Mafia is louder, prouder, more excited about their football than what they have a little bit up north.”

A battle for bragging rights

Joined by fellow Bills Levi Wallace, Dion Dawkins and Zay Jones on Thursday, Hyde couldn’t help himself as he made bold predictions about the outcome of the game.

“I feel like these stands can get filled and we as a defense, are going to smash the offense,” he said excitedly. “Obviously, you have some offensive players here that disagree. It is what it is…so we’re ready to show the fans of Buffalo.”

Even though the game is all in good fun, according to Hyde, it won’t be lacking friendly competition.

“That’s what always happens when you get a group of guys like a football team, a bunch of competitors, a bunch of alphas out there competing,” said Hyde. “The first couple of innings it’s fun and games, you kind of feel out who’s good [and] who’s not. But then by the end of the game, you’re mixing up the batting order…So, it’s definitely going to be competitive.”

Hyde wasn’t shy about his score prediction either.

“These games, in the past when I’ve played, the score gets pretty high,” he said. “The bases are moved in a little bit. The fence is moved in a little bit, so [there will be] a little more home runs. I’m going to say, 22 to 10, defense.”

Offensive teammate Zay Jones had a different opinion when he weighed in on the conversation.

“Baseball was my sport,” said Jones with a smile. “I played it. The same way Tre’Davious [White] played hockey, I played baseball. I played short stop all my years – high school and college. So, you know.“No, but, I’m very excited for this guy [Micah]. Excited for what he’s doing. This means a lot to him. He’s putting his heart into it [and] encouraging every fan, anybody to come out and be a part of this great event. So, [I’m] very proud of him.”

Hyde at center field

Fans who attend the event will see Hyde manning center field – a comparable position to that of a safety.

“I’m in center field, Hyde said. “I’m roaming. I’m going from post to post. I’m in the middle field [and] I’m just trying to go get it. Levi [Wallace] is going to be out there with me. He’s going to be out there snagging some balls too. Like I said, we’re really excited.

“This is me right here…I like to get on the diamond and see what I can do.”Interested Bills fans can purchase tickets by visiting the Buffalo Bisons’ website.

Zay Jones Jersey

Former East Carolina University wide receiver Zay Jones is coming to Greenville to support autistic children and raise awareness for Aces for Autism.

Jones, a current Buffalo Bills wide receiver and ECU class of ‘17, will be at The Loft by Stillife on Saturday for the nightclub’s Zay’s Aces for Autism Charity Event, from 3 to 8 p.m. Located at 511 Cotanche St., children, students, families and everyone of all ages are welcome to the attend the event, according to Stilllife owner Travis Hixon.

“He reached out to me and he said ‘Hey, can we do an event on a larger scale instead of just an autograph signing,’ and I said of course,” Hixon said. “After talking to him he got his sports agency on board and we got Aces for Autism here in Greenville on board and then we reached out to our sponsors and we all collaborated came up with some gifts and prizes to auction and raffle off.”

Aces for Autism is a local organization that provides community support for families of people with autism. Jones’s first Aces for Autism charity event was held at Sups Dogs in 2017, where he signed autographs and raised money for Ace’s. Hixon said the second annual event that Jones would have held for Ace’s was canceled last year due to personal reasons.

Stilllife currently has a partnership with Light It Up Blue, an Autism Speaks organization that raises money for the organization every April, which is Autism Awareness Month. With the addition of Jones’ event, Hixon said this year they hope to make a bigger donation and bigger impact this April than they have in the past.

“We try to do as much as we can to intrench ourselves as a community and help out as much as we can,” Hixon said. “We’ve been here 13 years now, so we feel like we’re really part of the community and anyway we can help, we try to pull little things together.”

There will be an auction from 3 to 5 p.m. with items including an authentic Jones jersey, Bills tickets for two and an ECU signed helmet. There will also be an autograph signing from 6 to 7 p.m. where Jones will sign any participant’s items for a $10 to $20 donation. Stilllife will sell alcoholic beverages during the event in addition to the auction and autograph signing. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the auction, autographs and Stillllife will be going to Ace’s of Autism of North Carolina.

“We love Zay, he went here, he’s a homegrown kind of talent. We love following him in the pros and he always shows us love even when he’s not around. We’re just happy that he’s coming back and giving back to Greenville even being in a different city now but giving back to Greenville, remembering where he came from,” Hixon said.

