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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.

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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.

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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.”

Harrison Phillips Jersey

How Harrison Phillips is supporting Buffalo area youth

Harrison Phillips has only been back in Western New York for a few weeks but is already making a big difference.

On Thursday, April 11, the second-year defensive tackle spent his afternoon giving back to young Bills fans when he visited Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill and John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.

In support of “Rachel’s Round Up,” a month-long campaign which gives guests an opportunity to round up their order total for a good cause, Phillips ate lunch at the restaurant’s Hamburg location. While on the scene, Phillips also got a chance to interact with fans and sign autographs.

With each round up benefiting John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, it was only fitting for the hospital to be Phillips’s next stop. Going room to room, he and veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander delivered Bills-themed goodies and smiles in the process.

“I just have a big love for the youth and obviously [an] understanding [for] all the things they’re going through,” said Phillips. “We went to the 12th floor which was pediatric cancer as well as epilepsy. So, knowing that those kids have lifelong struggles and…very big things to overcome, just to go in and be a little bit of a ray of sunlight… [is great]. Just to get their mind off what they’re going through for the 15-20 minutes that we could have with each kid [was my goal]. I’m sure I got more out of it than they did too.”

With one year of experience under his belt, Phillips is hopeful that he can continue to strengthen his bond with the community during the upcoming 2019 season.“That’s one of the things I was looking the most forward to [in year two],” said Phillips about his community involvement. “[I’m] very optimistic about the future of Buffalo as a football team and myself as a Bill…But the thing I was also extremely looking forward to was having…more time on my hands to actually get out into the community, [to] see what Buffalo’s all about and the more I go out, [the more] I realize this is such a beautiful city and has so much to offer…”

McCoy to serve as honorary coach

Running back LeSean McCoy will serve as an honorary coach at the University of Pittsburgh’s annual spring football Blue-Gold Game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

McCoy will be joined on the sideline by another former Pitt great, the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald. Together the two have combined for 11 NFL Pro Bowls.

“When you think about NFL players who have set the standard at their positions over the last decade, Aaron Donald and LeSean McCoy are definitely high on that list,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Our current players walk past their images every day in our facility. They performed at the highest levels while at Pitt and continue to do it in the pros. We are thrilled Aaron and LeSean will be with us on Saturday. It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing them on our sideline again decked out in Blue and Gold.”

McCoy spent two seasons at Pitt before declaring for the 2009 NFL draft. He racked up 2,816 yards and 36 touchdowns. His yards and 35 rushing touchdowns are the most by any freshman or sophomore in Pitt history.Since joining the NFL, McCoy has 10,606 rushing yards and is the only player in NFL history with 10,000+ rushing yards, 400+ receptions, 80+ touchdowns and a 4.5 yard per carry average. He’s been named to six Pro Bowls and was the NFL rushing champion in 2013.

Who made the most stops on defense this year?

The Bills defense was good this year there’s no denying that. Just how good were they? Buffalo held opponents to 294.1 yards per game this year. Only two teams, Arizona and Miami, averaged less yards per game on offense. The Bills also held teams to a league low 179.2 yards through the year.

But it wasn’t the secondary that made the most defensive stops this season.

According to Pro Football Focus, four of the top five spots for defensive spots are occupied by members of the front seven. In order, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Lorenzo Alexander, Jerry Hughes and Jordan Poyer lead the way.The Bills youth movement of Edmunds and Milano had the two most with 38 and 37 spots respectively. While the seasoned vet in Alexander was third with 32. Hughes had 26 and Poyer had 23.

Tremaine Edmunds Jersey

The Buffalo Bills sent out members of the team’s front office and roster to the podium on Monday as

the team’s returning players are visiting the team’s newly-renovated Orchard Park facility this week

for voluntary offseason workouts.

General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott represented the front office. Quarterback

Josh Allen, naturally, represented the offense.

On defense? Your face of the unit was middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

While it’s not a surprise that the middle linebacker is representing the unit since the position is

referred to as the “quarterback of the defense,” it is something new for the second-year pro.

During Edmunds’ rookie year, the team had defensive tackle Kyle Williams in that role. The heart and

soul of the unit. Then there’s linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who’s still on the team. But no, it was

Edmunds stepping up to the plate… or podium.

“You know, it means a lot to me for these guys to trust me,” Edmunds said. “I’m going to take the

leadership [Williams and Alexander] showed last year, so take those things, you know, try to do it my

own way.”
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Over the course of last season, it was documented how Williams began passing on the torch to Edmunds,

who’s not even 21 years old yet. In player-only meetings toward the end of the year, Edmunds would

start to lead the festivities, as Williams gave him that opportunity to.

