1 – Cross training the DBs
The Bills secondary could have a much different look on Sunday in Oakland. With starting cornerback Ronald Darby still in the concussion protocol and unlikely to be ready for the game, the Bills have been moving a few players around to try and fill his void.
Rookie Kevon Seymour took snaps at Darby's position at Thursday's practice, and cornerback Corey White has also been rotated around the defensive backfield.
Seymour and Nickell Robey-Coleman have split time at the nickel position over the last two games, but Rex Ryan is confident that the USC product can help on the outside as well.
"He's confident and he has a great skill set, and he can run," Ryan said of Seymour. "I think those are the two biggest things. If you have confidence and you can run, then you can play that spot."
White, who played safety previously in his career, has seen more action than usual at that position in practices this week because James Ihedigbo has been battling an ankle injury. Ryan said the Bills are trying to cover themselves in case they need help at that position.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman has been working with White on the nuances of each position.
"They're two different positions," Thurman said of cornerback and safety. "They may look similar but their mindset has to change because the corner's one-on-one, playing safety at times it's you versus the quarterback and the formation they're trying to do to you."
Unfortunately for the secondary, they run into a red-hot Oakland Raiders passing attack this week. Oakland has the fourth-best pass offense in the league and quarterback Derek Carr has thrown for 610 yards and five touchdowns in the last two weeks. Even with those numbers, the Bills are looking forward to the challenge.
"I like when teams throw the ball a lot," Stephon Gilmore said. "Gives you opportunities to make plays and get interceptions. That's what it's about. So this is one of my games that I look forward to."
2 – Fresh for the stretch
The Bills had a goal at the beginning of the season to lighten LeSean McCoy's workload so that he would be feeling good for the stretch run. Now that December is here, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn likes the way his star's legs are looking.
"You know he missed basically missed three games and I don't think he's had over 21 rush attempts," Lynn said. "I think he's pretty fresh. He feels good. He looks good, so I'm excited to see him down the stretch."
McCoy has averaged 18 carries over the eight games he has able to complete in full, and like Lynn said, his season-high was 21 attempts against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
A big reason the Bills have been able to take some of the carries away from McCoy is the production of his backup. Mike Gillislee has had a strong season for the Bills and is back Sunday after sitting out last week with a hamstring injury.
The two of them have been the main reason Buffalo has the best rushing attack in the NFL. McCoy is ninth in rushing yards and tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns, despite missing almost three games with injuries.
Lynn has noticed a change in the running style of McCoy this year that has impressed him and has helped him to put up some of the best numbers of his career.
"He's a little more decisive this year," Lynn said. "He's running a little more direct, not as much shake-n -bake. I think he's evolving as he gets a little older, understanding that you're not always going to be able to make that one guy miss and sometimes you're going to have to go and get that tough yard. I see him doing things like that that I'm very pleased with."
3 – Crazy good
There have been many surprises in the NFL this season, but the story of the year is Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, according to Ross Tucker.
Tucker, an offensive lineman for eight years in the NFL and now an analyst, says he has never seen anything like Alexander's career resurgence with the Bills.
Tucker spent the 2007 season with Alexander in Washington and detailed what he saw from the 33- year-old in Washington, and just how versatile he was.
"By the time we got to training camp, they had decided to use him as a defensive tackle," Tucker said. "But an injury in the season opener to starting right guard Randy Thomas forced the Redskins to move Alexander back into the O-line. Before you knew it, they were using him as the extra offensive lineman in jumbo packages, as a tight end, fullback, etc. You name it."
Alexander was brought to the Bills as a special teams contributor, but ended up getting much more playing time than anyone expected mainly due to injuries in the preseason. He had sacks in Buffalo's first seven games and has 10 for the season. It has gotten to the point where opposing offenses have had to game plan their blocking schemes around him.
"I've been around the NFL since my rookie year in 2001 and can't ever remember a guy moving from offensive line to defensive line," Tucker said. "Or from defensive tackle to linebacker. Or a guy that lost 70 pounds during his career as the 240-pound Alexander has done."
Alexander has double digit sacks in his 12th year in the NFL, after only recording 10 sacks combined in his first 11 seasons. And because of those numbers, Tucker said that Alexander is not only the best story of the year, but also the craziest one he's ever seen in 16 years involved with the NFL.