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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: Alexander's role, a classic Kyle Orton story and more

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:

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.

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 is "a cow, especially the lead cow of a herd, having a bell attached to acollar 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.

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 surprise at all to see another running back get a chance behind McCoy.

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 locker-cleanout 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.

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.

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' 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.


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 five-year 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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