Would Mar­rone have turned Bills around if ... ?

The Buffalo News - - NFL SUNDAY - Big fo­cus on spe­cial teams re ros­ter. Does new LB free up Alexander to fo­cus more on ST and pass rush­ing? Alexander’s real it in D? What’s a bell cow? By Jay Skurski You think Bills are sold on Tol­bert as backup RB for the sea­son? His big gains came when

This week’s mail­bag has it all. Did you ever what won­der what a “bell cow back” is? I’ve got you cov­ered. Were you cu­ri­ous about whether it’s too soon to buy Su­per Bowl tick­ets? I’ve got that in­for­ma­tion for you, too. Let’s get to your ques­tions: @got­ta­hava­java asks:

Jay Skurski: Lorenzo Alexander took just 25 de­fen­sive snaps Sun­day against the Jets, which is 43 per­cent of the team to­tal. Ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus, he rushed the passer on 12 of those, and was pro­duc­tive do­ing so, record­ing three hur­ries and one quar­ter­back hit. He also played eight snaps on spe­cial teams, which is 31 per­cent of the team to­tal.

It’s doubt­ful the ad­di­tion of Je­lani Jenk­ins will im­pact Alexander’s role at all in the short term. Jenk­ins still has to learn the de­fense. I don’t dis­agree that rush­ing the passer is Alexander’s strength – he showed that last year with 12.5 sacks. Per­haps in time, Jenk­ins could take some of the line­backer snaps away from Alexander, who could then be used else­where. But that’s not hap­pen­ing soon.

@Shred­dandRa­gan asks:

JS: Thank you for re­mind­ing me! The back story here: My guys Shredd and Ra­gan were talk­ing about how LeSean McCoy is a “bell cow run­ning back” dur­ing one of my – cheap plug alert! – ap­pear­ances on their morn­ing show on 103.3. We agreed it’s sort of a bizarre term.

The def­i­ni­tion, ac­cord­ing to dic­tio­nary.com, is “a cow, es­pe­cially the lead cow of a herd, hav­ing a bell at­tached to a col­lar around its neck so that the herd can be lo­cated eas­ily.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mer­riam-Web­ster, the term “bell cow” is ac­cept­able slang for “leader,” which makes sense, I guess, when it comes to a start­ing run­ning back. So there you have it.

@CharleyNadolny asks:

JS: Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Rick Den­ni­son doesn’t like to com­mit to what he’s hav­ing for break­fast in the morn­ing, so it’s too early to say he’s “sold” on Tol­bert as the No. 2 run­ning back. Den­ni­son, how­ever, did say this week that the team would con­tinue with that plan for now. He also said the team would “cor­rect” those plays in which Tol­bert went side­ways and not north and south.

So I wouldn’t be sur­prised at all to see another run­ning back get a chance be­hind McCoy.

@mclen­non99 asks:

JS: That’s a tough ques­tion to an­swer, be­cause we don’t know who the quar­ter­back was go­ing to be. Re­mem­ber that Mar­rone had soured on EJ Manuel and begged Kyle Or­ton to come out of re­tire­ment. Or­ton, though, re­tired again af­ter that 2014 sea­son, in an ab­so­lutely amaz­ing fash­ion.

Quick story: The day af­ter the reg­u­lar sea­son is known as lock­er­cleanout day. It’s the me­dia’s last chance to in­ter­view play­ers be­fore they head back home, so it’s a busy time. A group of me­dia mem­bers stood around Or­ton’s locker, wait­ing to hear from the team’s start­ing quar­ter­back. Or­ton walked to his locker and grabbed a money clip from the shelf, then told re­porters he would be right back.

Not more than 10 min­utes later, the Bills sent out a me­dia re­lease that Or­ton had re­tired. He lit­er­ally walked out of the locker room and re­tired on the spot. The best part is, he ap­par­ently had planned the whole thing, as a way of stick­ing it to the me­dia. So, well played, Kyle. You got us.

Sorry about that, Rick. Back to your ques­tion: I don’t think Mar­rone would have had much more suc­cess than Rex Ryan had in 2015. Ty­rod Tay­lor prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been the quar­ter­back, so if that left the Bills with Manuel, they weren’t get­ting to eight wins.

@got­ta­hava­java now asks:

JS: This is al­most en­tirely de­pen­dent on any in­juries that may arise and cre­ate a ros­ter need, Bill. That said, wide re­ceiver Bran­don Reilly had a ter­rific sum­mer and made a good case for a spot on the 53-man ros­ter com­ing out of train­ing camp. The Bills have just five wide re­ceivers on the ac­tive ros­ter, so if one of them were to get hurt, Reilly could be that guy.

