In 2014, the Buffalo Bills went through their longest training camp at St. John Fisher College in recent memory. The players checked in on July 18 and they won't leave until August 23.
Trips to Canton, Charlotte, Latrobe and Pittsburgh were mixed in, but for over a month the Bills have been together all the time, thinking about football all day and every day. Camp practices are over with in 2014 and the Bills had 21 sessions available to the media.
Some players made good impressions, some fell behind. For the third year in a row, let's revisit who stood out in Pittsford, NY in this year's version of the Training Camp Awards:
Flying Up the Depth Chart: OT Seantrel Henderson
- After the 2014 NFL Draft, most were looking to draftees Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson as the young offensive linemen who had the best chance of cracking the starting lineup. The general consensus on seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson was that he would be a good player to develop with a lot of potential down the line. As it turns out, the situations were reversed. Over the past month Henderson has proved to the coaching staff that he can be depended on and the team now views him as one of their top five offensive linemen on the roster. When Cordy Glenn was out, he took all the first-team snaps at left tackle. With Glenn back, the Bills immediately moved Henderson to take first-team reps at right tackle. Buried behind Glenn, Pears, Kouandjio and maybe even Chris Hairston before camp, Henderson has shown to be the most complete rookie offensive lineman that the Bills brought in this year and will likely be a member of the starting five.
Failed to Impress: DT Alan Branch
- It's been a precipitous fall for defensive tackle Alan Branch since he signed an extension with the Bills in the offseason. Branch was a no show to all the team voluntary workouts and OTAs — which is completely acceptable —but head coach Doug Marrone made somewhat of a problem in the public eye when he said that he hadn't even as much as heard from Branch in the offseason. The defensive tackle then showed up to training camp out of football shape and was placed on the Non-Football Illness list to start things off. It took Branch a few days, but he eventually passed his conditioning test and got back on the field. In that time on the field, though, Branch has been surpassed by Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles and even camp upstart Landon Cohen. Even to this day, he is still only getting snaps with the third-team defense. Branch's days could be numbered in Buffalo this year, and it would have been a shock to say that back in April.
Best Fight: C Eric Wood & TE Scott Chandler vs. DE Bryan Johnson
- Players were cranky, helmets were ripped off, punches were thrown and it brought out another memorable line from Eric Wood. Known for his comment to former Bills defensive end Aaron Maybin in which he said, to paraphrase, for the defender to actually do something to earn his paycheck, Wood had another gem in 2014. After undrafted rookie defensive end Bryan Johnson ripped off the center's helmet and took two swings at his face, it prompted Wood to scream "I am going to [expletive] kill you." Yeah, it's a safe bet that will be remembered for a few years.
Most Memorable Moment: Doug Marrone's Screamfest
- Had it not been for this gem on the final day of practice at St. John Fisher College, the award likely would have gone to EJ Manuel for his stellar performance on the second day of joint practices with the Steelers last week. Instead, Marrone's anger at a lack of discipline and fighting on the field boiled over and turned into an expletive-laden scolding that made you glad that no kids were in attendance. He stopped practice dead in it's tracks after the second mini-skirmish of the day, screamed for the music to be stopped and for the players to get on the sideline to run a punishment lap. There were even some heated words exchanged between Marrone and defensive end Jerry Hughes. That was undoubtedly the biggest blowup by a Bills head coach since 2009 (when yours truly started to cover the team).
Rookie Standout: WR Sammy Watkins
- Could this award really go to anyone else? An honorable mention could have gone to Seantrel Henderson, but Sammy Watkins is the prized merchandise that the Bills brought in this offseason. Much to their liking, Watkins has done nothing to disappoint his rather lofty expectations and might have even raised the bar higher for himself. A couple of one-handed grabs that went viral helped build his legend before he has even taken a snap in the regular season. His blend of physicality, speed, jumping ability and route running all lead to him being a supremely talented athlete that will usually dominate a training camp setting.
Rookie Dud: OT Cyrus Kouandjio
- Out of everything that happened when the Bills first got on the field back in May for the start of voluntary practices, one of their biggest disappointments must be the lack of success second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio has had. Drafted to battle for the starting spot at right tackle with Erik Pears, Kouandjio had to just pull even with the veteran to win the job outright. There's one main problem: he hasn't been anywhere close to even and hasn't sniffed a first-team rep since the first week of OTAs. His unbalanced, top-heavy kick-slide allows his opponents to knock him back, which also has led the rookie to try and overcompensate for it by lunging at times. He has been made to look foolish on many different occasions throughout camp. Had he not been a second-round pick, but a fifth-round pick or later, Kouandjio likely would not survive the final cutdown day. The Bills will continue to work with Kouandjio through the season, but don't expect him to be active on game days. He is a project at this point, plain and simple.
Camp LVP Runners-Up: OT Cyrus Kouandjio & CB Michael Carter
- Kouandjio has struggled almost on a daily basis at training camp and that bled into preseason games. He wasn't the only offensive lineman that struggled, but he was one of the most notable. Cornerback Michael Carter was released on August 10, but his play still qualifies for the award list. When a quarterback threw the ball at Carter, usually one of two things happened: it would result in a defensive holding or defensive pass interference penalty, or, he would get beat badly for a touchdown. Carter clearly didn't have the necessary skill set to compete at the NFL level.
Camp MVP Runners-Up: WR Mike Williams & LB Nigel Bradham
- Coming into training camp, there were a few questions surrounding wide receiver Mike Williams. Was he healthy enough? Would he stay out of trouble? Where would he fit into the offense? The answer to those three questions: yes, yes and firmly with the first-team as an outside receiver. The basketball background of Williams is evident in the red zone, as both he and EJ Manuel have found a bit of a chemistry working in that area during practices. His explosiveness has returned and he's been one of the most pleasant surprises at training camp. The same goes for linebacker Nigel Bradham, who is going to fill in for Kiko Alonso at weakside linebacker this season. It was originally a competition between Bradham and rookie Preston Brown, but Bradham got all the first-team reps to start camp and he never looked back. He's been especially impressive against the run during both practices and preseason games. His reaction time isn't quite on the same level as Alonso's, but if he continues to play at this high level, the drop-off will not be as noticeable as once thought. He has stepped up, and in a big way.
Camp LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- It was a whirlwind 2013 for Thad Lewis, having been brought to the Bills near the end of the preseason and then being forced to play in a 'me vs. you' type of game against Detroit, where he was fighting Matt Leinart for a job. Lewis won out and eventually became the starter when EJ Manuel went down with his second knee injury of 2013. The Bills were encouraged by his play and it even led them to not address the quarterback position at all in the offseason. That faith has not been rewarded, however. Lewis has struggled mightily to get on the same page with his receivers. He has been inaccurate for the majority of camp practices and has thrown more interceptions than any of the quarterbacks. He is going to need a strong effort over the next two weeks to try and convince the Bills that they should not look to the impending bloated free agent pool for their third quarterback. He's in trouble if the right player comes along.
Camp MVP: DE Jerry Hughes
- Despite getting into a bit of a verbal altercation with head coach Doug Marrone on the final day of practice, there hasn't been a more dominant player on the field than defensive end Jerry Hughes. A slow day for Hughes at St. John Fisher College consisted of him only getting into the backfield two or three times throughout the day. He is taking to the wide-nine technique at defensive end like a fish to water. He has even improved in the run stuffing department, as well. With Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus next to him, he could be in line for a truly special season. And, in the nick of time, it just so happens to be Hughes' contract year. There isn't any debate in favor of Mario Williams, Hughes has been the most disruptive pass rusher on the Bills roster since offseason practices began.
With the sun beating down on the field inside Growney Stadium at St. John Fisher College, the edgy Buffalo Bills went through their final training camp practice of 2014. And with the way the last week has gone, it was fitting that it ended with a few fireworks.
Not even an hour into practice the Bills took a page out of their practice on Wednesday. It was only the first set of team drills, and within just a few plays, the team already had two scuffles between offensive and defensive players.
