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Doug Marrone provides a QB update

Posted Sep 2, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about EJ Manuel's progress in practice, New England's recent success over Buffalo, and potentially starting the season with only rookie quarterbacks on the active roster.

HC Doug Marrone

Monday, September 2, 2013

Opening Statement:

Obviously the big thing is at quarterback. Again EJ (Manuel) was out there taking reps with the first group and again it’s going. We’re going through a process, nothing right now that seems to slow him down. Couple of things that we’re testing as the week goes on to see where he’s at. Mentally we feel fine, it’s just a matter of physically. He went out there and did a nice job, so that’s where he is. Jeff (Tuel) also took first team reps too. We’re not worried because we’re kind of doubling the reps so we’re not getting shortchanged anywhere as go and we’ve had extra reps. We’ll probably have more reps as the first team than we’re going to have during the season. That’s where we are with that.

Q: Would you call it a full practice for EJ Manuel?

A: Absolutely. I would call it a full practice.

Q: Where are you in terms of roster spots?
A: Yeah, today we brought in Johnny Adams, defensive back, Edawn Coughman, an offensive lineman, Ronnie Wingo, a running back and that really filled up our practice squad. Brandon Burton is in, he practiced today, who’s a defensive back, and Jimmy Leonhard who I think was here a while ago, should be in the building right now coming back. That’ll just leave us one roster spot remaining. Everything else is filled.

Q: You’ve signed Jim Leonhard?
A: We’re waiting for the physical, but he’s in the building. If you guys see him, I don’t want you to say, ‘Well why didn’t you say anything?’ He’s in the building, taking a physical--it’s not official yet.

Q: It’s not a tryout then, he’s here because you want him on the team?
A: Absolutely.

Q: Does his experience with Coach Pettine’s defense help?
A: Yeah, that’s a bonus. That’s a bonus. He played well when he was down there in New Orleans, did a nice job.

Q: With the uncertain factor of whether EJ will be ready, do you plan on keeping that one roster spot open in case you do need a quarterback?
A: The one roster spot has been talked about quite a bit. I’ve been talking to Doug (Whaley) about it, obviously we’ve been meeting. I think we have a lot of flexibility with it and we’ll see where it goes. I don’t even want to say or speculate on anything that we may be doing because really it’s open to anything. Right now the natural position would gravitate probably to the offensive line, but it’s open to any other situation.

Q: Any update on Alex Carrington?
A: He had ankle soreness, so we just held him out.

Q: Who’s getting the reps at starting cornerback?

A: We’re working all four of those players through it.

Q: Any update on Erik Pears?
A: His ankle was sore today and it’s good because tomorrow we’re off, so we just wanted to give him two days off. He shouldn’t be a problem.

Q: How disconcerting is to have four cornerbacks rotating through in the middle of game week?
A: I feel we’re going to get great production out of those guys we put out there. Right now we’re planning on putting people out there rotating through and getting the same amount of production. Obviously it’s difficult; Stephon Gilmore is a very good player for us. We have to try to get that same productivity out of a couple of players now rather than what we were getting out of one.

Q: How familiar are you with the recent history that the Bills have had against the Patriots?
A: I’m ready. I like trivia pursuit, so go ahead and ask me.

Q: I believe they are 3-25…
A: 2-20 in the last 10 years I believe.

Q: How do you react to that?
A: A lot of credit to them. They’ve done a great job and they’ve won a lot of football games. It’s not just against us. I just want to say that I think we all know what a great job they’ve done as a team and that coaching staff. We understand that and it’s a great challenge for us. We’ll be challenged every week in this league. We understand that and that’s the one thing that you kind of have to block out. You have to kind of see that what happens is and it’s a natural reaction to have, is that when you go out there and you see a reaction of the same old Bills. That’s not the case. That’s what part of the stuff obviously that we try to work on, making sure that things are different. There is a lot of change and change is good at times. We’re working on that with the players to make sure that they understand that so you go in there with a breath of fresh air and attack and play. Like I always tell the players, there’s not a lot of great answers except to just go out there, work hard and get on that field.

Q: Talk about the ability of your offensive line to perform without a lot of continuity?
A: (Erik) Pears to me, from what I’ve watched in the past to now has gotten a lot better. He really has. I credit him for that. He’s done a really nice job and I feel very very confident with him in there. He’s had a really good training camp. He’s done a nice job in the games and really performed well, so I feel good about that. I think that Colin Brown is a guy that, and I’ve said this, has really worked hard to put him in the position where he is. As far as continuity, to answer that question, I don’t know and it’s a position I coached for a very long time. I’m not as sold as much on the continuity factor than what other people may be. That has never been my type of philosophy. I’ve always wanted to put the best five players in there. As long as you’re in a room and as an individual you work the individual with different players playing next to each other, I think as long as they can communicate and they can go on the field and do their job, that’s what really creates the continuity. That’s the way I’ve always pretty much played them.

Q: How do you replace the role that Bryan Scott had on this team?
A: I think we’re going to look at different players in that. I think Bryan Scott, I had Bryan before in New Orleans, and I have all the respect in the world for him. He’s a great pro. There’s just other things, if you’re playing against the run you may go in there with a linebacker. If you’re looking to play the pass, you may go in there with a defensive back. I think there’s different options to fill that role.

Q: Going against New England who has utilized the tight end position so well, what will be your philosophy to try to defend against that?
A: I think it’s difficult, but I think they’ve had a lot of success. If you go in there with just one type of philosophy, if you don’t have the best matchups you can, you could be exposed out there. Anything else you feel you don’t have good matchups out there, I think you have to be multiple and keep mixing it up. Again you’re correct it is a tough matchup for teams and it’s been a tough matchup for everybody, not just our team.

