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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ 2016 Draft Picks Rounds 4-7

01 May

The Buffalo Bills entered the final day of the NFL draft with some holes left to fill on their roster, with four picks left to use to accomplish that. They entered the draft with a pair of fourth round choices but used one of those in a package they sent to the Chicago Bears in order to move up in round two to get Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. The other fourth rounder, a compensatory pick which was the final one of the round, was used to fill one of their remaining needs. GM Doug Whaley picked an interesting backup quarterback prospect, Cardale Jones from Ohio State. His college career was up and down – in his freshman season, after injuries decimated the Buckeyes’ QB roster, he came in and led the team to the national championship. Then he came back the following year and was wildly inconsistent, eventually losing his starting job. A massive physical specimen at 6’5 and 253 lbs., his powerful arm earned him the nickname “12 Gauge” and there aren’t any scouts who question his arm strength. His negatives mostly center around an inability to read defenses, which won’t sit well with Bills’ fans. Still, being a long term developmental project, his upside is exciting if he works hard to improve his game and turns out to be coachable. His size may intrigue offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who used EJ Manuel as a runner in some third down short yardage packages last season.

 

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Cardale Jones (QB, Ohio State)

The Bills pulled a minor surprise in the fifth round when they added to what is already a strong running back group by picking Arkansas runner Jonathan Williams. Williams is a shifty back who dropped in the draft because he missed the 2015 season due to a foot injury. He had a brilliant 2014 season as a member of a Razorback “committee” approach to the running game, a role he’ll probably have to play if he sticks on the Bills’ roster. He did have some issues with fumbling, another trait that will draw the ire of Buffalo fans.

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Jonathan Williams (RB, Arkansas)

With the first of their two sixth round picks, the Bills took a flyer on a position that also needs some additional help when they drafted a speedy wide receiver, Kolby Listenbee of Texas Christian. He is considered a one-dimensional prospect, but that dimension is his ability to stretch the defense by making big plays down the field using his speed. He was overshadowed in college by his more heralded teammate, Washington first round pick Josh Doctson, but is a player with enough ability to make the Bills roster and contribute in the passing game, despite being a low round pick. His negatives include being a thin, wiry receiver who needs to bulk up and his inability to block downfield on screen passes or in the running game, a skill valued highly in the NFL.

 

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Kolby Listenbee (WR, T.C.U.)

The second of the two sixth round picks by the Bills, and their final choice since they had previously traded away their seventh rounder, turned out to be Southern Cal cornerback Kevon Seymour, another player whose 2015 season was dogged by injury but who has the potential to make the squad. He has great speed and excels on special teams, and his best shot at sticking with the Bills will probably be as a member of the bomb squads. One of the Bills “gunners” on kick coverage, Ron Brooks, left in free agency so there’s an opening there for Seymour. Bills’ GM Whaley has said he likes to add a corner in each draft, and was true to his word with this pick.

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Kevon Seymour (CB, Southern Cal)

Like the rest of the NFL, the Bills scrambled to add undrafted free agents once the seven rounds were completed, and their list includes some interesting prospects. Glenn Gronkowski, fullback from Kansas State and a brother of the star New England tight end, signed with his hometown team, as did former University at Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata. They added a linebacker with an appropriate name, Eric Striker from Oklahoma. There will be competition for special teams jobs in training camp also, as Buffalo added a long snapper, Reid Ferguson of LSU, and a placekicker to compete with Dan Carpenter in Georgia’s Marshall Morgan. There were a number of offensive linemen and receivers added, but what sticks out like a sore thumb on the list is the lack of any safeties, a perceived position of need that they also failed to address in the draft.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

01 May

broncos3

Logo of a football team that plays in the National Football League, the current Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. This logo was used from the team’s days in the old American Football League, in 1968, until the early 1990s. That era included a total of four Super Bowl appearances, all losses. All time Bronco players who starred for the team in that era include Floyd Little, Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar, Lyle Alzado, Rich “Tombstone” Jackson, Al Denson, Haven Moses, Karl Mecklenberg and the early years of John Elway.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

01 May

56toppsbrown

1956 Topps football card of former NFL offensive tackle Roosevelt “Rosey” Brown, who played 13 seasons in the league for the New York Giants. In an era when African American players were often overlooked by pro scouts, he was drafted in the 27th round of the NFL draft in 1953 out of Morgan State, and went on to excel with the Giants, being named to the Pro Bowl nine times and helping the club win the NFL title in 1956. Brown was selected to the NFL’s All Decade team for the 1950s, to the league’s 75th Anniversary team, and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975. After retiring as a player, he was an early pioneer in the ranks of African American coaches as he served as assistant offensive line coach, then was promoted to O-line coach of the Giants in 1969. He also worked for many years in the team’s scouting department.