While it might have only been a simple interview opportunity on Monday for Edmunds, it is a step

forward in solidifying his role as the team’s defensive leader.

“I’m young, I’m ready for the challenge. I’m ready for the next step,” Edmunds said.

McDermott, who’s known for making calculated decisions, even if it’s a small, subtle one such as an

interview, said Edmunds and Allen both in those roles as the faces of their respective sides of the

team is an important step in his so-called “process.”

“No, that says a lot, it really does in terms of where we were last year, where we are now,”

McDermott said. “Still a lot of work to do, but to have these two young men come out, from the way

they carry themselves and represent the Buffalo Bills, I think it means a lot to not only myself, but

to our football team, to our organization and hopefully to our community.”

As a rookie, Edmunds made 121 total tackles, while notching 12 passes defended, two interceptions and

two sacks. Prior to joining the Bills, Edmunds had never held the role as play caller on a defense.

Having that experience coming into 2019 alone should allow the 6-foot-5 linebacker to push himself to

a higher level of play next season.

Josh Allen Jersey

Who can throw the football farther: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen? Or Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes?

In February, prompted by the guys at Barstool Radio, Allen challenged Mahomes to a throwing contest.

On Friday, April 5, Mahomes responded to Allen’s challenge while speaking at a charity event in Rochester, New York.

Eighty. Five. Yards. That’s, like, almost an entire football field.

It’s doubtful that Mahomes and Allen will ever actually have their throw-off. And if they do, it likely won’t be till the 2020 offseason.

But that doesn’t mean bets can’t be placed on the event right now.

Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen: Who Can Throw a Football Farther?

Josh Allen: -150
Patrick Mahomes: +110

Before jumping into the analysis, I should touch on a few items. First, I believe that in the contest all that will matter is distance: Neither quarterback has mentioned accuracy as a formal component of the challenge.

Also, the contest must happen before the 2020 regular season for action, which means that this bet would likely take over a year to cash. As a result, I wouldn’t actually bet on this now. I don’t want to give a sportsbook my money to hold for that long for an event that might not even happen.

If Mahomes and Allen actually agree to compete, then sportsbooks will release (or re-release) lines at that time, and you can place a bet then.

But I’m going to write about this hypothetical contest now. Why?

Because it’s the offseason, the Alliance of American Football is dead, the NFL draft is still weeks away and I’m in the mood to write about some football.

So let’s look at Mahomes and Allen.

Both quarterbacks have strong arms, but the market clearly favors Allen. And that makes some sense. Based on the velocity they exhibited as prospects at the combine, Allen has the stronger arm.

Josh Allen (2018): 62 mph
Patrick Mahomes (2017): 60 mph

Last year, Allen actually set the combine record. He might have the strongest arm in the NFL.

But the difference between 60 and 62 mph is not that great: It’s probable that on any given day, Mahomes could top out at 62 and Allen at 60. Perhaps Mahomes could have hit 62 at his combine but he chose to take some velocity off his throws to make them more accurate.

And it’s worth noting that Mahomes actually tied the combine record the year before Allen broke it. Mahomes can still sling it. When he was a prospect, Mahomes did a spot with NFL Media in which he and former NFL quarterback David Carr competed to see who could throw the ball harder.

After one warm-up throw, Mahomes threw three passes of 58, 58 and 62 mph even though Carr’s fastest throw was just 57.

When fully warmed up and competing against someone who could actually push him, it’s likely that Mahomes could throw even harder than 62 mph.

But none of this is to take anything away from Allen. During the season, he consistently showed off his arm, leading the league with his 11.0 intended air yards per attempt, while Mahomes was sixth at 9.2.

Additionally, Allen had the longest completion in the league last year, throwing a pass to wide receiver Zay Jones that traveled 63.9 yards in the air.

What’s perhaps most impressive about the pass is that Allen didn’t even have time to set his feet fully and step into the throw. As for Mahomes, he ranked eighth last year with a longest completion of 60.7 yards.

But don’t forget that in Week 2 of the preseason he launched a beautifully nice 69-yard touchdown to wide receiver Tyreek Hill against the Atlanta Falcons. In terms of air distance, that throw from Mahomes traveled 68.6 yards.

Based on what we’ve seen, I think it’s hard to say that Allen should be the prohibitive favorite. To me, this looks like a coin flip.