At that moment, head coach Doug Marrone hit his breaking point.
He started screaming at the top of his lungs at his team. He yelled to the on-field staff to cut the music that serenades each practice. He had a message to deliver to his team — some of which that isn't suitable for radio or television.
"Conduct detrimental to the team," and "stop fighting," were two of his statements to the players — albeit cleaned up versions of the original transcript. The team was then sent to the sideline and Marrone made them run a lap across the field and back as punishment.
That wasn't before one member of the team, defensive end Jerry Hughes, pushed back and made his comments heard at least a little bit. Marrone and Hughes shared somewhat of a loud exchange before defensive tackle Marcell Dareus put his arm around Hughes and ushered him into the punishment lap before any more words were communicated.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who got the practice off to rest a leg injury, then had a conversation with Marrone once everything had cooled down and the team resumed practice. Marrone and Hughes seemingly buried the hatchet after the practice, with the head coach going over to Hughes and pulling him aside to have a brief conversation about what happened.
Marrone cited a lack of respect for the reason why the fighting has lingered in camp, and then said he's going to handle it all personally. As could be expected, though, the head coach wasn't exactly eager to discuss what happened with the media.
"I'm going to say it again and I'm not going to answer another question. We're responsible for the integrity of the game," he said after a series of questions. "Can you figure it out? Figure it out. We're responsible for the integrity of the game. There is no use for fighting in the game of football, period. End of discussion. Move on."
Moving on is precisely what the Bills will do, too. They'll spend two more nights on campus, Thursday and Friday, before packing up and leaving on Saturday before their game on the same night.
It was an extremely long camp, 21 practices in total without counting the one that was cancelled due to weather, but a necessary evil according to the head coach.
"Yeah, we needed it," Marrone remarked. "I think we benefitted quite a bit from the extra work and I also think the work in Pittsburgh was outstanding for us. I think the more that we can do that moving forward, I think the better chance we have of being a better football team."
Once Saturday arrives, the Bills will no longer have football surrounding their lives at every moment of every day. When they leave St. John Fisher College, they'll transition back into real life while still playing the part of professional athletes.
"For us, the environment changes and we have to be careful. We want to make sure that we set the expectations for us when we go back to Buffalo and how we practice. We were trying to that this week," Marrone opined. "But then, the environment changes. There's a lot more structure when you're in training camp as a whole team, you're around each other quite a bit. Now you have a lot more free time. There's other people that are going to come in that you have to do a good job as a player and also as a coach, to make sure that you have the structure and you have the discipline and the focus remains the same."
That is the struggle for any team once a training camp wraps up. Reclaiming their lives outside of football and how they'll approach the work in-season is just as vital as their performances on Sundays. That could have been part of Marrone's line of thinking when he stopped Thursday's practice, and brought an intense approach to the session.
He's doing it for a reason, because he believes in the players that make up the 2014 Buffalo Bills.
"Here's what I sense: we are close. What is it going to be to get over the top? It's a matter of either you get over the top or you don't and we've gotta find a way to push ourselves over the top," Marrone said. "Now this year it's critical to get us over the top, so, I'm doing everything I possibly can to get us over the top. And if intensity's the answer? Yeah, I'm intense."
The Bills will head back to Buffalo for their fourth preseason game of 2014, a 4:30 showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the newly renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jim Kelly has gone through many battles throughout both his playing career and life to earn the respect and adoration from many around the country. Upon finding out that Kelly's cancer had returned, the support and prayers spilled out for both he and his family in the extremely trying time.
After an enduring stretch of both radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the initial tests for the former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Hall of Famer have come back with the results everyone had been hoping for.
In a statement from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, it was revealed that in the three months after the conclusion of the treatments that Kelly, his family and Bills fans everywhere had something to cheer about.
"The treatments so far have completely eliminated Mr. Kelly's pain, and his level of function has essentially returned to normal," said Dr. Peter Costantino. "Further, on physical examination, there is no evidence of cancer."
The former Bills quarterback will now undergo some additional testing over the course of the next week.
"It is possible that no further treatment will be required, and the testing over the next week will define the issue."
Over the past two years, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone has been consistent with his views on fighting in practice. He hates it. He thinks there's no place for it. He even said on Wednesday that it damages the integrity of football.
Despite the head coach's thoughts on the matter, sometimes the heat of the moment will get the best of anyone. At Wednesday's practice, the Bills had their biggest training camp fight since Aaron Maybin drew the ire of his teammates for a hit on Fred Jackson back in 2010.
In addition to the fight, the Bills conducted their second-to-last practice of camp in 2014. Here are some observations from the day:
"That stuff will happen when you're in pads for 20 days, baby!"
- When the fight settled down and the players had returned to their respective sides, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes couldn't help but scream out the aforementioned quote as to why things got so heated near the end of practice. Here's how it all started: the team lined up for goal line work with only 10 to 15 minutes remaining in practice. The first-team offense was up against the scout team defense and the play had just finished with a Fred Jackson run into the end zone. Starting center Eric Wood and undrafted rookie defensive end Bryan Johnson ended up locking up after the play was over, Johnson ripped the center's helmet off and then threw one punch. After the initial punch, teammates started pushing him out of the way and he just fired off another punch at one of the pair of players trying to break it up. After that, tight end Scott Chandler ran in and brought Johnson down to the ground which led to some more tussling until teammates and coaches finally separated the pair. Both players had to be restrained. After about five minutes both Chandler and Johnson allowed cooler heads to prevail and didn't allow the situation to linger. The same likely didn't apply to Wood, who left the field at the conclusion of practice with a hurried pace, still looking quite agitated by the event and how it unfolded.
Watkins' Saturday status uncertain
- First-round pick and rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins was dressed for practice for the second straight day, but once again was very limited in what the coaches allowed him to do. Watkins, who suffered an injury to his ribs against Pittsburgh on Saturday, could only participate in positional drills during the Wednesday morning session. He did not do any routes versus air, 7-on-7 work or participate in any team drills throughout the practice. With only one day of practice to go before the Bills take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Watkins' status for that contest is in doubt. The Bills haven't ruled out the wide receiver just yet, though. Marrone told reporters after the practice that they have not come to a final decision on how to approach Saturday with their rookie receiver.
McKelvin suffers another injury
- With only one practice remaining on the campus of St. John Fisher College, it's safe to say that the 2014 version of training camp has been lost for cornerback Leodis McKelvin due to injury. McKelvin had offseason surgery on his hip and has been slow to recover, needing two straight weeks of non-participation in team drills to get himself back up to full speed. McKelvin hasn't played in any of the team's three preseason games, but just got back to being a full participant at the beginning of the week. Staying in tact with his camp story line, McKelvin left the practice with a member of the team's training staff due to a groin injury. If you'll recall, the cornerback has had many struggles with that area of his body during his career. Unless it was just a minor tweak and the Bills were just being cautious, McKelvin could be in jeopardy of missing his fourth straight exhibition contest.
Brooks steps in
- With McKelvin out and Corey Graham being cross-trained at safety for the week, the Bills looked to Ron Brooks to take the first-team cornerback snaps. Brooks has been an interesting case to track this offseason due to the 'make or break' nature of this training camp for him. Since getting on the field, Brooks has filled in with the first-team defense in some spots and has had his most productive training camp since he has entered the league. He also can chip in on special teams if needed, and has proved to be a valuable depth commodity at the cornerback position. It certainly looks like Brooks has played his way on to this roster.
Legursky on alert?
- During the past three practices the Bills have been trying out a new set of combinations along the offensive line. The first-team has been written about quite a bit, but the second-team has seen a notable tweak to it as well. Doug Legursky, who has been the backup center in every practice before this week, shifted over to left guard which allowed Kraig Urbik to take over at center. Monday was the first time Urbik has been seen taking actual reps at center in about two or three years but has been viewed by the team as their backup center if all else fails. He hasn't had his best three days of practice, but at the very least, the Bills know that in a game Urbik is serviceable if they need to play him. As much as Urbik has struggled in 2014, Legursky is the inferior talent and doesn't offer as much size at the position. If Urbik does well enough over the next week, the Bills could part ways with their starting left guard from 2013.
