Eagles Opposition Report: Bills Offense

Eagles Opposition Report: Bills Offense

The Buffalo Bills are one of the NFL's surprise teams through the first month of the season, sitting at 3-1 largely due to their offensive prowess. They are fourth in the league averaging 33.2 points per game, anchored surprisingly by their rushing offense, which has been good for 137 yards per game (5th) and 5.3 yards per carry (4th). That could spell bad news for the Birds' 30th ranked run defense.

RB Fred Jackson
Quite possibly the most underrated back in the NFL, even his own team has never seemed convinced of Jackson's ability. Despite gaining nearly 2,000 yards on the ground between 2009-10, the Bills continually attempted to place other runners ahead of him on the depth chart, but those road blocks wouldn't slow him down.

The job was finally all Jackson's entering this season, and he's turning it into a career year. He's currently on pace to rush for almost 1,500 yards, while averaging an astounding 5.8 ypc. Jackson also has four touchdowns, more than halfway to a personal best. Plus, he's dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield too, with 13 receptions for 147 yards.

Already 30 years old, Jackson probably doesn't have many years left as a feature back, but he's clearly playing his best football right now. At 6-1, 215, he presents a challenge for any defense, let alone one that isn't tackling or covering very well at the moment.

RB C.J. Spiller
Since being selected ninth overall in last year's draft, Spiller has fallen out of favor with the Bills coaching staff. His athleticism makes him extremely dangerous every time he steps on the field, but the offense hasn't been able to harness that ability. Spiller also has ball protection issues. The defense has to keep their eyes on him whenever the Clemson product is in the game, but he's primarily a kick returner now -- with two career special teams touchdowns so far.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick's is an interesting case. The Harvard grad made his NFL debut with the Rams in '05, and wasn't that bad considering he was a seventh round rookie on one of the worst teams in the league. He eventually wound up the starter in Cincinnati after another Carson Palmer injury, and again, they could have done worse. By the time the Bills finally got a hold of him in '09, nobody imagined he could turn into a franchise quarterback -- and now it may be happening before our very eyes.

Fitzy has been one of the most efficient QB's in the league through four games. The first reason for his success is his refusal to make mistakes, throwing three interceptions and taking just two sacks this season. He's also made major strides as a passer, with career highs in completion percentage (63.4), yards per pass (7.2), and is on pace to surpass 4,000 yards. His improvements have caused a slight dip in his rushing yards, but don't let those numbers fool you, because he will take off.

Interestingly enough, Fitzpatrick is playing himself into a huge contract extension in Buffalo -- and more importantly, a playoff berth. Oh, and he also shrieks like a girl:

WR Stevie Johnson
You can't talk about Fitzpatrick's success without mentioning Johnson, who has been the greatest benefactor of his quarterback's newfound comfort zone. Johnson had a breakout season in 2010, going over the 1,000 yard mark with 10 touchdowns, and he's proving that was no fluke. With 24 catches for 314 yards and three touchdowns, he's on track to surpass all of his totals from last season, while averaging the exact same 13.1 yards per reception. The seventh round pick out of Kentucky in '07 fell in the draft due to 4.6 speed, but his 6-2, 210 lbs. frame makes him a tough cover for even a physical corner like Nnamdi Asomugha.

WR David Nelson
The most important player on the Bills' offense you may not have heard of, when Nelson reaches paydirt, his team usually wins. Undrafted out of Florida last year, the 6-5 wideout had an almost immediate impact in Buffalo's offense last season -- but when Fitzpatrick started targeting him in red zone, they went on a little streak. In 15 career games, Nelson has touchdown catches in four games. They've won three of those, and in all the rest, they are a lousy 2-9. Nelson will often work out of the slot, so anticipate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie drawing the big man in coverage.