During his time as a Pirate, Jones led all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision receivers in receptions at 158, receptions per game at 13.2, receiving yards at 1,746 and receiving yards per game at 145.5. He set single season records for ECU and the American Athletic Conference in receptions and receiving yards, surpassing former ECU receiver Justin Hardy’s total of 121 receptions and 1,494 yards back in 2014.

Jones graduated from ECU in spring of 2017 and was drafted to the Buffalo Bills that fall as a wide receiver and has played during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 season. During the 2017-2018 season he played in 15 games, had 27 receptions, 316 total receiving yards and made two touchdowns. During the 2018-2019 season he played in all 16 games, had 56 receptions, 652 receiving yards and made seven touchdowns.

Tre’Davious White Jersey

In the 2018 NFL draft there were 36 trades executed with 27 different NFL clubs jockeying to move up or down the board. The year before there were 38 trade agreements during the draft.

Over the last two years, the Bills have made moves in both directions in round one. In 2017 they traded down and in 2018 made a pair of moves up the board. The considerations however, that must be made for those two kinds of trades stand in stark contrast from one another.

Bills GM Brandon Beane, who orchestrated the team’s two trades up in the first round last spring to land QB Josh Allen and LB Tremaine Edmunds, knows all too well how different the factors are when trying to move up the board as opposed to sliding back.

“Let’s first talk about going down,” Beane said. “If you’re sitting at a position and you’ve got one guy sitting on the board when you’re getting close to being on the clock and you really like him and value how he fits where you are, first round, second round. If you trade down now you’re basically saying… you may as well trade down another round because if you trade four or five spots back the odds of that one guy being down there are not very good.

“If you have five to seven guys and somebody wants you to move back five to six spots, although it’s close, you still have a shot to get one of those guys you like. It really goes back to following your board.”

In 2017, before Beane was hired, the Bills obviously felt they could afford to make a big move, moving back 17 spots where they still got a player they coveted in Tre’Davious White at pick 27.

Beane, like most GMs subscribes to the approach that your draft board is your information guide for the multitude of decisions a personnel executive has to make on draft weekend.

“That’s why it’s so important,” he said. “Draft day, if you get your board right, should be a lot simpler.”

Moving up the board, on the surface, appears to be the more pre-calculated maneuver. The Bills knew last year, for example, that they had to land a quarterback in the draft. Sitting at 12 and 22 in round one, Beane realized neither pick would land them one of the top quarterbacks in the class.

So they started well in advance of the draft to make calls and ascertain what it would take to make a move up the board into the top 10.

“Let’s just say you were at pick 25 and you have a guy in the top tier of your draft board. You think he’s top 10 (talent),” Beane said. “If you have a guy in the top tier by himself and you think he’s a rare impact player at his position, that might be the time to make a move up.”

But you can’t sell the farm to do it like the Saints did in 1999 when they gave away their entire draft pick holdings that year, as well as a first and a third in the 2000 draft to move up seven spots to select Ricky Williams.

“You have to consider what the cost would be,” said Beane. “First, is there a team willing to do it? And then what is the cost? Is the cost too much where it jeopardizes the rest of your draft or potentially future drafts?”

Buffalo was able to move up five picks from 12 to seven in a trade with Tampa Bay to draft Josh Allen last year, and they were able to do it for their first-round pick at 12 and two second-round picks (Nos. 53 and 56), but they did not have to part with any draft capital in 2019.

But that trade with Tampa Bay didn’t happen until their pre-calculated trade with Denver fell through at pick five. Beane said even the best laid plans can be altered by how the board falls, and there are always surprises.

“That’s what happened to us with Denver last year,” said Beane. “We agreed with Denver on what it would take for us to get up to five. (Broncos GM) John (Elway) wanted to know I wasn’t bluffing, so we established what it would take. And he said the only thing he had to do was wait to see what was on the board when he was on the clock because if a certain guy fell to them at five he was going to stay there. And that’s what happened. They were in love with (Bradley) Chubb and you can understand why. He called me and said, ‘Hey, our guy is there that we want so I can’t do the deal.’”

So there are instances where a GM has to be very fluid and seek out the next possible trade partner whether they’re trying to move up or down.