Day 20 MVP: DT Kyle Williams
- There are certain guarantees in this world: Bees make honey, fish swim and Kyle Williams makes plays during training camp. It's a given that he'll get into the backfield at least once or twice during any given practice, but Wednesday, Williams was constantly in the backfield against the scout team offense. He's been a full participant throughout the entire training camp and looks primed to have another productive season for the Bills in 2014.
Day 20 LVP: DE Bryan Johnson
- When you're an undrafted free agent trying to make a roster, and you're throwing closed fist punches at a helmet-less team leader when the coach of the team has expressed multiple times how much he hates fighting, you might be able to accurately predict your outcome in a week or two.
Injury Update: Cornerback Mario Butler (ankle), cornerback Bobby Felder (groin) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) were the only three that did not participate in practice in any capacity Wednesday.
Up Next: The Bills wrap up training camp at St. John Fisher College with their final practice at 2 pm. For the last time in 2014, practice is open to the general public. No ticket is required for entry.
The Buffalo Bills got through their second straight day of work on Tuesday and took another step in their preparation for the upcoming regular season. Practice had a bit of a different feel to it than what the Bills had been doing throughout the rest of their time at St. John Fisher College.
In addition to a change in operations, the team's quarterback also had one of his better days since training camp started in late July. Here are some observations from Tuesday's practice:
It's game week!
- The second-to-last preseason game is often known as the dress rehearsal for teams ahead of the grand opening that is Week One of the NFL season. Starters typically play longer, with the hopes that the first units can simulate a regular season as much as they can before being removed at some point in the second half. The Bills are taking it a step farther with the idea of the "dress rehearsal" in clear view of their thought processes. Head coach Doug Marrone is having his team watch film on their upcoming opponents, putting together scout teams and preparing a scaled-back game plan for both the starting offense and defense to execute. Quarterback EJ Manuel said after the practice that Tuesday's work on the field was quite similar to a typical Wednesday during the regular season. Wednesdays are usually known as the biggest installation day for teams as they prepare for their upcoming contests. If the usual regular season schedule comes into play for the rest of the week, the Bills might go through a scaled back practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. The team also tried to implement more tempo into the first-team offense, which means that could be a part of the attack against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
EJ's perfect day
- Going up against the scout team on Tuesday, Bills quarterback EJ Manuel had one of his most successful days of training camp to this point. Regardless of where they were thrown, Manuel finished the day completing all 14 of his pass attempts in team drills. He settled for some short throws early on in the practice, but became increasingly comfortable operating in the pocket and started to take some more chances down the field. Two throws highlighted his day and it just so happened that they were his final two throws of the day. First, Manuel spotted T.J. Graham in single coverage on a go route down the left sideline. Graham battled through a defensive holding penalty, established separation and welcomed in the well-thrown pass for a 55-yard touchdown. Just two plays later, Manuel dropped back and saw Marquise Goodwin open on a slant over the middle that had an extremely tight window. Manuel trusted what he saw, zipped it over the outstretched arms of linebacker Preston Brown and got the ball into the hands of the wideout for a 20-yard gain. It's an encouraging sign that Manuel has put together a quality performance in two of his past four times on the field.
T.J. Graham creeping closer?
- The recipient of Manuel's best pass of the day also happens to be in a fight for his roster life over the next two weeks. Former third-round selection T.J. Graham struggled with confidence in his hands over the first few weeks of training camp which severely hurt his chances of sticking around on the final 53-man roster. Graham has been locked in a battle with wideout Marcus Easley for the sixth and likely final spot on the roster at that position, and up until this week, it's looked like an easy decision. Easley provides more in special teams coverage and has shown well on offensive plays during camp. However, over the past two days of practice Easley has dropped a few passes, which has indeed opened the door a little bit more for his main competition. Graham has looked much more confident over the past two days of practice and is playing as well as he has this summer. Don't count out Graham just yet.
Bills cut benefits Kouandjio
- The team brought their active roster down to 88 players on Tuesday ahead of practice, releasing both wide receiver Kevin Elliott and offensive tackle Edawn Coughhman. While the Elliott release could be just the Bills trying to narrow down their rather large wide receiver contingent, it appears as though the Coughman release has a very specific reason for happening. On Monday, Coughman was moved over to right tackle on the third-team and took all the snaps that came along with it. Now with the third-team right tackle out of the way, the Bills can use Cyrus Kouandjio on both the second and third units, which helps get him more reps and helps the Bills try to develop their second-round pick a bit more. It's temporary because the regular season is a little over two weeks away, but the more snaps the team can get Kouandjio will be for the betterment of his progress as a rookie.
- The Bills welcomed back their first-round pick to practice after he sat out one day with a rib injury. Upon his return, Watkins was extremely limited in how much he participated in practice. He went through some of the individual drills, but that was the extent of it. During routes versus air, 7-on-7s and in team drills, Watkins watched from the sidelines. It is likely just a precautionary move for their prized rookie receiver. The Bills know he is much more important to them on the field against the Chicago Bears in the regular season rather than in action against either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Detroit Lions in the final two games of the preseason. Watkins might get some more time in practice on Wednesday, but don't expect the Bills to try and force him into the lineup for Saturday's exhibition.
Day 19 MVP: DE Jerry Hughes
- After left tackle Cordy Glenn rendered Jerry Hughes ineffective on Monday, Hughes came back on Tuesday with a fury. The first-team defense worked mostly against the second-team offense and Hughes was constantly in the backfield for sacks and tackles for loss. A three sack day during team drills is quite the way to bounce back from his worst practice of training camp in 2014. He's been an overwhelming presence for the majority of camp this year.
Day 19 LVP: OT Chris Hairston
- When the Bills tried Chris Hairston inside at guard, it was a quality decision on paper. Hairston doesn't deal well with speed rushers off the edge, and when he's on the interior of the line, he doesn't have those concerns. The experiment with him at guard failed, and the Bills kicked him back out to tackle — most notably as the second-team left tackle. Hairston fell prey to Hughes on multiple occasions Tuesday, and despite him being a once promising right tackle prospect, Hairston could be on his way out the door in early September.
Injury Update: S Jonathan Meeks (neck), LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee), CB Mario Butler (ankle) and CB Bobby Felder (groin) did not participate in Tuesday's practice. TE Tony Moeaki left the session early for undisclosed reasons, but he had been previously dealing with a hamstring injury.
Up Next: The Bills will participate in their second-to-last practice at St. John Fisher College on Wednesday at 8 am. The session is open to the general public. No ticket is required for entry.
The last time Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus addressed the media was on May 28, which followed his felony charges in the state of Alabama for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.
Dareus, at the time, said the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that it would be put behind him in the future.
"It's behind me, it's behind me. I mean, I'm not a trouble guy, I don't cause any problems nowhere. I'm not a loud guy, I don't do anything, just have fun and be myself. If things happen, things happen," he said. "I feel like I'm on the straight and narrow. Things happen; young, dumb. You've got to correct it and just work through it."
Just two days later, Dareus was arrested again. This time, he was booked for an alleged street race that resulted in multiple misdemeanor charges. From that day, the Bills and the defensive tackle have played it safe in nearly a three-month absence from addressing reporters.
That silence stopped on Tuesday.
"I'm 100-percent sure that everything is just fine and we're going to just keep moving forward. I don't have any worries," Dareus remarked, while not giving too many details about how the process is going. "I'm just kind of sitting back, putting my best foot forward and we're all riding together. We're just kind of doing the best that we can for the season for the Buffalo Bills."
The question that carries the most weight is in regards to the defensive tackle's standing with the National Football League. His two off-the-field transgressions could put him in jeopardy of missing games due to a suspension.
Dareus was asked multiple times about the league office's feelings on the matter, and he steered clear of making any notable comments. One could read through his answers that the fourth-year player has yet to be contacted by the league, however.