TE Scott Chandler
It took five years, but the Iowa product has finally found a home in the NFL. Despite starting his career with the Chargers in '07, Chandler never had a catch until joining the Bills late last season -- and entering 2011, just one for eight yards. However, he's broken out as a red zone threat, scoring four touchdowns thus far, which accounts for over a third of his total receptions. The Eagles have struggled to cover tight ends in the red zone, or anywhere else, as is typical, so if Buffalo finds themselves in scoring position at any point, you can be they'll be looking for number 84.

LT Chris Hairston
The Eagles will catch a bit of a break on Sunday, as starting left tackle Demetrius Bell will not play due to injury. He'll be replaced by Hairston, a 6-6, 332 lbs. fourth-round rookie out of Clemson. We don't know much about the kid, other than it's his first career start at one of the most difficult positions in football, going against a defense tied for first in the NFL with 15 sacks. Likewise, Hairston will catch a break too, with Trent Cole and probably Juqua Parker both out on Sunday, but if the Eagles are going to shut down this potent offense, the key to the game might be bringing pressure to Fitzpatrick's blind side.

Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

The Associated Press

Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Jurors heard Thursday that a former Penn State head football coach testified that Mike McQueary told him years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that he had made a complaint about Sandusky to university administrators.

The deposition by Tom Bradley was read during the fourth day of trial in McQueary's defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against the university over his treatment after Sandusky's 2011 child molestation arrest.

Bradley said he fielded a rumor that made him approach McQueary, a fellow assistant under Paterno, in 2004 or 2005.

"I'm not sure how this happened, but somebody said something and I asked Mike about it. He said there was an incident," Bradley said in May 2015. "I don't know his exact words."

Bradley said he asked McQueary what he did.

"He said, `I turned it in to Joe and Curley and Schultz,'" Bradley said, references to then-head coach Joe Paterno, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz.

He said he did not remember if McQueary used the word, "sexual."

"It was not a long, detailed description, if that's what you're asking me," Bradley sad

Bradley also said he believes the school mistreated McQueary, citing a bowl game bonus McQueary wasn't given at the end of the 2011 season. Bradley was briefly the school's head coach after university trustees fired Paterno, in part over his handling of the McQueary complaint.

Bradley said he never discussed the McQueary incident with Sandusky, although he would occasionally see him in team facilities after Sandusky retired in 1999.

Questions about whether rumors regarding Sandusky had cropped up before the investigation that produced charges have long hung over the Penn State football program.

A lawyer for Bradley, now UCLA's defensive coordinator, told The Associated Press this summer he never witnessed any inappropriate behavior and had no knowledge of alleged incidents in the 1980s and 1990s.

The lawyer, Brett Senior, said Thursday he was not aware the testimony was being read. "I think whatever's been said is old and stale," Senior said.

Outside the courthouse after Thursday's session, McQueary declined comment about Bradley's deposition.

McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower one evening in 2001 and reported it the next day to Paterno. He then met with Curley and Schultz about the incident a few days later.

Nothing happened in the matter for more than a decade, when authorities investigating another complaint about Sandusky got a tip suggesting they contact McQueary.

McQueary testified against Sandusky at the 2012 criminal trial that resulted in a 45-count conviction.

In the civil case, McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

The school maintains it did not retaliate against McQueary and that he was damaged in the public's eye by questions about why he didn't physically intervene to help the boy or call police.

Earlier Thursday, former Penn State President Graham Spanier testified that he issued a statement the day Curley and Schultz, two of his top lieutenants, were charged, calling the allegations groundless because he trusted them and believed they were honest people.

McQueary's lawsuit against the university alleges Spanier's statement made it appear McQueary was a liar.

Spanier said he came to trust Curley and Schultz after working closely with them for many years. They were charged with perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

"This was an unbelievable injustice, that these two guys, who are like Boy Scouts, would be charged with a crime," Spanier said. "And that's what was in my head as I was giving this opinion."