@cell478 asks: I

JS: No way. If you be­lieve the de­fense will be bet­ter this sea­son – which I do – then the of­fense would be pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for the team get­ting to only seven wins and thus miss­ing the play­offs again. Tay­lor’s con­tract al­lows the team to get out from it af­ter this year, and with six draft picks in the first three rounds of next year’s NFL draft, the team has the am­mu­ni­tion to draft a quar­ter­back.

I firmly be­lieve that’s the plan and don’t re­ally think the win to­tal this year will change it. Seven wins, though, would make it a lot eas­ier for Gen­eral Man­ager Bran­don Beane to move on from Tay­lor.

@tford_23 asks:

JS: Let’s start with Matthews. If he puts up num­bers that meet his ca­reer av­er­ages of 75 catches, 891 yards and six touch­downs, it would make sense that the Bills would be in­ter­ested in hav­ing him re­turn as their slot re­ceiver. The bet­ter ques­tion might be what will it cost? The cel­e­brated 2014 class of wide re­ceivers is ap­proach­ing free agency for the first time. Matthews has bet­ter ca­reer num­bers than Robert Woods, who landed a fiveyear deal worth up to $34 mil­lion with the Rams. Will the Bills be will­ing to pay Matthews in the neigh­bor­hood of $8 mil­lion a year? They likely need to see him this sea­son be­fore mak­ing that de­ci­sion.

Gaines earned a start­ing job over play­ers like Sha­reece Wright and Kevon Sey­mour de­spite join­ing the team in Au­gust af­ter be­ing traded by the Rams. He played well in Week One and looks like a good fit in Sean McDer­mott’s de­fense. Given that Gaines has dealt with in­juries the past cou­ple of sea­sons, he hasn’t amassed the body of work that would lead to a big free-agent con­tract, but if he has a great 2016 sea­son, that could change. If Gaines can play the way he did against the Jets all sea­son, the Bills would def­i­nitely be in­ter­ested in sign­ing him to an ex­ten­sion.

As for Brown, the sup­posed com­pe­ti­tion at mid­dle line­backer with Reg­gie Ragland never ma­te­ri­al­ized. That’s par­tially be­cause Ragland’s knee in­jury wasn’t com­pletely healed, but Brown also went out and won the job. Even though it feels like the team is al­ways try­ing to up­grade at his po­si­tion, Brown finds a way of stick­ing in the start­ing lineup. It wouldn’t be a sur­prise if the team looks for a speed­ier op­tion at mid­dle line­backer this off­sea­son, but Brown could change their mind with a Pro Bowl-type sea­son.

@louis­stromberg asks:

JS: It’s not! You can buy Su­per Bowl tick­ets on StubHub right now, start­ing at the low, low price of $4,785. You can also stay at a Red Roof Inn in Ply­mouth, Minn., which is 9.2 miles away from the city cen­ter. Prices start at $350 a night. I booked you for a Thurs­day-to-Mon­day stay, Louis. Lastly, flights. It’ll cost $522 round trip to go from Thurs­day to Mon­day, So there you have it. If you’ve got an ex­tra $7,000 or so lay­ing around, you can be in at­ten­dance at Su­per Bowl LII.

Wait, you didn’t mean for the Bills af­ter their sea­son-open­ing win, did you? In that case, yes, of course it’s too soon.

@re­bec­ca­joc asks:

JS: If by “they” you mean the Bills, yes, they are all stand­ing for the na­tional an­them. At least they were last week. There were no vis­i­ble signs of protest by mem­bers of ei­ther team at New Era Field on Sun­day.

@ChrisCer­rone15 asks: 80 de­grees out 2day, but will Bills prac­tice in­doors be­fore home games & cold weather away games? Frus­trat­ing to see re­cent teams in­side...

JS: The team has mostly prac­ticed on the grass fields next to the ADPRO Sports Train­ing Cen­ter, al­though it has used the field in­side New Era Field at times. The only time I can re­mem­ber the team prac­tic­ing in­side re­cently was when their was light­ning out­side.

I’m with you that a cold-weather team that plays out­side should also prac­tice in those con­di­tions, but as you men­tioned, it’s 80 de­grees out­side. Let’s see where McDer­mott has the team prac­tice when the tem­per­a­ture drops.

@MikeSeng­busch asks:

JS: That I can’t con­firm, but it would be a dead giveaway if he did – that hat is hard to miss. Any­way, I think we’re get­ting close to the end here.

@atv3 asks:

JS: What silly ques­tions. I don’t know where you live, so how would I know? And of course he does. Thanks for the ques­tions this week!

Robert Kirkham/Buf­falo News

Lorenzo Alexander (57) was in on just 25 snaps in the Bills’ Week One vic­tory over the New York Jets but had three quar­ter­back hur­ries and one hit.

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