"I'm not really discussing that, because that's something I have to talk about with them. And when we get to that point, we get there," he quickly replied. "That there is just something, that if I do or when I do, that will be something I have to take up with them."
Dareus is among one of the most important pieces to the defense and is coming off a Pro Bowl season. The NFL has yet to give their decisions on some other players around the league that have gotten into trouble off the field through this offseason, which means the Bills are not alone in their wait.
The teams awaiting a decision from the league will likely have their answers ahead of the first week of the regular season. Buffalo opens up their campaign against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, September 7.
The Buffalo Bills have been at it longer than most NFL teams, but Monday marked the start to the final week of training camp for them at St. John Fisher College in 2014. The team ran on to the field for their final night practice in front of the fans at Growney Stadium and got another day of work in.
Following their third preseason game of the schedule, the Bills returned to Pittsford, NY with a lot of players back from injury, and quite a large amount of changes to first-team units. Who impressed? Who was moved where? Here are some notes from practice:
Not many shots taken by EJ
- Those that watched the team's exhibition contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers noticed the tendency from quarterback EJ Manuel to settle down for the short attempts in the passing game. Manuel said most of it was due to the Steelers dropping seven into coverage as a very basic look. Against his own teammates, though, Manuel fell into similar tendencies on Monday. Out of an unofficial 19 pass attempts during team drills for the practice, Manuel delivered the ball past 10 yards only three or four times (one was ambiguous due to the sightline). Among the attempts was a solid 15-yard comeback to Robert Woods over the middle of the field, a pass to the deep right sideline that was behind the sprinting Marquise Goodwin that was eventually broken up and a deep throw to the left sideline intended for T.J. Graham who got derailed at the line of scrimmage by press coverage. The rest of it was short throws to running backs, tight ends and wide receivers which can move the ball, but eventually teams will start daring the Bills to beat them deep just as they did against Ryan Fitzpatrick a few years ago. They aren't the same quarterback by any means, but Manuel just needs to get into the habit of backing off the defense from time to time.
The biggest OL shuffle yet
- Against the Steelers on Saturday, the first-team offensive line from left to right was Seantrel Henderson, Doug Legursky, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears. On Monday, all but one of those positions had a different player at it with the top unit. From left to right once again, the top offensive line had Cordy Glenn, Chris Williams, Wood, Pears and Henderson. Glenn returned from his illness, Williams from a lower back injury, while both Pears and Henderson shifted positions. There was only speculation regarding Henderson switching sides upon Glenn's return, but the Bills made it a reality on Monday. The rookie seventh-round pick played right tackle in his time with Miami (FL) and could give the upgrade at the position that the team has been looking for. Both Cyril Richardson and Kraig Urbik were relegated to the second-team offense, with the latter even getting snaps at center.
Pears settles in at guard
- For the first time since he's been a member of the Buffalo Bills, Erik Pears shifted inside to play offensive guard. The 6-foot-8, 312-pound tackle would likely be among the tallest interior linemen in the league if the team elected to keep things the same way, but it would allow him to potentially extend his career and not have to rely on his limited athleticism against speedy edge rushers. From one showing, Pears looked like he took to the position fairly well. During one-on-one drills with the defensive linemen, the 32-year old held his ground against Corbin Bryant, Landon Cohen and Stefan Charles during his three reps. He won all three, which might lead you to believe he's better suited against bigger, more physical players with some help attached to each side. It's too premature to anoint him the starter, but it went well enough to deserve an extended look.
First look of Graham at safety
- Leading up to the start of voluntary workouts one of the hot topics of the offseason revolved around the defensive secondary, and more specifically, what the Bills would do to fill the Jairus Byrd void. A free agent acquisition this year, Corey Graham has some experience all over the backfield and was one of the rumored players to help out at safety. That never ended up happening for Graham and the Bills. Since practices have started Graham has exclusively been a cornerback… until Monday. With Jonathan Meeks still sidelined and a returning Leodis McKelvin, the Bills moved Graham to the back end and had him play safety on either the first or second defensive units, depending on the period in practice. It could just be a reaction to losing one safety to an injury for practice and having the flexibility to move the versatile player back there for a day. However, with the way both Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams played against the Steelers, perhaps the Bills are just seeing exactly what they have before they make a final decision on a starting job.
Dareus limited; someone not named Branch gets his reps
- With all the returning players from injury, the Bills couldn't sign off on a full practice from one of their top young players. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus had to be limited throughout the session, only taking part in positional drills near the beginning. When it came to one-on-one's and team drills, Dareus was kept away from the action due to undisclosed reasons. A rest day isn't out of the question at all considering he is one of their better players, but it's also worthy of an effort to monitor on Tuesday and beyond. Without Dareus, his first-team reps didn't go to Alan Branch as some would expect. Instead, it went to both Corbin Bryant and the upstart Landon Cohen, who might just be playing his way on to the roster. Branch is stuck on the third-team defense just as he has been all throughout training camp and in the preseason games. He's battling to make the 53-man roster, and right now he might just be on the outside looking in despite signing a three-year extension this offseason.
Bills' Day 18 MVP: OT Cordy Glenn
- It was quite the return for Glenn to team drills where he was able to match up against a player that had been having one of the strongest training camps this summer. Lined up against Jerry Hughes for much of the day, Glenn turned in an A-plus performance to solidify MVP honors. Hughes has not been accustomed to being thwarted the majority of the time, often taking advantage of rookie Seantrel Henderson. Hughes learned that Glenn is not a rookie, and the left tackle won all three matchups on the edge during one-on-ones. Head coach Doug Marrone said they wanted to see how he looked this week before deciding on his status for Saturday's game. He certainly looked ready on Monday.
Bills' Day 18: LVP: C/G Kraig Urbik
- You've got to feel for Urbik in this training camp, heck, even dating back to last December. The Bills have tried just about everything to find a replacement for Urbik at right guard. In December, it was all about J.J. 'Unga (who is likely a roster cut in September). Then, fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson started getting more and more first-team reps at right guard, but Urbik withstood that pressure as well. Now with Glenn back at left tackle they moved Erik Pears inside to right guard, and to make matters more dire, they used Urbik as a center with the second-team on Monday. The veteran offensive lineman still has the opportunity to stick on the roster, but it doesn't look like the Bills really want him to be a part of their opening day starting lineup. The actions speak too loudly to indicate otherwise.
Up Next: The Bills have their third-to-last practice on Tuesday, August 19 at 2 pm. The session is open to the general public. No ticket is required for entry.
After their extended stay in the state of Pennsylvania, the Buffalo Bills took back to the field at St. John Fisher College on Monday night for the start of their final week of training camp. It was a bittersweet day for the Bills, too. While they got one of their best young players to take a step forward in his return, their first-round pick had to sit out due to injury.
On Monday, the Bills had left tackle Cordy Glenn taking part in team drills for the first time since being activated off of the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list. Glenn was just bumped up to the active roster following the completion of the team's game against the Carolina Panthers. He got the clearance from the medical staff to participate in 11-on-11s and Glenn did exactly that.
He didn't take all of the first-team reps at left tackle as the team is still trying to work him in slowly. Glenn was out there for the first snap of every team drill, showing a significant step forward. Head coach Doug Marrone said before practice that they would see how the left tackle reacts to the increased workload before coming to a decision on his playing status Saturday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills also had the return of some other previously injured players. Left guard Chris Williams (back), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin) and linebacker Ty Powell (medical) all were back on the practice field.
On the negative side of things, wide receiver Sammy Watkins could not practice on Monday after he suffered an injury to his ribs during the team's game in Pittsburgh over the weekend. The Bills did not comment on both the severity and timetable that Watkins might be facing. All the wide receiver was able to do during the session was ride the bike and do light exercises with the training staff.
In addition to Watkins, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus did not participate in team drills during the practice. He was, however, dressed in full pads and took part in positional drills. Safety Jonathan Meeks and cornerback Bobby Felder were the only others on the roster that did not practice in any capacity due to an injury.