Spanier began drafting the statement about a week earlier. He said that's when the school's then-general counsel got a tip through the attorney general's office that Sandusky, Curley and Schultz would be charged.

Spanier was forced out by the board of trustees a few days later, and the next year he also was charged over his handling of the Sandusky matter. A state appeals court earlier this year threw out several of the charges against all three administrators, but they remain accused of failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children. They await trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He said he wasn't thinking about McQueary when drafting the statement, and in fact didn't realize at that time that McQueary was a key figure in the investigation and an unnamed assistant described in the grand jury presentment used to help charge Sandusky.

Associated Press reporter Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

It's not looking promising for Bennie Logan to get healthy in time for the Eagles' Week 7 tilt with the Vikings on Sunday (see Injury Update). If that's the case, Beau Allen is expected to get the start alongside Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle.

While Logan's presence would certainly be missed, it's a spot Allen isn't uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to being in. As the third-year player pointed out on Wednesday, he's not exactly in unfamiliar territory here.

"I've played a lot of snaps in this defense, I've played a lot over the last three years and I've started games for this team, so it's kind of nothing really new," Allen said. "It's the first start of this season, but it's not my first start in the NFL."

Aside from playing in all 16 games his first two seasons with the Eagles, Allen started at nose tackle in place of Logan for the final two games of 2015. Not surprisingly, those were by far the two most active games of his brief career with eight solo tackles and 11 total.

Even still, the 43 snaps Allen played in Sunday's loss at Washington were the second-highest he's seen in an NFL game, finishing with three total tackles and nearly doubling his playing time for the season. And if Logan can't suit up against the Vikings this week, his reps might be on the rise.

"It'll be more reps for guys like Beau and then maybe even a little bit more on a guy like Fletch," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Thursday. "We'd like to rotate those guys as much, but sometimes you're not able to."

Allen is aware of the potential challenges he faces with an expanded workload. This is also exactly what the 6-foot-3, 327-pound lineman has been preparing for since he was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.

"I really honestly don't think it changes a whole lot because of the way I prepare on a week-to-week basis," Allen said. "I've played the type of big role that — I've played with all of our starters, so many reps over the course of camp, preseason and during the season that it's really nothing new."

A couple of other things that aren't new for Allen are with respect to the Eagles' opponent on Sunday, particularly their quarterback.

Like everybody else, Allen is very much aware that Sam Bradford is making his return to Lincoln Financial Field. While the 24-year-old interior lineman recognizes Bradford is playing some of the best football of his career, leading the NFL in completion percentage with zero interceptions in four games, the signal-caller's time in an Eagles uniform can be helpful to the defense.

"We're pretty familiar with this quarterback, I'd say," Allen said. "He's playing at a very high level and he's been really accurate, really smart with the football, not a lot of turnovers.

"There are tendencies every week with every team. We know him and we know his strengths and weaknesses because he was here, and we're going to attack them."

Sunday will also be special for Allen in a personal way. The Wisconsin product is originally from Minnesota and will have plenty of friendly faces flying in to see him play.

"I've got a lot of family coming into town just because a lot of them have been Vikings fans historically, but they'll be cheering for the Eagles on Sunday," Allen said.

"I think it's fun to play against your hometown team. It's sweet that they're coming in here, so obviously a big game for me personally that way."

Allen will have big shoes to fill on Sunday, as Logan was playing very well prior to the injury. Not only that, but the Eagles' defensive line as a whole struggled with consistency the past two weeks, and is now relying on Allen to help turn their fortunes around in just his third career start.

It's no small ask, but Allen understands the task at hand.

"Our run defense last week, there were a lot of problems," Allen said. "Overpursuing was one of them. I think it's more about discipline, front-side to back-side, knowing where the ball carriers are trying to cut back, things like that. Those are things that we worked to correct this week too.

"Obviously, we didn't have any sacks last week, so we're going to everything in our power to pressure the quarterback, get him off his spot, disrupt those timing throws and get after him."