Inside Bills Report

Quarterbacks and wide receivers.Quarterbacks and wide receivers. <P> New Bills coach Mike Mularkey doesn't deny he has targeted those positions in the draft on April 24-25. Buffalo fell in a dozen statistical categories on offense last season, finishing ranked 30th in yards and points. <P> Finding an explosive No. 2 wide receiver to complement Eric Moulds, and a young quarterback to groom as Drew Bledsoe's backup and eventual replacement, have chewed up a lot of Mularkey's pl

"This is a good year for both those positions," he said. "At receiver, I think there will be guys who end up in the second round who could be first-rounders in other years. There will be a couple options when we get to our pick and we'll have some tough choices and those two positions will probably be one of them. ... We may have to use all of our 15 minutes."

Mississippi's Eli Manning and Miami-Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger are Top Five talents who will be long gone when Buffalo picks 13th. There's a shot, however, that N.C. State's tremendously productive Phillip Rivers will be available.

Mularkey doesn't mind Rivers' side-armed delivery and Rivers is said to be the most ready to play at the NFL level right now, meaning he could back up Bledsoe and eliminate the need for the Bills to sign a veteran No. 2.

The Bills could tab a wide receiver in round 1 and still get a good QB prospect later, like Tulane's J.P. Losman, or Virginia's 6-6 Matt Schaub, a great decision-maker who is projected to go in the third round or later.

"You could find your next Tom Brady there," Mularkey said.

There are presently seven wide receivers worthy of first-round selection according to several scouting services and another seven with second-round value. Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh), Roy Williams (Texas) and Mike Williams (USC) won't fall out of the Top 10 (Oakland, Cleveland and Jacksonville each covet a wide out), but 6-4 Reggie Williams of Washington or Rashaun Woods of Oklahoma State would be hard for the Bills to pass on.

Mularkey is reluctant to prioritize his team's needs.

"I can name six positions," he said. "Some would be immediate, some would be support roles, some will depend on what we do the next three weeks in free agency. But I think we're going to have a pretty good choice at a couple of positions that we're looking at.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--Bills owner Ralph Wilson had his fill of defensive-minded head coaches, admitting recently that what appealed to him about Mike Mularkey was his extensive offensive background. And in a not-so-subtle knock on previous head coach Greg Williams, Wilson said he's encouraged that the players will immediately accept Mularkey because he's a former player himself. "I think he's very solid, very sound. He's been a player for nine years. He'll have the respect of the players. He's not a know-it-all guy. He's going to take the good advice he gets. Sam Wyche (quarterbacks coach) is a top guy and so is Jim McNally on the offensive line. So all those things put together, plus the talent we have, makes me feel good."

--Two-time Pro Bowl alternate Brian Moorman, a star track hurdler in high school and college, has developed a training regiment that has brought him great success punting in the NFL. He explains: "I lift twice a week with my legs. Not heavy during the season, just two to three sets of mid to light weight with high reps for explosion purposes. More than anything else what I think is important is running. I run twice a week and I try to do more sprint work and explosion work and then some distance running."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's always somebody that comes off the wall you did not plan on. I've done mock drafts for the 10 years I've been coaching and it's never gone exactly. Mel Kiper is about as good (as it gets). I'm not bragging on Mel, but it's hard." - Bills coach Mike Mularkey, who previously worked drafts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: Defensive tackle isn't getting a lot of play as a position of need for the Bills but maintaining strength up the middle is an ongoing goal for Buffalo.

Starting DTs Sam Adams and Pat Williams form one of the NFL's top interior duos and backups Justin Bannan and Ron Edwards have been effective in relief. Veteran Oliver Gibson was also recently added as a free agent.

But things can go sour quickly.

Adams turns 31 and Williams 32 this season and it's not too early to plan for the future. This month's draft features three DTs scouts rate with star quality: Oklahoma's Tommie Harris, Miami's Vince Wilfork and Texas' Marcus Tubbs. The Bills have scouted all three in person, with DL coach Tim Krumrie checking out Harris at Oklahoma's Pro Day.

Also of note, Bills GM Tom Donahoe personally scouted Virginia Tech's Pro Day with his eyes on two intriguing players: CB DeAngelo Hall and C Jake Grove. The Bills signed veteran Troy Vincent to replace the departed Antoine Winfield but would not let a blue-chipper like Hall pass them by with the 13th pick. Atlanta covets Hall at No. 8 but Buffalo has done its homework.

As for center, the Bills triggered a bonus that ties Trey Teague up through 2005 but it's no secret they'd like to upgrade the position. Grove (6-3, 300) is a superb prospect - big, tough and smart. For value purposes, Buffalo hopes Grove slips to the second round but it may be asking too much that he falls all the way to 43rd. The team of concern is the New York Giants, who need to rebuild their line and pick 34th in round two.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (2): QB Travis Brown; DT Ron Edwards.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Joe Burns; DE Keith McKenzie; LB Dominique Stevenson; OG Marques Sullivan; C Ross Tucker.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DT Oliver Gibson; OG Chris Villarrial; CB Troy Vincent.

PLAYERS LOST: OG Ruben Brown; FB Sam Gash; TE Dave Moore; RB Sammy Morris; LB DaShon Polk; CB Dainon Sidney; QB Alex Van Pelt; CB Antoine Winfield.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


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