The Bills have only three more days of training camp before they get back to Orchard Park for the remainder of 2014. Tuesday's practice is scheduled to begin at 2 pm and is open to the general public.
It's that time of year. The Buffalo Bills have been in training camp long enough to the point in which that impressions have been made on both the coaching staff and front office.
The team has played three of their five preseason games, and with only eight days to go before the first round of cuts, it's also a good time for WGR's first roster projection of the summer. Who makes the cut? Who doesn't? Any surprises?
Let's find out:
Quarterback (3) EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis Cuts: Dennis Dixon
- The quarterback group has been the weakest from a depth perspective. EJ Manuel is trying to find the consistency required for the Bills to take the next step. Behind him, both Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis have failed to discern themselves as the backup quarterback the Bills were hoping for. Tuel has been mediocre and would likely win the job by default because Lewis has struggled throughout all of camp. Don't be surprised if Lewis gets cut and the Bills look to the first or second round of cuts around the league for a veteran backup with some game experience.
Halfback (4) C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon Cuts: Ronnie Wingo
- This is as straight forward as it gets. The team still has big plans for both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and they acquired Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon in the offseason. Ronnie Wingo will be playing in the fourth and fifth preseason games to try and hook on with another team, or to prove himself worthy of practice squad consideration.
Fullback (1) Frank Summers Cuts: Evan Rodriguez
- In this battle, Frank Summers still takes the first-team snaps and is the better blocker of the two. In a run-heavy scheme that gives Summers, who isn't as gifted athletically, the edge in the debate. Evan Rodriguez needed to show he could make big plays out of the backfield, but he's coupled the good (big receptions) with the bad (scuffles, fumbles).
Wide Receiver (6) Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Easley Cuts: T.J. Graham, Kevin Elliott, Chris Summers, Tori Gurley, Caleb Holley, Naaman Roosevelt
- With five spots essentially locked up the sixth receiver position comes down to T.J. Graham, the former third-round pick, and Marcus Easley. Graham has picked it up over the past week or so, but his problems with drops have plagued his training camp and he doesn't offer enough in the special teams category to win the sixth spot. Easley, on the other hand, has shown enough offensively in camp to warrant the final spot, allowing the team to keep his special teams presence on the roster.
Tight End (3) Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg Cuts: Tony Moeaki, Dominique Jones
- The Bills probably really wanted Tony Moeaki to make this roster. Unless he gets healthy enough to play in this week of practice and during the final two preseason games though, it could be the end of the line. The Bills likely want to keep an athletic tight end, and since Moeaki has been injured, Gragg stays on.
Offensive Tackle (4) Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio Cuts: Chris Hairston, Edawn Coughman
- Seantrel Henderson has played his way on to the 53-man roster by showing much more than his actual draft position in the seventh round. Had he not been a second-round pick and instead a fifth, sixth, or seventh-round selection, Cyrus Kouandjio's chances of making the roster would be slim. The Bills are between a rock and a hard place here, though. They can't subject either player to the open market and need the tackle depth behind Cordy Glenn and Erik Pears. Don't be surprised if the Bills experiment with Henderson at right tackle once Glenn proves to be ready to return, but he'll have to show quite a bit in a short amount of time to unseat Pears. Chris Hairston saw his roster spot vanish when his move inside to guard early in camp failed.
Offensive Guard (3) Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson, Kraig Urbik Cuts: Antoine McClain, J.J. 'Unga, Jared Wheeler
- The Bills thought both Antoine McClain and J.J. 'Unga had some upside to them heading into training camp, but neither have been able to show more than that potential. Cyril Richardson has played his way on to the 53-man roster, but whether or not he starts at right guard at the beginning the season is up for debate. They might opt to continue to work with Richardson over the course of the first few weeks either until he's deemed ready, they need to replace Kraig Urbik in the starting lineup due to poor play, or a combination of the two.
Center (2) Eric Wood, Doug Legursky Cuts: Macky MacPherson
- It's safe to say that Doug Legursky wasn't exactly a fan favorite after starting the majority of games in 2013 at left guard. Regardless, he's the only player on the roster with significant experience at all three interior positions. For that reason, he sticks.
Defensive End (4) Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Jarius Wynn Cuts: Jacquies Smith, Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson
- The final chop off the roster was to remove Jacquies Smith from the 53. He has had a very solid camp, but up against the other final spot finalist (who we'll get to shortly), Smith has not been nearly as productive. With this quartet, the Bills have two sets of defensive ends that are similarly built. Mario Williams and Jarius Wynn are the bigger ends that can set the edge and hold their ground, while Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson are more of the smaller, quick-twitch players.
Defensive Tackle (5) Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant, Landon Cohen Cuts: Alan Branch, Damien Jacobs
- The most notable part of this roster projection is defensive tackle Alan Branch not being included on the roster. There are certain facts regarding his 2014 that one can't ignore, however. First, he signed a contract extension early on into the offseason. After that, though, Branch has not necessarily been in the good graces with the coaching staff. He didn't show up to any offseason workouts, which led to head coach Doug Marrone publicly saying that they haven't even heard from him through the process. Then, at the start of training camp, Branch failed his conditioning test and couldn't practice for the first few days. To top it all off, he has fallen behind on the depth chart to Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant and Landon Cohen, and didn't get his first action in Saturday's game until the fourth quarter after all of the aforementioned three got some time. Marrone all but confirmed Branch might be in trouble by saying after the game that the defensive tackle is competing for a spot on the roster. With how disruptive both Charles and Cohen have been, Branch is on the outside looking in. Cohen was the last one in, beating out Jacquies Smith for the final spot.
Linebacker (5)* Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers, Preston Brown, Stevenson Sylvester, Randell Johnson Cuts: Ty Powell, Jimmy Gaines, Xavius Boyd
- Due to Nigel Bradham's one game suspension, he will not count against the roster until the week after the team's first game. With that in mind, both Stevenson Sylvester and Randell Johnson make the cut. Sylvester hooks on perhaps only on a temporary basis. They need a fifth linebacker without Bradham available, and Sylvester can be that depth they need. Once available, a flip of Sylvester for Bradham on the active roster isn't out of the question. Rookie Randell Johnson makes the team because of his raw tools and athleticism, but he'll be one of the most common inactives throughout the season.
Cornerback (6) Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey, Corey Graham, Ross Cockrell, Ron Brooks Cuts: Mario Butler, Bobby Felder, Kamaal McIlwain, Sam Miller
- Cornerback joins running back as one of the more straight forward positions to predict. The only one in doubt heading into training camp was Ron Brooks, but he has had quite a strong summer.
Safety (4) Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks Cuts: Kenny Ladler, Deon Broomfield, Jajuan Harley, Derek Brim
- Although he has plenty of college accolades, Ladler's pair of injuries combined with the roster squeeze prevents him from making the roster. The practice squad isn't out of the question, though.
Kicker (1) Dan Carpenter Cuts: Dustin Hopkins
- Dustin Hopkins is doing exactly what he can't afford to: sitting out of practices and a game due to an injury. He needs to prove that he can be an asset in the kickoff department, and he isn't doing that by being on the sideline. This week is a big one for Hopkins.
Punter (1) Brian Moorman Cuts: Jake Dombrowski
- The only way Jake Dombrowski will unseat Brian Moorman, who is a longtime fan favorite, will be if the younger punter has vastly outperformed Moorman throughout camp and in games. That hasn't happened, so Moorman's stay with the Bills continues.
Long Snapper (1) Garrison Sanborn Cuts: None
- The team experimented with both Lee Smith and Mike Caussin as a long snapper at times, but they don't get much better than Garrison Sanborn.