I’ll take Mahomes at plus money down to +105.

The Pick: Mahomes (+105), whenever the event is confirmed

For daily player props, follow me in The Action Network app.

Andre Reed Jersey

For about an hour Thursday afternoon at Dieruff High School, Andre Reed was the subject of an interesting Q-and-A with special Husky students chosen for the event as well as kids from other parts of the country who were able to join in via video conferencing.

Reed talked about his career, his determination to succeed, his emotions when finding out he was going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, Colin Kaepernick and a variety of other topics.

He talked about how many hard hits he took as one of the game’s best all-time receivers and the vast number of concussions he suffered as someone who wasn’t afraid to go over the middle in an era when defensive backs could use crossing receivers as target practice.

It was an upbeat, positive session as the Dieruff graduate chose to come back to his alma mater when asked to participate in the Hall of Fame’s “Heart of a Hall of Famer” program, which brings the game’s all-time best closer to kids.

But it was when the national portion of the session was over and the video cameras were turned off that the most poignant moment came.
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That’s when Theresa Villano, a sports marketing manager and Reed’s girlfriend, stepped in front of the group in the Dieruff media center and reminded everyone — especially the students — of why Reed’s story is so special and why they needed to hear it and take it to heart.

“Andre came from freakin’ nothing,” she said emphatically. “That lady back there [Reed’s mother Joyce Reed-Ebling] had an abusive husband. He was an alcoholic. Andre had to pull his dad out of an Allentown bar at eight years old.

“He woke up to his dad, sleeping in a car, drunk, and hitting his mom. That might relate to some of you guys. Andre doesn’t always tell the story. Andre’s mom had to send him to a foster home. You look at him now and he has a street named after him and he’ s made it big. But he came from nothing. I know a lot of athletes and not one of them came from a privileged life. Think about it. This life you guys are living gives you grit, scrappiness.”

Villano’s brief, but passionate talk was intended to inspire kids to keep battling through the adversity the way her boyfriend did to make it to football’s biggest stage.
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“I have learned that a lot of you don’t have a life of peaches and cream,” she said, referring to the Dieruff students. “I know a lot of you have parents who don’t know what you’re doing. But you have the power in your heart and soul. You have the power in your own hands. Mom and dad might not be your role models.”

Later, Villano, who grew up in Alaska, said: “Life isn’t easy. But it’s the people who make the best out of it who are the most successful.”

Mike Mahkoul, Dieruff’s assistant principal who coordinated the event sponsored by the Hall of Fame, said the comments of Reed and Villano were meaningful for the 50 kids in attendance, many of them student-athletes. He said more than 60 percent of Dieruff students live below the poverty line and have far from idlyllic home lives.

“Andre coming back to talk about the character and qualities involved with attaining success was terrific and he also talked about the character and qualities involved with overcoming struggles,” Mahkoul said. “That’s critical for our kids. We encourage them to believe in themselves and resiliency is such a critical component with the challenges they face day in, day out. We want to empower them and let them know they can conquer their struggles and get to the next level.”
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Mahkoul said he appreciated Villano giving the kids some “raw, unfiltered facts about Andre’s life that are not often told.”

“It showed tremendous courage on her part and graciousness on Andre’s behalf to allow her to tell those things about his life,” Mahkoul said. “That story hits home and resonates directly with a lot of our kids.”

Reed-Ebling, who told her story to the world in the NFL Films’ documentary “Andre Reed: Road to Canton,” just before he was inducted in 2014, didn’t mind Villano telling the family’s story.

“It’s all true,” she said. “It should make them appreciate how far Andre’s come even more.”
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Reed-Ebling and Villano both enjoy seeing him work with kids.

The Andre Reed Foundation has an annual summertime golf tournament at Lehigh Country Club that has raised more than $300,000 for the Allentown Boys and Girls Club.

Reed is also proud to be involved with his READ with Reed 83 program, which inspires kids to read at least 30 minutes every day.

“You can’t read, it’s difficult to do anything in life,” he said.
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He will be making a stop at another of his old stomping grounds on Thursday — downtown Kutztown — where the City Cuts Barbershop at 126 Main Street will hold a special event that will pay kids to read a book while getting a haircut.

Reed said he played football from age 7 to 37 and wouldn’t have had the chance to play without getting an education first.

He is thankful for the opportunity football gave him to attain his dreams, but said that it didn’t come without a lot of hard work and dedication.

“Quit has never been a word in my vocabulary,” he said. “Never quit, always work hard. You will never know what you can attain if you don’t work for it.”