Here's the Bills news of note for Sept. 3rd.
1 – Alexander still fears cut down day
Despite being a leader on the Bills defense, veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said he'll never feel comfortable on cut down day. Although he said he was confident this year, as he sat out the fourth preseason game, he said anything was possible. Of course, Alexander wasn't cut. But, on the John Murphy Show, he said cut down day use to be something he feared.
"I can never feel comfortable," said Alexander. "I was undrafted. I've been cut a couple times. I've been a bubble guy. So, I'll always carry that with me. No matter how good my situation may seem, in this league you can never get complacent."
Alexander fears cut down day because he's experienced being released in the past. The 11th-year journeyman bounced around the NFL for years. Alexander started his career in Baltimore, where he lasted only a couple days before he was released. He landed in Washington, where he carved out a special teams role. After playing for the Redskins for seven season, he moved to Arizona, where his special team prowess was wanted. Alexander spent two seasons in Arizona before moving on to Oakland.
For each team he played for, Alexander was a key special teams player. Although a valuable role, he wasn't being used on defense. This meant that every cut down day was filled with fear that a team would release him because a younger player could fill more roles. When he signed with the Bills last season, he was finally given a chance to shine on defense. And shine he did. Alexander ended the season with 12.5 sacks, and a pro-bowl nod – all while still playing special teams.
As Alexander stated, for one of the first times in his career, as cut down day came and went, he didn't feel too nervous. For a player that started as an undrafted free agent that had to fight every year to stay on a team, his role on the Bills defense is unbelievable, but a testament to how hard he works.
"If you feel like you've arrived, and you've made – like I'm all good, I'm a Pro Bowler – that's when a younger guy takes your job," said Alexander. "So, I'm always going to continue to grind no matter how well I'm doing on the field statistically."
Check out photos of the 2017 Buffalo Bills.
2 – Beane says releasing players is tough
For general manager Brandon Beane, cut down day is a double-edged sword. In one sense, the cuts the Bills made are all in an effort to improve their team, and bolster their roster. But, on the other side of those cuts are men who are losing their jobs, and possibly a chance at fulfilling their NFL dream. On the John Murphy Show, Beane talked about the tough paradoxical nature of cut down day.
"This is the hardest week of the season," said Beane. "A lot of guys have laid it on the line ever since they were drafted or signed. They've done everything the right way. Even the guys we released earlier in the week. These are men fighting for the opportunity to play in the NFL. We know what a prestigious honor that is. We don't take this lightly."
Beane said that they simply try to be honest with players. Instead of releasing a player outright, they often tell him the reasoning behind the decision. Beane said they will tell them to work on a weakness so they have a better chance of catching on with another team, or possibly even the Bills in the future. However, in some cases, they have to tell a player that they simply aren't meant to play in the NFL.
Beane said, at the end of the day, cuts don't only come down to talent. A team needs to be built on players with character, who compete and work harder than everyone else. Beane said that to build a winning team, a balance must be struck.
"You have to be careful when you put together a team," said Beane. "Don't just draft talent because if they don't have everything that goes into making a team – the hard working, the character. Sean uses it and I like, 'chin above the bar.' It's perfect. When you look at the good teams, it isn't always the team with the most talent, or pro-bowlers, it's the team that is playing the hardest, and working together."
Some of the cuts may have been surprising, but they were all reasoned and geared towards building a winning team. As Beane said, cut down day is tough – every player that's released is losing their job, and that isn't something to take lightly.
3 – Miller impresses against Lions
Entering the final preseason game, third-year guard John Miller found himself entrenched in a battle with eighth-year veteran Vlad Ducasse. Throughout preseason, Miller and Ducasse have alternated series, as neither player seems to have the upper hand in the battle. However, according to ProFootball Focus, Miller's performance against the Lions could have pushed him into the lead.
Miller was the anchor of a solid offensive line performance. He posted the highest blocking grades of the starting unit and recorded a perfect pass-blocking efficiency (100.0).
The battle at right guard has largely been predicated on the Bills new zone blocking scheme. Vlad Ducasse entered camp with some familiarity with offensive line coach Juan Castillo, and seemed to pick up the blocking scheme rather quickly. Despite Miller starting all 16 games last season, he hasn't adjusted to the new system as fast.