Q: What attracted you to Brandon Burton?
A: Size and he had press coverage ability.

Q: If no move is made for another offensive line you would be thin with interior guys. If one of them goes down, who would be the guy that would move in?
A: It’d be Sam Young. I would probably label Sam Young as versatile to all four. Rather than just saying we only have three. And you only go in the game with seven. That’s what the majority of the league goes in with.

Q: You have a lot of experience coaching the offensive line. Over the years how unusual has your philosophy of continuity not being critical in offensive line play been?
A: It’s been my philosophy and I think part of that reason early on in my career is you have some injuries. I think for me, and I don’t want to sit up here as a line coach and say, ‘Well you know this person got hurt and we had to put this guy in,’ continuity is important. I sometimes look at words and some things that could be conceived or represented as an excuse and I think that I just don’t believe in that. For me when I was an o-line coach, the one philosophy is if someone gets hurt let’s put him in there because we don’t want to make double moves because of continuity. Well I would sit there and say, ‘Well wait a minute. If the double move is the best move out there, why wouldn’t you make the double move?’ You want the five best players out there and it’s my job to get them ready during the week. It’s my job to get them ready during the season, to make sure they have the continuity.

Q: What did Marcus Easley do to earn a roster spot?
A: I think it’s one of those things. That one’s easy to say because I think we’ve all seen that. Marcus made a lot of plays in the preseason. Really did a nice job in receptions and made big plays and really played well on special teams. His production was at as very, very high level. When you go in to the team and you say, ‘Hey we’re looking for guys who can produce,’ Marcus is one of those guys who produced enough to make this football team and we respect that. We like him as an outside receiver and we love him on special teams.

Q: Did his previous position with the team help?
A: What I try to do is when I took the job, I came in here with really looking at learning from the past as far as the history and where we’ve been, but really a clean slate. So that you come in here and I’m firm believer that how you act off the field, on the field, that’s what we’ll be evaluating. No different than when they’re evaluating me or the coaches for what we represent. There was a little bit, they’ll go back and ask the players, ‘Hey how’s this guy? What’s he like?’ I think at the end of the day, when change is made you can start off with a fresh slate and move forward from there.

Q: What’s your feeling on being the first team to enter the season with only two rookie quarterbacks on your roster?
A: I’m excited about it. I’m sure that a lot of the people here that have been interviewing Jeff (Tuel), been interviewing EJ (Manuel) and have watched them on the field both in the preseason and practice would be excited too to see what they’re going to do in a game type situation. We were excited about them A.) When we drafted him and then obviously when we signed Jeff. It’s unfortunate what happened to Kevin (Kolb). We really would have liked Kevin here for a lot of different reasons. Competing for the starting job and then also just to help the younger guys along. All it does is just comes back to us and we need to make sure that they’re doing all of the things that we expect them to do when we’re not around, with the film study and watching film. I think to answer your question, I think it’s very difficult, if someone is reading it or hearing it and they’ve not be around those two people they might say, ‘He’s crazy.’ I think that if you’ve been around them and watched them you’d say these two guys look pretty darn good.

Q: Would you rather have Kevin healthy in terms of having a veteran?
A: I would because Kevin’s worked so hard. I think I don’t try to ever assume what the position or what it’s going to be because of our game and obviously injuries have been a part of it. I try to deal with the situation for what it is and honestly that really helps me deal with it. Rather than me walk in here going, ‘Ugh I don’t know. Gosh. You’re right; we’ve never seen these guys play before.’ I’m like, ‘Hey this is awesome. Let’s go get it and let’s get after somebody and see how it goes.’

Q: The idea of a veteran being there when your offensive coordinator will be up in the booth, what kind of value would there be to have someone who’s been in certain situations be there to help out on the sidelines?
A: I look at it this way. At any position where you have someone who has a lot of experience and is a veteran can definitely help. If you don’t have that then it has to come from someone else. With the quarterback position that comes from me on game day. I’ll grab them, talk to them. I’ll do those things; I’ll take care of it. If you have veterans at a position it’s kind of like an extra. It’s a benefit. You feel great about it. They’re going to be able to help. If not, it goes on us as coaches whether myself or the assistant coaches to make sure that we’re doing the same type of thing a veteran would do as well as coaching and getting them ready for the next season.

Q: Provided things work out with Jim Leonhard, what are your expectations for him?
A: Honestly I’ve heard a lot of things just like you said. He’s been in the system before, but I’ll wait till I see him out here and see how he reacts to it. The system has changed.

Q: Has Nigel Bradham done enough to show you that he can be a three down player?
A: He could if we probably wanted to. I don’t want to mislead you, we’ll be (using) multiple packages.

Q: Any comment on Jairus Byrd and his availability for Sunday?
A: That’s a tough call. I don’t know. I do know this--he’s working extremely hard to get healthy. What it is, it’s really, and it’s hard because yesterday I was asked injury or non-injury and I asked what do you perceive as an injury? It’s really a condition. You guys know already it’s that plantar fasciitis. Each guy is different in how they come back from it. Right now he’s working extremely hard to get back from it. That’s more of a day to day issue right now.

Q: Did he participate in team drills?
A: I’m sure he took a couple back there. That’s how we’ve been doing it. Just waiting to see as he goes on. I didn’t monitor it so I don’t want to be held accountable for saying how many he’s had, but he’s been taking some of the scout team card work.