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Bills reaping Senior Bowl benefits

Posted Jan 31, 2011

With Buffalo’s coaching staff working daily with 52 seniors this past week the benefits for the organization’s college scouting department as well as their coaches in preparation for the 2011 NFL draft is far reaching. Not only do they have a head start on a quarter of the league’s draft pool, they can also get a jump on the rest of the class including the highly touted junior eligibles.

“What we’ve basically done is been able to take probably two weeks worth of film work and we’ve condensed it into one week of working with those guys,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “We have an evaluation on these guys now and now it’s time to go on to other (prospects) whoever they are. There are some other seniors that weren’t at the Senior Bowl and then there are the juniors that have declared. We have those as well.”

Buffalo’s coaches spent a full week working with the South team on the practice field, sat with them in meetings rooms and went over scheme, decision making and film review of practice for six straight days. All that time has allowed Gailey and his staff to not only observe the physical skills of the players, but their mental processing, and their character traits which can’t be assessed on game tape.

“It helps us with 52 guys tremendously because what you’re trying to learn are the intangibles,” said Gailey. “That’s what you’re trying to find out. We all watch them run, jump, change direction, ball skills. We all get to see that, but there’s been a bunch of guys that have the right kind of work ethic and preparation and football instincts to go be a player when the run, jump, speed statistics say they shouldn’t. And there are also some guys out there that have the ability and because they won’t do those things that come in the intangible category they don’t make it. So we have a great idea about their intangibles.”

Buffalo’s scouting staff was also close by every step of the way last week. Going into the Senior Bowl the scouts had a firm working knowledge of the skill sets of the players, but they are finalizing the personality and character make up portion of their player reports.

Their additional access to these players only helped, and instead of having the coaches come to them for extra information on prospects the conversation could be a bit reversed this time around.

“I think we put a lot of stock in what the coaches say about a guy’s demeanor in meetings, how quick he picks things up, how much football smarts he’s got,” said Bills GM Buddy Nix. “In that respect it probably changes it some. Most of the time the scouts know more of that than the coaches do. But these 100 seniors we’ll know a lot about them.”

Nix said 100 seniors because although Buffalo’s coaching staff only worked with the South team for a full week, the Bills and Bengals made sure to swap some meeting time during the week in preparation for last Saturday’s game to get some exposure to the other half of the player pool in Mobile.

Perhaps the greatest advantage for Buffalo’s staff in relation to other NFL clubs is when it comes to reviewing the tape from the Senior Bowl.

“We have an advantage as the coaches of the game,” said Gailey. “Some other coaching staff watches the game two weeks from now, they’re watching the game and watching the guys play, but they don’t know what exactly we’ve asked them to do and what a player’s responsibility is. We know that so we can tell whether he’s doing it right or wrong and whether or not he absorbed what we were teaching and whether he was able to put it in play. We know what they’re supposed to do.”

All of these advantages will only help the Bills to reduce the margin for error in their review of prospective players in a draft process that is widely known as an inexact science.