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Buffalo Bills mailbag: offseason workouts, Mike Pettine, NFL Draft in focus

In this week's Buffalo Bills mailbag, fans wonder if there are outside candidates to potentially replace Mike Pettine, and about how much contact that Buffalo's coaching staff can have with their players this offseason.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We had significantly fewer questions submitted for this week's Buffalo Bills mailbag. Please, Bills fans - if you have anything at all on your mind that you'd like to see discussed in our weekly mailbag postings, send us a quick email at We appreciate your questions, and the discussions they start, very much.

Luckily, of the handful of questions submitted this week, all of them were of intriguingly high quality - so there is plenty of interesting discussion material below. (Yes, we answered every reader-submitted question this week.) Thanks to our questioners for sending these in!

If we lose Mike Pettine, who would be possible replacements that we could get from outside the organization?

Doug Marrone deftly danced around this topic with John Murphy on Monday, avoiding giving away any firm leads on what direction the team is leaning in if they do lose Pettine to Cleveland, but - and I stress that this is purely speculation on my part - it seems like the Bills are leaning towards an in-house reorganization, with either Donnie Henderson or Jim O'Neil getting the nod, if they have to replace Pettine. We talked about that a bit in this post this morning.

It would be a bit more surprising if they looked outside the organization, considering how late in the hiring season they already are. Wade Phillips is a name that has been floated a lot, and if they did get desperate, they could certainly do much worse than bringing in one of the most renowned defensive coaches of the last 30 years. But something about that possibility seems extremely far-fetched, to the point where it seems more fantasy than a legitimate option. It'd be a lesser version of the Bills bringing in Willis McGahee to coach running backs.

Let's just leave it at this: if the Bills do look outside of their current group of coaches for a Pettine replacement, they'll be looking for a guy that preaches the same qualities (aggressiveness, disguise, positional versatility) that Pettine brought over with his scheme. That's what Marrone said he wanted from the outset, and that won't change regardless of who is calling his defense in 2014.

Thanks for the question, Neel!

What contact can the team's offensive coaches have with their young quarterbacks to further their growth? I am specifically wondering about what the CBA limits and doesn't limit in regards to film work and on-field workouts.

The short answer to this question: very little for the next few months.

Any player, including EJ Manuel, has the option to rehab or work out at team facilities year-round. This time of year, however, the Bills' strength and conditioning coaches cannot interact with players in the weight room or conduct formal workouts; they are only allowed to supervise the weight room and correct misuse of equipment. Any work that players are doing right now may have been suggested by the team at the end of the season, but it's executed solely by the player.

The same is true for any film work - coaches can't be involved in that right now, but it seems likely that most players, the young quarterbacks especially, have been given suggestions about what to look at, and who to study. If, say, Manuel wanted to throw to his receivers sometime in the next three months, that can't happen at team facilities, because football drills are prohibited this time of year. Manuel would have to organize something like that off-campus.

On April 21, Buffalo's offseason workout program begins. For the first two weeks of it, players may only work on-field with strength and conditioning coaches. Quarterbacks can throw to receivers, but defensive backs can't cover the receivers. Most importantly, this program cannot exceed four work days per week, or weekends. Classroom work, as far as we've been able to find, is permitted in this time frame, though probably limited in some way.

After the NFL Draft, which runs from May 8-10 this year, the Bills can hold a minicamp and 10 days of OTAs. One-on-one drills are not permitted in those workouts. Special teams drills may be run, but cannot include contact. Players will wear helmets during OTAs, but no pads are allowed.

So, to circle back to the original question: at minimum, the earliest that Buffalo's coaches can reconnect with their players is April 21. Thanks for the question, Mike!

I know you're big into the "wait and see" mode regarding the draft, but c'mon - live a little, and give us a few positions (at least) that you think the Bills might target in Round 1.

Two weeks back, we talked about positional value in the NFL and how the Bills have (or haven't) adhered to it in making draft picks over the last four years. If it were up to me, I'd target a position somewhere in that second tier of contracts - the Bills need plenty of help in those areas, and they maximize the value of the rookie if they can find an immediate contributor.

The four positions I'd look at, in no particular order: cornerback, wide receiver, offensive tackle and linebacker. Safety and tight end are positions that should not be ruled out based on the talent available, but they also don't carry as much value. That positional grouping was made in a vacuum, built for ideal scenarios. The Bills have to make their decision based first on the players. They can't afford to reach.

Thanks for the question, Steve! One last plug: if you have a question you'd like to see addressed in next week's mailbag, it's