Here's the Bills news of note for Nov. 6th.
**1 - Harvin to play, but how much?
**Watching him in practice this week there is no debate that WR Percy Harvin has been working hard on his own since he's been healthy coming off knee surgery in January. When Harvin signed earlier this week he talked about how he put himself through a demanding training regimen to get his body right again.
But practicing and training in a football setting is always different than what one does on their own. Harvin did look sharp with his route running and getting in and out of his breaks. Bills GM Doug Whaley even said that a world class athlete like Harvin is never really out of shape.
Following Saturday's practice, head coach Rex Ryan all but confirmed that Harvin will dress and play on Monday night.
"I feel good about Percy," said Ryan. "I didn't say we'd play him 50 snaps, but I do think we can play him some. I do. He's looked good out there, and I think he can help us."
The issue concerning Harvin's availability Monday night seems less a question of whether he can perform and more a question of how long he can or should perform.
"I think that's the big thing, in being in what we call 'football shape,'" said Ryan. "It's a different kind of training than running or whatever but he looks good, he did more (Friday) than he did (Thursday) so it looks good. But I think endurance is part of it, I don't think there's any doubt about it, and just doing the football specific stuff."
Buffalo's passing game is hurting for playmaking talent. It seems likely that Harvin could be featured in a package of plays that should number 15-25 against the Seahawks.
That coupled with the return of Marquise Goodwin to the lineup should at least pose a more viable threat for Buffalo on vertical routes.
*2 - Fixing third and short *The Bills made third down on offense a priority in the offseason along with their red zone execution. Through half a season Buffalo ranks a disappointing 26th in third down conversion percentage at 35.3 percent. What's surprising is where the problem on conversions lies.
Buffalo is last in the league on 3rd-and-1 conversion percentage (36.3%) and last in the league on 3rd-and-short (one to three yards) at 42.3 percent.
The Bills 3rd-and-1 conversion rate is almost half that of the league average (68.3%). So what's the stumbling block on the down and distance known as the easiest to convert?
"I think some of it is situational in the time of the game where we go for those third-and-shorts," said Lynn. "It may be in passing situations where we've only been stopped once running the football on third-and-one. I think that was in the Miami game, but I think some of that has been in the no-huddle offense. Just situations."
Eleven times this season the Bills have faced a 3rd-and-1 situation. They've run it on 3rd-and-1 seven times with three conversions (43%), and they've passed it four times with one conversion (25%).
Regardless of whether it's in a hurry up situation or not, Buffalo has struggled to move the sticks on the shortest yard to gain plays on third down.
"Yeah, just reviewing games that we've played we've not done so well on third-and-short," said Tyrod Taylor. "It's more so just a lack of execution. It's us just out there missing here or there, or there's me not putting the ball where it's supposed to be, or there's a missed block, or there's just a missed assignment. It's kind of a collective – every person has their part in that and we have to be better at."
On 3rd-and-2 the Bills have a 62.5 percent conversion rate (5-8), but on 3rd-and-3 they're successful just 33 percent of the time this season (2-6).
What defies logic is on 3rd-and-4 to 3rd-and-6 they're converting 43.5 percent of the time, better than on 3rd-and-1. Buffalo's offense has the sixth-highest three-and-out percentage in the league. If they can just fix third-and-shorts they're likely to improve that deficiency and as a result their time of possession.
3 - Lawson making progressLast Sunday the Bills found themselves in a position where they had to expand rookie Shaq Lawson's role beyond that of a situational pass rusher. With Lorenzo Alexander out of the lineup with a hamstring injury the defensive staff had to put Lawson in the lineup for some run downs and some coverage responsibilities. According to head coach Rex Ryan he did okay for an on the fly assignment.
"I thought Shaq played pretty well, he did some good things in the game," said Ryan. "I love the way he competes. Did we have some mental mistakes? Yes we did. I think he will learn from them. I think the role really expanded when Zo (Lorenzo Alexander) went down. So we've just got to overcome some of those things. Once we eliminate those mental mistakes and things like that, this kid is going to be a terrific player for us."
Not only does Lawson have to master all the assignments, but he still has to learn how to play off the other 10 players on defense with whom he has no prior game experience.
"When you come into this league and you've missed OTA's, you've missed minicamp, you miss all of training camp, and then you miss almost the first seven games of the season and you're a rookie? You are way behind," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. "He's starting to understand what we're asking of him. It's not going to be perfect because he's missed so much time, but you can see the talent. You can see his physical gifts. He wants to do it. He's working towards that and we're expecting him to grow and get better."
"I like where he's at," said Ryan. "I think he's getting better each day on the practice field and I think with him working with some of the other players, I think he's getting a great feel for that now."