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"Rebound" Nothing New To Bills' Moulds

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  • "Rebound" Nothing New To Bills' Moulds

    By Bills Insider Lou Paone - July 5, 2004
    Entering last season, Eric Moulds had no idea things would go so bad.

    After 1287 yards and 10 scores in 2002--and the departure of Peerless Price to Atlanta--you would have expected his numbers to increase. Josh Reed was deemed ready to take over the second receiver spot, and Bobby Shaw was brought on just in case he wasn’t.

    But 16 games did nothing to prove that true. Moulds' 780 receiving yards, 1 TD, 12.2 YPC, and 10 receptions of 20+ yards were his lowest totals since 1997--his second year in the league during which he played third fiddle to Quinn Early and Andre Reed. But to the eight-year veteran's credit, there was a good reason for this crash.

    Moulds spent all of last year either injured or double-teamed. Josh Reed proved not ready for the 2nd receiver role, and Bobby Shaw wasn’t nearly the player the Bills had thought when they signed him. With nowhere to turn besides those three, the Bills’ pass-happy philosophy made their offensive attack predicable and ineffective.

    However, the addition of new head coach Mike Mularkey, and an off-season of healing—has placed Eric Moulds in a friendlier role.

    On the rebound.

    The reasons for hope are plentiful. For one, the two-headed running attack of Travis Henry and Willis McGahee—along with Buffalo’s new found commitment to rushing the football, will make opposing defenses look run first instead of pass. Thus, creating more room downfield.

    Secondly is the addition of Lee Evans. His height and speed makes him a Peerless Price clone. Although he is a rookie, the former Wisconsin Badger is said to be more ready for the pro game then Price was his rookie year. Even in a small role, Evans’ speed should stretch the defenses enough to open some space and eliminate teams doubling Moulds. The growth of second year pro Sam Aiken should help too.

    A third positive is moving Josh Reed to the slot. A receiver’s third year is usually a charm, and the odds are he will break out in 2004. The same role during his rookie campaign netted him 13.8 yards per catch and eight receptions of 20+ yards (compared to 10.1 and five last season). After learning from Moulds for the last two seasons, it’s time the student made the professor proud.

    And finally, but most importantly, the psyche and arm of Drew Bledsoe. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements and quarterbacks coach Sam Wyche have spent much of the off-season teaching Drew how to check down on his reads. Holding on to the ball less will put faith back in the passing game. Utilizing the short routes will make the corners and safeties creep up. It only takes a few big plays to change the complexion of a game, and Moulds is the guy who can do just that.

    Or is he??

    Much has been said about the health and skills of the eight-year pro. A groin injury nagged him all last season, and some say it may have caused his skills to diminish. Moulds has proclaimed that he is 100% healthy coming into this summer’s camp, and there are many that completely agree. Adding the fact that Moulds has averaged 1328 yards and eight touchdown receptions in even-ending years, and 892 yards and four scores in odd-ending years since 1998--and you'd think that a recovered groin isn't the only sign for recovery.

    In order for the Bills to compete for a playoff spot in 2004, they will need a solid year from Moulds. All signs point to just that--but you really can't tell until they lace'em up.

    The only thing guaranteed is that Moulds is ready--and hungry--to rebound once again.

  • #2
    Re: "Rebound" Nothing New To Bills' Moulds

    How vital are Evans and Reed to the success of Bledsoe and the offense?

    As Eric Moulds goes, so goes Buffalo's passing offense. Moulds had a 100-catch season in 2002 when he had Peerless Price putting up Pro Bowl numbers on the other side of the field. Josh Reed didn't provide that threat, but it was probably unfair to think that he would. He's more of a young Keenan McCardell than a Price, who averaged 13.3 yards per catch and had nine TDs in his last season in Buffalo. As Price's replacement, Reed ended up with 58 catches but the 10.1 yard average didn't stretch defenses the way Price could. Moulds consistently received double coverage and ended up with 64 catches, 780 yards and only one TD. New head coach Mike Mularkey should make major adjustments with the offense. Scheme-wise, he will have Drew Bledsoe release the ball after his fifth step. Mularkey has had Bledsoe work with an on-the-field clock to quicken his release and reduce his tendency to hold onto the ball too long. Over the past two seasons, Bledsoe has been sacked 103 times. That can't continue. Here's the game-plan: Rookie Lee Evans has 4.3 speed and should draw attention at the split end position. That might free up coverage against Moulds plus give Reed more of a chance to get into the open field in three-receiver sets. The other big change will be getting the running backs involved in the passing attack. For whatever reason, former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't utilize HB Travis Henry as much in the passing offense last year. Henry went from 43 catches to 28, but he's a good receiver. So is Willis McGahee. With this type of talent and these changes, the Bills won't finish 30th in offense, and their 10.5 yard per catch numbers should improve. -- John Clayton,