 

NFL – Buffalo Bills’ 2016 Day Two Draft Picks

29 Apr

The Buffalo Bills made a move on Friday night to improve their position in the second round of the NFL draft, trading 4th round choices this year and next to swap second round picks with the Chicago Bears. The trade moved them up from # 49 to # 41, and they proceeded to pick another likely starter for their defensive unit, inside linebacker Reggie Ragland from national champion Alabama. Ragland was widely perceived to be a first round talent, but like a few of his Crimson Tide teammates, he slid into the draft’s second day.  In Ragland’s case, a report surfaced that he had a medical issue with an enlarged aorta, which scared some teams off. He will bring a physical presence to the Bills’ defense, and should help the team stop the run as a sideline to sideline ‘backer who thrives on contact with opposing ballcarriers. Ragland finds himself in a similar position as first round pick Shaq Lawson, with a position waiting for him due to a free agent departure. With veteran Nigel Bradham leaving to rejoin Jim Schwartz in Philadelphia, there’s an inside linebacker spot open for the ‘Bama thumper to slide into in 2016.

 

January 1, 2015: Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland (19) during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in their College Football Playoff Semifinal played in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

 Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)

In the third round, Buffalo selected a player that a lot of “mock drafts” had going to them in the second round – Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. One of the analysts on the NFL Network’s coverage of the draft was the big lineman’s college coach, Urban Meyer, who described his player as “a defensive tackle body with defensive end skills”, meaning he has a rare combination of power and speed that will allow Bills’ coach Rex Ryan to use him anywhere along the line in his defensive line rotation. With the subtractions of Mario Williams and Stefan Charles from the roster going into 2016, the additions of Washington and top pick Shaq Lawson allow Ryan and his brother Rob to infuse some new blood into that rotation, with added versatility from those players.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Adolphus Washington (92) gets past Western Michigan Broncos offensive lineman Taylor Moton (72) and Western Michigan Broncos offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor (77) in the 1st quarter of their game at Ohio Stadium on September 26, 2015. (Dispatch photo by Kyle Robertson)

Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

29 Apr

Tonawanda_Kardex

Logo of an old professional football team, the Tonawanda Kardex, who are credited with a single season existence in the National Football League, even though they played only one game in that season, 1921. The league was known as the American Professional Football Association that year, but eventually that league morphed into the NFL. Not much is known about this team, but they lost their only completed contest, 45-0, to the Rochester Jeffersons. The club also had a game earlier that year against the Syracuse Pros, a non-APFA team, but that game was cut short after 17 minutes of play due to inclement weather.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

29 Apr

63stancraftfatshenry

1963 Stancraft playing card, the 5 of clubs, featuring former Canton Bulldog tackle Wilbur “Fats” Henry. The Stancraft playing card set, popular today among collectors, featured then current players and all time Hall of Famers from the NFL’s early years. Henry played eight years in the pre-NFL American Professional Football Association for the Bulldogs, New York Giants and Pottsville Maroons, and later also coached both Canton and Pottsville as well as his alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with it’s inaugural class in 1963.

 

NFL – Buffalo Bills’ 2016 First Round Draft Choice

29 Apr

In past years, Rayonsports.com has waited until after the NFL draft is complete to post a summary of the Buffalo Bills’ picks, but this year, we’ll publish on each day of the draft, looking at the team’s choices that day. We begin tonight with the club’s opening round pick, Clemson defensive end/linebacker/edge rusher Shaq Lawson. Bills’ coach Rex Ryan has a definite Clemson connection, as his son Seth plays for the Tigers. With veteran Mario Williams released and on to Miami, Lawson fills an immediate need for the team in its’ front seven. According to most scouting reports, Lawson is comfortable playing in space or with his hand in the ground, which means he will be willing and able to do what Mario was apparently unwilling to do last season. There is a possibility that Lawson has a shoulder injury that may require surgery, but Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley must be comfortable with the fact that Lawson will be available to play when the 2016 season begins. Lawson, in fact, was supposed to not play at all in a bowl game due to an injury while at Clemson, but wound up not only playing but recording two sacks in the game.  That’s the kind of toughness the Bills need to re-instill in their defense next year.