The Buffalo Bills put their best effort into bringing a second victory back to New York with them in the preseason, but a slow start by both the first-team offense and defense inevitably ruined their chances. The team concluded their five-day stay in Pennsylvania with a 19-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On Thursday night, just two days ahead of the game, Bills quarterback EJ Manuel had one of his best practices as a professional football player. Was he able to capitalize on that performance and implement it into the game setting? Here are some reactions from the Bills' most recent contest:
- Five drives, no touchdowns. Heck, let's take it a step farther. Three games, 10 total drives, no touchdowns. That is the stat line that bogs down the first-team offense with quarterback EJ Manuel at the helm. They haven't managed to scrounge up anything more than a field goal to conclude a drive, leaving most frustrated by their inability to do so in a meaningless, exhibition contest. On Saturday, the inconsistent version of Manuel was seen and it cost the Bills on more than a few separate occasions during their offensive drives. While Manuel wasn't hesitant, he settled in for a lot of underneath throws to running backs and tight ends, due to (what he said was) the Steelers dropping seven back into coverage. The Steelers likely saw what Manuel did to their defense on Thursday at practice and vowed not to allow any intermediate-to-large gains through the air. The quarterback threw some errant passes, with the interception to Ryan Shazier and the two inaccurate throws on the run being the most glaring ones. He did bring about a pair of very good throws, too. He found Robert Woods on a deep comeback route that Manuel placed on the money along the sidelines with a hearty amount of anticipation laced into the throw. Later on he found T.J. Graham open in some space for a third-down pickup as well. What matters is that the drives stalled deep into Steelers' territory, which means that the Bills have to figure things out next weekend against Tampa Bay.
- On the first drive of the game, most Bills fans gasped for air when they saw first-round selection and wide receiver Sammy Watkins get injured. When he went to the locker room, there was a very small amount of panic in regards to Watkins, too. The wideout was discovered to have an injury to his ribs, which doesn't give any indication as to the timetable that he could be out. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported during the game that Watkins' rib injury didn't appear to be serious, although the report wasn't specific as to when the rookie would return in full. Head coach Doug Marrone wasn't aware of the severity of the injury and only called it a contusion, but quarterback EJ Manuel said that he thinks Watkins "will be fine." For now, it's a wait-and-see approach.
Rush defense continues to shine
- Coming into Saturday night's contest, the first-team defense allowed only 18 yards on 10 carries of designed run plays combined between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers. They kept that in tact against the Steelers by allowing just 11 yards on five carries. Granted, the Steelers were moving the ball down the field through the air as they pleased, but the run defense showed once again why this could be a much improved unit. Brandon Spikes, Jerry Hughes, Nigel Bradham and both Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus all contributed to one of the lone bright spots of the evening for the top units.
Pass defense problem?
- If teams aren't having success in the run department, odds are you know what their countermove will be: they're going to try and spread the ball around to get the opposition to back off the line of scrimmage. With all the success that the run defense had, the pass defense was left in the dust on Saturday. The Bills had Stephon Gilmore, Corey Graham, Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams as the starting unit, and all four struggled throughout the evening. Gilmore gave up the touchdown in the corner of the end zone to Markus Wheaton, which was his second beat for a score in as many weeks. Graham had the best day of the group as a tackling corner, but he lost a step on Antonio Brown on the 76-yard touchdown which allowed for Duke Williams to run straight into Graham to cancel each other out. On that same play Searcy was slow to recognize both what was happening and what was coming his way, got caught flat-footed and by that point the speedy Brown was already long gone. Some might ask why Aaron Williams wasn't in with the first-team, but head coach Doug Marrone implored everyone to not read into it. He said the exercise was just to familiarize Duke Williams with the top unit before the season, but the coach remained that Aaron Williams is in fact the starter. The secondary could be an issue if the pass rush isn't there for the Bills, so it's certainly a situation to monitor.
- Question: "Are you satisfied with your backup quarterback play?"
Doug Marrone: "No."
The look on Marrone's face paired with the tone of voice he used to answer the question makes one believe that he is not at all happy with how the backup quarterback competition is shaping up. Both Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel have really struggled to discern themselves, with Lewis having the worst camp of the two. That continued on Saturday night with Lewis completing only 1-of-6 passes for 18 yards, and throwing a fairly poor interception to end his day. On the ensuing drive, Tuel came in and was a tad better than Lewis completing 5-of-9 passes for 48 yards, but was also sacked four separate times and lost a fumble to Pittsburgh. Turnovers will drive any coach crazy, especially when it's the two men trying to be the backup plan for second-year player EJ Manuel. While Tuel will likely stick on the roster regardless of what else happens, the same can't be said of Lewis. Should the right player become available on the open market the Bills might look to strike to help bring some composure to the position past Manuel. Lewis' job could be in jeopardy if he doesn't pick up his play… and quickly.
- At the beginning of the offseason, the Buffalo Bills signed defensive tackle Alan Branch to a contract extension and thought he would serve as the top substitute for Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. That idea, like the very contract that kept Branch in town, looked good on paper for all parties. However, Branch went missing in action during all the offseason workouts. While he didn't have to show up because the practices were voluntary, but Marrone gave the impression that the two weren't even in contact at all. Branch also flunked his conditioning test at the start of camp, and he did admit that there was some displeasure voiced to him early on for not having his body ready for training camp. Since he's returned to the field, Branch has been placed at the back of the line for defensive tackles. Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles and now Landon Cohen are all getting time on the field before Branch. That trio has looked good, whereas Branch is barely noticeable outside of his size. It's not the greatest of indicators that he started his night in the fourth quarter. He needs stark improvement to solidify a spot on the roster, because Marrone said that the veteran defender is "working for a spot."
Bills MVP: DT Stefan Charles
- Stefan Charles was a master of disruption against the second-team offensive line for the Steelers. Charles made his presence felt early on with a sack, then followed it up with another sack and the forced fumble that led to the eventual Bills recovery, which put their team in great position for points. With how disruptive he has been and how unnoticeable Branch has been, there is a case to be made for Charles to be the third defensive tackle on the roster even though he doesn't have all that much experience on defense. He's having a great camp.
Bills LVP: OT Cyrus Kouandjio
- If Cyrus Kouandjio were a fifth, sixth or seventh-round draft choice, he would be in danger of being released by the Bills altogether. However, he is a second-round pick and the Bills won't walk away from him after just one training camp. Marrone is an offensive line coach through and through and could welcome the challenge of trying to get the most out of Kouandjio. But he has a lot of work to do, which includes being able to fix his poor effort on the Steelers' strip sack that secured the game-winning field goal for the black and gold.
Up Next: The Bills have Sunday off and then get back to work for their final week of training camp at St. John Fisher College. The first of their final four practices is Monday night at 6 pm.
- The Bills have started training camp before anyone else and will be one of the last to end it, too. With this much time and that many reps under their belt already, the offense needed to be a lot farther ahead than what they showed against the Steelers. It all boils down to EJ Manuel and how he'll react to a given coverage and an actual game situation. He displayed it at times against Carolina and all throughout Thursday's joint practice with Pittsburgh. Simply put though, no touchdowns in 10 drives is unacceptable with all that time spent on the practice field already. Manuel knows it, Marrone knows it, the rest of the players know it. For the Bills to be successful they need to learn how to score as an offensive unit which is a task that they just haven't been able to master yet. Quite obviously, it's essential to both the short term and longterm plans of Buffalo moving forward.
The first-team offense of the Buffalo Bills had one of their best days since training camp started during a joint practice on Thursday night. That success didn't translate into their next time on the field, as EJ Manuel and company struggled all the way through their five drives allotted by the Bills' coaching staff.
EJ Manuel and the first unit, for the third straight outing, failed to perform a function that is essential to the survival of most offenses in the NFL. After a total of 10 drives in the preseason, the Manuel-led Bills have yet to score a touchdown.
"There wasn't any looks that we didn't see throughout the week in practice," said tight end Scott Chandler. "We just have to finish drives. We have to get in the end zone."
It wasn't for a lack of effort. On two separate drives the Bills had the ball deep into the territory of the Pittsburgh Steelers and were set up with a fourth-and-short opportunity they elected to go for. Both attempts followed through with the same result: a pass that fell incomplete and a turnover on downs.