    Related Topics


    • evil disco man
      Bills: Not a bunch of Mularkey
      by evil disco man
      By Rob Hurtt

      WHAT'S NEW

      Buffalo headed into 2003 with playoff hopes; its 6-10 season was an obvious disappointment. So shortly after the season, the team did what many disappointing teams do: It fired the coach. New head coach Mike Mularkey will have largely the same cast as former coach Gregg Williams. The message from the front office is clear; Mularkey's job is to get this team to play up to its ability.

      The organization hopes Mularkey's experience as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator makes him the perfect guy to improve an offense that finished 30th in both total yards and points last season. He'll have a bit more to work with than Williams did. Running back Willis McGahee, the Bills' top pick in the 2002 draft, will be back on the field after rehabbing his knee all of last season. Buffalo also hopes rookie Lee Evans can fill the hole left when Peerless Price headed to Atlanta last year. As long as Eric Moulds stays healthy and Drew Bledsoe stays off his backside, this team will have a chance to post its first winning record in five years.


      Travis Henry, RB. When grandpa starts yapping about how players today are weenies, remind him of Henry. He played 15 games last season despite tearing rib cartilage in September. That cracked bone in his foot couldn't have felt too good, either. Henry's play didn't drop off drastically, and Henry put up numbers -- 1,356 yards and 10 scores on the ground - worthy of a No. 1 fantasy back. Henry's running style illustrates his toughness; he's best suited for taking the ball and running up the middle. That bulldozing style makes Henry option No. 1 in the red zone, so he'll often get a score even in games that he does little else. Henry's value could decline later in the season when Willis McGahee starts stealing work, but Henry still will be a solid fantasy starter.


      Eric Moulds, WR. It's an even year, which means Moulds will play well. Check Moulds' career stats and you'll notice an obvious on-and-off pattern. His off years have been odd years. He appeared set to break that streak with a solid 2003. Then in October, he suffered a groin injury and never fully recovered until the offseason. When healthy, Moulds is an elite receiver who will produce nearly every week. Make him your No. 2 and don't worry about that spot all year.


      SLEEPER: Willis McGahee, RB. The rule of thumb is it takes a running back two years to return to pre-injury form after tearing knee ligaments. McGahee is roughly 18 months removed from surgery. Reports so far have been positive, but owners can't get caught expecting too much from McGahee. The offense is in capable hands with Henry, so the Bills have the luxury of bringing back McGahee slowly. He'll get his share of touches and might even line up in the backfield...
      -07-05-2004, 09:02 PM
    • DJRamFan
      [Bills] Bledsoe is still starter . . . for now
      by DJRamFan
      Mularkey won't give up on veteran despite loss to Pats


      Buffalo Bills coach Mike Mularkey still hasn't given up on his team's chances of making the playoffs this season, which explains why he isn't quite ready to begin the J.P. Losman Era any time soon. Drew Bledsoe will be the starting quarterback Sunday afternoon against the St. Louis Rams.
      After that, we'll see.

      Mularkey's reasoning Monday after the Bills' embarrassing 29-6 defeat to the New England was built more on mathematics than reality. The Bills are 3-6 with seven games remaining, including a five-game stretch that includes four road games. Ten teams in the AFC have a better record than Buffalo, and only Miami's is worse.

      Technically, the Bills can make the playoffs. Realistically, their chances are slim at best.

      "It's still too early to rule out where we're going from this point in the season," Mularkey said after meeting with his players. "There are seven games left. We're not out of it. Drew has proven in three (wins) of four (games) before this game that he was a big reason why. We'll start with Drew this week."

      Problems that had plagued Bledsoe for two-plus seasons resumed Sunday against the Patriots in what could have been the worst game of his career. He completed just eight of 17 passes for 76 yards, had three interceptions and failed to lead the Bills' offense into the red zone, let alone the end zone. His 14.3 passer rating was the lowest for any game in his 12-year career.