“What will happen sometimes is we’ll get some calls as the draft gets closer where some teams down lower call and say, ‘We’re not sure, but there may be a guy there up where you are. Would you guys consider moving back at all?’ And you’ll have that conversation,” said Beane. “Then as it gets closer to the draft starting you may get a call back and they’ll say, ‘We think there’s a good shot the guy we want is going to be there. Will you move?’ The smartest thing to say is, ‘We’ll consider it. Let’s go ahead and talk through what it would take.’ That way both parties know what it would require.”

That often provides peace of mind to both clubs knowing the parameters of a deal are in place even if time is short. But at times a tentative agreement can’t be reached.

“What can happen sometimes is you may tell them it’ll take this much to move up to where you are and they don’t want to give you that much,” said Beane. “And you just tell them, ‘That’s fine. If it changes let me know.’ And then we’re on the clock and they’re twisting because their guy is still there. You’re really a victim on both sides.”

Taron Johnson Jersey

Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott feels as though it takes a “special type of player with a special mindset” to play the nickel cornerback position.

Though he’s only four games into his professional career, Taron Johnson has already proven that he fits the bill.

Johnson has shined in the slot when healthy this season, standing out as a young defensive cornerstone that the Bills can look to build around.

Johnson’s road to becoming Buffalo’s primary nickel wasn’t without its bumps in the road. In training camp, safety Micah Hyde was concerned with the rookie’s readiness.

“Dating back to training camp, this dude looked like he was a deer in the headlights,” Hyde said. “We called a play and he was looking around not really knowing what to do.”

An adjustment period was to be expected out of Johnson. The 22-year-old played college football at Weber State, a school that’s not necessarily renowned for its football prowess. In fact, before the Bills selected Johnson in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, a Weber State Wildcat had not been selected in a draft since 2010, when the Detroit Lions took Tim Toone with the 255th, or final, pick.

As Johnson gained more experience in Buffalo’s defense, his comfort level grew, eventually earning more first-team reps. By the time Week 1 came around, Johnson had beat out Phillip Gaines for the team’s nickel cornerback role, a job that he has secured a stranglehold on in recent weeks.

Johnson perhaps first stood out in the Bills’ Week 3 win over the Vikings. The rookie played well after missing a game with a shoulder injury, recording seven tackles in the 27-6 win. He also deflected a pass in the contest, the first pass defense of his professional career.

The Sacramento, CA native tallied a few more career firsts in Buffalo’s Week 4 matchup with the Packers. In addition to totaling five tackles, Johnson recorded a strip sack on Aaron Rodgers, notching his first professional sack and forced fumble on one play.

Johnson rode this momentum into the Bills’ Week 5 contest against Tennessee, recording his first career interception. Not even five games into his professional career, Johnson had recorded a sack, forced fumble, and interception, a stat line that many rookies fail to produce throughout the entirety of their debut seasons.

Through the first five weeks of the 2018 season, Johnson has quietly been one of the best cornerbacks in the entire NFL. He’s allowed just 12 receptions for 74 yards. Quarterbacks have a completion percentage of just 54.5 percent and a quarterback rating of 57.8 when targeting Johnson. Only 14 starting cornerbacks have allowed less than 12 completions this season.

Johnson feels as though his strong play stems from his ever-growing level of confidence and comfort in the defense.

“[My comfort level] has grown a lot, tremendously,” Johnson said. “I feel like I know a lot more. I’m out there, really kind of with a little more freedom on how I line up, just based off of me being on the defense since the OTAs until now. I just want to continue to make plays and get better with my knowledge of the defense and making sure I’m doing everything correctly.”

Johnson has caught the attention of his teammates with his improving play. Safety Jordan Poyer has seen Johnson grow more comfortable in the defense.

“He’s confident, and he should be,” Poyer said. “He’s a dog. He’s playing well. I tell him that all the time, ‘You’re a dog, keep playing well and things are going to fall in your favor.’ He made a hell of a play last week, and he’s been playing with a hurt shoulder. You can’t say enough about that guy.”

With the growing popularity of nickel packages in the NFL, effective nickel cornerbacks are becoming incredibly important to have. Micah Hyde thinks that Buffalo has found a solid long-term option at the position in Johnson.

“As a nickel in this league, I’ve played nickel for three, four years dating back to Green Bay, you’ve got to have that knack for the football,” Hyde said. “You’ve got to be able to blitz, you’ve got to be able to cover, you’ve got to be able to hit. That’s him, man. He has that little bulldog in him. That’s Taron.”