On their nearest attempt, which also happened to be their fifth and final drive on the field, the Bills had two straight shots at the end zone to end the drive, but each fell incomplete and kept the first-team without their coveted touchdown.
"Man, coming off the field, it was frustrating, I'm not gonna lie. We got down there and I even pleaded to Coach Marrone to let us go for it on the fourth down. Went to the right place with the ball, the defense just made a good play on it. Just gotta go back to the drawing board," quarterback EJ Manuel remarked. "We've just gotta capitalize truly because, we need that get fixed obviously before we play Chicago."
Manuel finished the evening completing 17-of-27 passes for 148 yards, but also chucked an interception right into the midsection of Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier. The pass was intended for Chandler down the seam before the rookie Shazier undercut the route and forced the turnover.
The performance of the first-team offense isn't the only worry of the team following the contest. First-round pick and starting wide receiver Sammy Watkins injured his ribs during the team's first drive of the game. He walked slowly to the locker room for examination and did not return to action.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported during the game that the injury to Watkins is not considered serious.
The Bills came back to tie up the game in the second half, but the team couldn't overcome their poor start and fell to the Steelers 19-16 at Heinz Field.
The two teams had previously faced off against one another on Wednesday and Thursday for a joint practice session on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.
The first-team defense for the Bills struggled as well, allowing both a 76 and 16-yard touchdown pass from the arm of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The longer of the two occurred when Steelers receiver Antonio Brown ran a simple slant pattern and made cornerback Corey Graham and safety Duke Williams collide into one another. Markus Wheaton was the other touchdown recipient.
The Bills continued their prowess against the run in the preseason, however. The first unit allowed just 11 yards on five carries, bringing up their preseason total to just 29 yards on 15 total carries for designed run plays.
The second-team defensive line stood out for the Bills, with a strip-sack by defensive tackle Stefan Charles being the highlight. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen picked up the ball and scampered down into Pittsburgh territory before being brought down. Buffalo was able to take the ball and punch it into the end zone in the third quarter on a Boobie Dixon one-yard touchdown run.
The Bills were without left tackle Cordy Glenn (illness), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip), left guard Chris Williams (lower back), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) and linebacker Ty Powell due to injury. Doug Legursky started the game at left guard, Corey Graham made his third straight start at cornerback.
The Buffalo Bills end their road preseason schedule on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they'll be without a similar set of players that they have been without in practice over the past few nights. The Bills will play in the contest without a total of eight players, three of which being starters.
The team has declared left tackle Cordy Glenn (illness), left guard Chris Williams (lower back), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), safety Jonathan Meeks (neck), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and linebacker Ty Powell (medical) as inactive against the Steelers.
The Bills and Steelers get started at 7:30 pm at Heinz Field.
To conclude their five-day stay in Pennsylvania, the Buffalo Bills meet the same team that they've seen on the practice field for two days in the past week. The Bills will take part in their third preseason game, their last exhibition contest on the road in 2014 and finalize their series with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As their practices with the Steelers wrapped up on Thursday, quarterback EJ Manuel had one of his best sessions as a professional athlete. Once again, Manuel will be one of the focal points along with four other things to watch in the upcoming preseason game:
1) Can EJ's unit get a touchdown?
- In the team's first preseason contest versus the New York Giants, the starting offense got their feet wet with a pair of uninspiring drives. EJ Manuel completed only two passes and it riled up nerves for some fans of the team. In their second preseason game against Carolina, Manuel looked much more comfortable in the pocket and finished the day with nine successful completions, two of which that went for significant gains (28 and 32 yards). The common theme between both outings, though, resides in the fact that the first-team offense of the Bills failed to convert any of their drives into one that ended in a touchdown. In the preseason, nothing is really a necessity for the first-team offense to accomplish, but it will still allow them to feel comfortable with finishing off a drive before they get to their first regular season contest in September. It's a marker that both Manuel and head coach Doug Marrone would like to cross off.
2) Richardson nailing down RG job?
- All along the offensive line there are still more questions than answers. Will left tackle Cordy Glenn return to the lineup before the start of the season? Will left guard Chris Williams improve from his average play through training camp and the first two preseason games? Is Cyrus Kouandjio or Seantrel Henderson going to push for the starting right tackle job? Lastly, who will be the starting right guard? The answers to all of these questions, for the time being, are unknown. However, the Bills could be getting closer to finalizing the last of that list due to the current injury to Williams. In past practices, rookie Cyril Richardson would fill in at left guard while Kraig Urbik would get all the starting snaps at right guard. That trend has changed, however, and the difference could be notable. Williams has sat out each of the past two practices and the Bills decided on Richardson getting all the first-team reps at right guard. The team has been trying to find someone to replace Urbik in the starting lineup since the end of last season, and perhaps the latest decision in practice time could mean the rookie is close to earning the role. With a successful game against the Steelers, he could go a long way in securing that starting position.
3) Hogan vs. Woods: Round Two
- Over the past two weeks the first-team offense has sported the trio of receivers that included rookie Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and, surprisingly, camp standout Chris Hogan as the slot receiver. Left out of that starting mix is second-year wideout Robert Woods, who many expected to play a substantial role for the team in 2014. Unlike against the Giants, Woods did get some time with the first unit in both the practices leading up to and the actual game versus the Panthers… but as an outside receiver. The Bills have yet to relent in their flirtation with Hogan as the slot receiver for EJ Manuel's offense, and if it continues into the third preseason game and beyond, perhaps the former 'Hard Knocks' star will have a bigger role on the team than anyone would have predicted.
4) First-team defensive dominance
- Through two preseason games, the players that make up the top unit on defense have bought in to Jim Schwartz's system and have shown impressive results. Over the first two preseason games, the Bills top defense has allowed only 103 yards on 24 plays, one long touchdown and they also forced and recovered a fumble. The majority of those yards came on only the drive against the Panthers that resulted in a Kelvin Benjamin touchdown reception, which showed that the other four series the first-team defense played in came away with elite results. To take their yardage totals a step forward, the first-team run defense — which was a problem area in 2013 — has only allowed 18 yards on 10 carries to designed run plays. They'll face a good test with a better offensive line than waht they faced last weekend, and two successful running backs that bring a physical nature to the game (Le'Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount).
5) Defensive tackle depth showdown
- After the first-team defense gets their fill of plays, that's when the real competition starts in the middle of the defensive line. With the emergence of Landon Cohen as a playmaking defensive tackle, there could be a bit of a fight for a roster spot going on. Should the Bills only elect to keep five defensive tackles, that leaves Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, Alan Branch and Cohen as four players looking for three spots on the 53-man roster. The team could ultimately decide to keep six at the position, but that will be totally dependent on the play of those four linemen and if they are all worthy of being kept on the roster. Either way, keep a close eye in the second half on that heavy-set quartet.
Thursday was the day most fans of the Buffalo Bills were waiting for. With a second-year quarterback taking all the first-team snaps, many were hoping the light would go on for EJ Manuel, and that as soon as he started to play well enough that he would turn the corner and become the player that some are holding out hope for.
The fans of the team, although most were unable to attend due to the joint practice between Buffalo and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, had to read all the rave reviews about Manuel and crack a bit of a smile. What made Manuel's day so good, and who else stood out? Here are some observations from the second day at Saint Vincent College:
EJ's earmarked day
- All throughout training camp, daily practices have been a struggle for EJ Manuel. While he has had his moments in camp at St. John Fisher College, Manuel has lacked the overall consistency and accuracy that many clamor for. For two-and-a-half hours at least, Manuel looked like he had taken a step forward for how he picked apart the Steelers' first-team defensive unit. Throughout practice, Manuel finished the day completing 17-of-23 passes for 216 (unofficial) yards, which both serve as a massive improvement from the previous day of work against the Steelers. Manuel was sacked three times throughout the day but the collapsing pocket didn't seem to rattle him at all. In fact, the Bills quarterback dropped all the way back and looked for whichever target had already won, or was in the process of winning, and delivered his passes with confidence. Thursday was undoubtedly the most comfortable he has appeared in the pocket during a practice, which led the way to Manuel's poise and accuracy to take a step up from where it had been even a day ago. None of his incompletions were mistakes that the Steelers' defense were ready to pounce on. As Manuel said after the practice, he still needs to work on finding the right level of consistency so that way the ups and downs of training camp won't have as large a disparity as it has. By all means, though, not only was that Manuel's best practice of 2014, but it also could be the best he has shown at practice since entering the NFL.