      "I think he just threw some poor balls," Mularkey said. "We had some guys open, and then we didn't and forced some things in there. Against that team, you can't afford to do that."

      Losman came off the bench cold as the third quarterback and wasn't much better in two series against the Pats. The Bills' first-round pick in April was sacked and fumbled the ball away on his first NFL drive and threw an easy interception on his second. He didn't exactly inspire thoughts he was the next Ben Roethlisberger, the rookie quarterback who has led the Pittsburgh Steelers to seven straight wins.

      But could Losman be a better option than Bledsoe?

      Mularkey said he merely wanted to take a peek at Losman knowing Sunday's game was basically decided, not kick-start a quarterback controversy. Mularkey wouldn't even say whether Losman, who is still not fully recovered from a broken leg, would be promoted to backup and therefore get more snaps in practice.

      "It was really just a matter of giving him some time," Mularkey said. "It was purely exposure. I don't think we put him in there to win the game. It would have been a tough comeback based on the number of scores we needed. It wasn't to start a controversial thing. It was to get a...
      -11-16-2004, 08:57 AM
    • DJRamFan
      [Bills] The Bills' future is now and starts with Losman
      by DJRamFan
      Sal Maiorana
      Democrat and Chronicle columnist

      (November 16, 2004) — FOXBORO, Mass. — I know I've seen enough. I'm pretty sure every clear-thinking Bills fan has seen enough. I wish Mike Mularkey would admit that he has seen enough.

      The Drew Bledsoe Era in Buffalo should be over. After about two years' worth of mostly sub-standard and sometimes hard to watch performances, it needs to be over.

      Unfortunately, the coach said Monday that it's not over. At least not yet.

      Mularkey said Bledsoe will be the starter Sunday when the Bills host St. Louis, his reason being that he's not ready to give up on the season with seven games remaining.

      With a 3-6 record it's going to be over very soon whether he sticks with Bledsoe or turns to J.P. Losman. So if Losman was healthy enough to make that cameo appearance in New England, it makes all the sense in the world to start him for the rest of the year and begin his developmental process now.

      Tom Coughlin's Giants are 5-4 and very much alive in the NFC playoff picture. But Coughlin has grown tired of the bumbling Kurt Warner so he announced Monday he's turning the reins over to rookie Eli Manning. I don't hear too many Giants fans grumbling.

      Sunday night at Gillette Stadium Bledsoe dipped to an almost unfathomable level of incompetence and an ESPN national television audience had the misfortune of sharing in the misery of Joe Average Bills fan.

      It should have been the proverbial last straw. Rarely has Bledsoe ever looked worse and his cartoonish 14.3 passer rating, the lowest of his career, only tells part of the story.

      The computer-nerd quarterback rating formula hinges largely on touchdown passes and interceptions and at times does not fairly portray how a quarterback played in a game.

      Make no mistake: This time it painted a picture Picasso would have been proud of, accurately capturing the essence of Bledsoe's ineptitude.

      He had no touchdowns and three interceptions while completing just 8 of 19 passes for 76 yards. Just as troublesome as the balls he threw to the Patriots were some of the balls he threw to his teammates: Too high, too low, too far in front, too far behind.

      "There were some errant throws," Mularkey offered, almost in a whisper, during his post-game news conference.

      Added wide receiver Eric Moulds: "I think he was pressing a lot. Anytime you have a ball skip or things like that happen, a quarterback is pressing trying to make a play. He's had some bad games here, so it could be one of those things where he wants to beat this team really bad and go out there and play well, and he's rushing his throws and not relaxing."

      Bledsoe looked lost. He looked completely...
      -11-16-2004, 08:53 AM
    • Curly Horns
      McGahee ready to make his comeback complete
      by Curly Horns
      ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Ever since he was hurt, hardly a day has gone by without someone asking Willis McGahee about his left knee.

      The questions have kept coming no matter how many times McGahee has said he'll be fine and playing better than before.

      "How many times? I don't even keep track of that, anymore," the Buffalo Bills' running back said. "It's nothing new to me."

      Soon, McGahee hopes to put all the questions to rest by showing what he can do on the field. His long wait is nearly over, some 18 months after his college career at Miami ended abruptly when he blew out his knee in the Fiesta Bowl.