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Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

29 Apr

LARams4650

Logo of the Los Angeles Rams football team, used from 1946, when the franchise moved west from Cleveland, until 1950. The L.A. team was a star-studded unit that included many Hall of Famers during their initial term in the California city before relocating to St. Louis in 1994. The Rams are the only NFL franchise to win championships in three different cities – Cleveland, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

29 Apr

49leafkenwashington

1949 Leaf football card of former Los Angeles Ram back Kenny Washington, who broke the NFL’s modern era color barrier when he signed with the Rams in 1946, a year earlier than Jackie Robinson began his major league baseball career. He played three seasons for the Rams, and after retiring became a Los Angeles police officer.

 

Reviewing The Buffalo Sabres’ 2015-2016 Season

16 Apr

Expectations for the Buffalo Sabres entering the 2015/16 season were certainly higher than the previous two bottom-dwelling years, but maybe those expectations were a little too high, as the club missed the NHL playoffs again. However, this season did show marked improvement. It took awhile for the team to come together, but they were much better, and their young players improved immensely, in the second half of the season. Here is a review of the recently completed Sabres’ season, with an eye toward what they need to accomplish in the off-season to continue improving:

 

Front Office/Coaching

General manager Tim Murray completely remade both the coaching staff and the roster, hiring Dan Bylsma, a Stanley Cup winning coach in Pittsburgh, as the new coach, replacing the popular Ted Nolan. Bylsma didn’t work any wonders, but the team looked more organized under his leadership and definitely improved over the course of the season. Draft day was hectic for Murray, and he parlayed his treasure chest of top picks into a future superstar, Jack Eichel, with the second overall pick, and a couple of trades that yielded young but experienced players. His deal with Colorado to bring in Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn was a steal, although later dealing McGinn away was disappointing. O’Reilly is a brilliant young leader who should eventually become team captain. The other trade, for goaltender Robin Lehner, gets an “incomplete” grade, as injuries kept the big goalie from playing enough to prove his worth.

Forwards

Eichel, O’Reilly and 2014 top draft pick Sam Reinhart head a roster of forwards that appears to be headed for big things next year. That trio, along with another Murray trade acquisition, Evander Kane, gave the Sabres a quartet of 20 goal scorers who figure to only get better. It was almost a totally lost season for Tyler Ennis, due to concussion issues, but if he can regain his past form the club will have another scoring threat. After slow starts, two younger veterans, Marcus Foligno and Johann Larson, improved their all-around games and started to contribute offensively. The same could be said for two of the team’s older veteran leaders, Matt Moulson and captain Brian Gionta. Zemgus Girgensons was a workhorse under previous coach Ted Nolan, but his play dropped off in 2015/16 and he’ll need to rebound next season. It’s hard to imagine the Sabres re-signing veteran David Legwand, who’ll be a free agent, especially with young up-and-comers like Hudson Fasching and Justin Bailey competing for roster spots next year.  One player who is the type of player every team needs, and the Sabres should keep around, is Nicolas DesLauriers.

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Jack Eichel

Defensemen

The Sabres have three solid young defensemen to build around heading into the future in Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe. Another youngster, Mark Pysyk, is a probably a tier below that top three talent-wise but should be a regular competitor in 2016/17. Among the three veteran D-men on the roster, Josh Gorges, being an alternate captain, is most likely a lock to stick around next year, while the other two, Cody Franson and Carlo Colaiacovo, are stopgap players who likely will be replaced next year. In Franson’s absence at the end of the year due to injury, rookie Casey Nelson stepped in and did an admirable job, staking a solid claim to a regular spot on defense next year.

Zach+Bogosian+Buffalo+SabresZach Bogosian

Goaltenders

Lehner is one of GM Murray’s prize acquisitions and the type of big, intense goalie he likes, but overall he was overshadowed by free agent-to-be Chad Johnson this season. Lehner battled injuries, and in his absence Johnson proved his worth as a starting NHL netminder, posting a winning record for a losing, non-playoff team and gaining the total confidence of his teammates. It will be hard for Murray to let him walk away in the off-season. Linus Ullmark also played pretty well in limited opportunities, while newly signed Jason Kasdorf was shaky in his lone late-season start. He will definitely need more seasoning in the minors before he’s ready for the NHL.

chad-johnson-buffalo-sabres-590x900Chad Johnson

 
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