      He's passed the physicals, done every drill and made it through a month of minicamp practices this spring without a hitch.

      "I'm anxious for the first game," McGahee said. "I've got the jitters. I want to play."

      All that's left is for him to brace for that first hit, the one that only comes in competition against a fully-padded opponent. It's the kind of jolt that will test his knee's strength -- as much as it will his mind's resolve -- to determine whether he's ready to play football again.

      The Bills are off until they report for training camp in suburban Rochester on July 31; their preseason opener is Aug. 15 against Denver.

      As a sophomore in 2002, he was the nation's best running back and considered a top-three pick in the 2003 draft after he set Miami records by scoring 28 touchdowns and rushing for 1,753 yards. The national championship game, in which Miami lost to Ohio State, was supposed to be McGahee's send-off.

      It instead turned out to become his biggest test. In the second half, and with Miami beginning to rally, McGahee went down following a crushing hit.

      Two days later, he had surgery to repair three ligaments, including one that required major reconstruction. A day after that, his rehabilitation began with a few excruciating leg lifts that made him cry out in pain.

      By March, McGahee was jogging and in April, the Bills drafted him 23rd overall.

      He was the first running back selected but it didn't matter to him whether he was taken in the first or seventh round. All McGahee wanted was a chance. Now he's got a five-year deal that could potentially be worth $15.53 million if he meets all the incentives.

      "I'm better than I was last year, no complaints," McGahee said. "No lagging or nothing, full go."

      The Bills and rookie coach Mike Mularkey are hoping he can give them a one-two rushing punch with returning starter Travis Henry. It's an opportunity to revive what was an underused running attack last year, and take pressure off quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who struggled in a predictable passing game.

      Mularkey made his intentions evident on the first snap of his first minicamp practice in March when...
      -06-26-2004, 11:05 PM
    • Nick
      [Bills] What to Look for vs. Rams
      by Nick
      What to Look for vs. Rams

      John Tramontana

      Buffalo Bills offensive line vs. Leonard Little

      Defensive end Leonard Little is a player who can take control of the game. He leads the Rams with four sacks this season in addition to his three fumble recoveries. He's quick getting around the end and could disrupt the Bills passing game if he is not contained.

      "Leonard Little is a guy we need to stop," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "He's very quick off the ball and can put great pressure on the quarterback. He's a guy that can be all over the field making plays."

      Little should line up against left tackle Jonas Jennings, though he could be moved if Jennings dominates the line of scrimmage. It wouldn't be surprising to see him move around and take some snaps against Mike Williams in order to find where he will be more effective. If the Bills can contain Little, Bledsoe should be able to get the ball to his receivers. If not, Bledsoe could be scrambling or be forced into getting rid of the ball before he wants to do so.

      Willis McGahee vs. the Rams defensive line

      The St. Louis Rams defense is ranked 28th in the league and they have struggled against the run this season. In four games a starter, Willis McGahee has rushed for over 100 yards in three of those and expect him to have another big day on Sunday. McGahee should be able to find holes in the Rams defensive line, which should allow the Bills to get their running game back on track.

      "We just need to get back to running the ball" McGahee said. "We couldn't run the ball (against New England) and we had trouble moving the ball. We need to get back to doing what we do and then we'll be successful."

      McGahee being able to run will take a lot of pressure off of Drew Bledsoe and gives Buffalo's offense more options. The important thing is for the Bills to not abandon the run, even if the Rams stop it early in the game. McGahee has shown his durability so far this season and as the game progresses, he should be able to wear down the Rams front four to tack on some big yardage late in the game.

      Buffalo's secondary vs. the Rams receiving corps

      The Rams have one of the league's most potent offenses, due mainly to their aerial attack. Marc Bulger has some of the game's best receivers at his disposal and a young Bills secondary may have trouble covering them. Eleven-year veteran Isaac Bruce leads the team with 55 receptions for nearly 800 yards. He may be aging a bit in terms of receivers, but he can still play the game and it still very dangerous to go downfield.

      "He's one of the best receivers of my time," said strong safety Lawyer Milloy. "He always shows up and he's still very fast. He's a tough guy to defend."

      Milloy leads a Bills secondary...
      -11-20-2004, 03:02 PM