Nearly 30-percent of Manuel's passes went to…
- The Buffalo Bills addressed the wide receiver group with a few bold moves, jettisoning one longterm player and replenishing with the top wide receiver in the draft, Sammy Watkins, and also trading for the previously troubled Mike Williams to help contribute to the team. Manuel now has one of the shiniest of shiny toys in his arsenal, and he's taking advantage on daily basis. Of his 17 completions, five of Manuel's passes were thrown Watkins' way, who collected five receptions and 61 yards, far more than any other player. The quarterback also targeted Watkins two other times but the throw on both of those plays was either too far out in front or it was lacking touch on the deep pass down the field. The pairing of Manuel and Watkins is likely to be one that will demand attention for much of the season, but the two seem to be on the same page quite a bit going up against a different opponent.
Bryce Brown's struggles
- On three separate occasions Thursday, third-string running back Bryce Brown lacked the defining characteristic that made EJ Manuel's day such a good one: Brown lacked an overall decisiveness and it led to the demise of two other plays as well. It started off with the running back taking in what looked to be a harmless pitch play that took the runner to the offense's right side, and it even looked like the running back had caught it well enough to tuck it away. Brown took two more steps and the ball popped up and out of his hands which allowed the Steelers defense to pounce on it. Later in the day, Brown also dropped a swing pass that was wide open to gain big yardage. All that, was followed up by the young running back trying to pull a C.J. Spiller and reverse fields because the original rushing lane was shut down by the defense. Not shockingly, he was held to just a minimal gain. Brown has done many positive things in both camp and the preseason games, but Thursday wasn't his brightest evening.
Hogan experiment not over
- Sometimes in a training camp setting, head coaches will deliver messages to some of their more important players by giving their backups more time during practices and games just as an attempt to teach them a lesson. At first, that could have been the construed case for wide receiver Chris Hogan and second-year wideout Robert Woods. The latter has been thought of as a big part of the offensive attack for much of the offseason, but as of two weeks ago the Bills haven't been using Woods with the first-team nearly as much as many were expecting. Instead, Hogan has been getting the majority of repetitions at slot receiver with the first team. Initially, Hogan's rise could have just been to rile up Woods. However, Hogan just doesn't want to seem to go away. His impressive play throughout training camp has him in a spot where he's getting closer to lock territory for the 53-man roster. It will be especially safe if he continues to supplant Woods with the first-team offense.
Bills' Day 17 MVP: QB EJ Manuel
- This is the day many have been waiting for. Manuel truly had his first great practice of 2014, dispersing the ball to the open man and almost always hitting that player in the perfect position and in stride. One practice doesn't mean a player has made the next step in their career, regardless of the position. Manuel will simply look to build off the positivity he has helped create for himself on the second day in Latrobe.
Bills' Day 17 LVP: HB Bryce Brown
- The trio of aforementioned negative plays was enough to earn him these honors for the day. Don't look too deeply into it, though. Brown will still figure in with the team once they define his role. It may not even happen in 2014 if both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson get through the entire season. If something does happen to one of those two, Brown will be part of the new duo of runners.
Injury Update: K Dustin Hopkins (groin), S Jonathan Meeks (neck), LB Ty Powell (medical), G Chris Williams (lower back), TE Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) all could not participate in the practice due to their injuries.
Up Next: The Bills get Friday off and then prepare for their third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night at 7:30 pm.
There hasn't been any shortage in new reports or speculation since the Buffalo Bills were put up for sale in 2014. The entire time that the team has prepared for the 2014 regular season has played second fiddle to what will inevitably happen to the team.
The trust of late Bills owner Ralph Wilson has been reportedly meeting with prospective owners that have advanced as finalists into the next stage of the sale process. One man that has been there for those meetings has been Team President and CEO Russ Brandon.
Unlike most years, Brandon has been away from training camp practices as the sale of the team has ramped up over the course of the past few weeks. His presence at the team's joint practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania was notable because of the ongoing sale.
The team president hasn't addressed the media since the Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio, but took questions from reporters on Thursday night. Not surprisingly, Brandon didn't offer up much new information about the impending sale of the franchise.
"Well what I can say, unfortunately, is pretty much what I've been saying in that the process is ongoing. It's a private transaction and I'm not really at liberty to discuss it at any length or form," he said. "We know the level of interest, but we also appreciate the private nature of this moving forward."
The sale, by many accounts, could be wrapped up by early October if all goes well. On October 7-8, the NFL will get together for one of their owner's meetings and the ratification of the next owner could be completed.
Brandon wouldn't comment if that was the preferred resolution.
"There's no timetable on anything," he said. "It's a process and that's why we handed that to the investment bank and to the investment council. We'll leave it with those two fine firms and, stay tuned."
The latest report, from Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, indicated that the sale could be Terry Pegula's to lose. Brandon was simply asked to comment on how close the sale was to nearing a conclusion, to which he replied, that he could not at this point in time.
Pegula, Jon Bon Jovi and his Toronto-based group, Donald Trump and Tom Golisano are the four reported finalists in the sale of the Bills.
While the Buffalo Bills wrapped up their second joint practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was one overwhelming story line that had to do with the player every fan is hoping to see more from in 2014. Bills starting quarterback EJ Manuel had, by many accounts, his best practice since the team started training camp.
It wasn't just a reaction from the onlooking media, either. His teammates definitely took notice as he was spreading the ball around during team drills on the campus of Saint Vincent College against Steelers defenders.
"I told EJ, man, to be honest I told, my exact words: It's the best I've ever seen him," said wide receiver Mike Williams. "I don't think he incompleted a pass today. Everything was on time, we got everything we wanted, it was like perfect. Coming out of our breaks, the ball right there... this is the best I've seen him. If he keeps getting like this, we're going to be something to play with."
Manuel looked crisp on the majority of his throws and hit his receivers in stride throughout team drills on Thursday. While he has performed well on occasion at St. John Fisher College during training camp, what was it about Thursday's practice that helped him play at that level?
"Competition. It's a competitive environment, we're going against a different team," Manuel answered. "Obviously this is their house so we wanted to come in and give them a good look. And we didn't want them to feel like we were wasting their time."
The practice was perhaps his best since he's taken the field in 2014, but one practice does not mean that Manuel has arrived. The quarterback would even be the first to admit that.
"I thought I was consistent, and that's something I want to continue to build on," he said. "Don't let it be a one, or a two, or a three-day streak... make it an every day thing. It's a process. I'm still going to continue to buy into the process."
Manuel and the Bills concluded their two-day practice session in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on Thursday night. The two teams get Friday off and meet once again in a preseason setting at Heinz Field on Saturday night.
The entire time that the Buffalo Bills have been preparing for the 2014 regular season during training camp and their multiple stops on the road, most everything has been underlined by the impending sale of the team. The future of the franchise is on the line and multiple jobs in the organization could depend on who gets selected as the winning bidder.
Through all those thoughts, there have been four identified bidders on the Bills during the process -- with only two groups that have made the majority of headlines: Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and his wife Kim, and the Toronto-based group fronted by Jon Bon Jovi. Still a few weeks before binding bids will be made to the estate of Ralph Wilson, a new report has indicated that things may be trending in a certain way.
And, It's a direction that will likely draw cheers from Bills fans that have been paying close attention to the sale.
According to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, the franchise is now "Pegula's to lose," and that their competition is not as strong as first thought. Graham also tweeted that the Toronto-based group with Bon Jovi, Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers is both "unfocused" and "disorganized" in their attempt to win the franchise.
Graham also wrote that an educated source told him that the Bills will remain in western New York "for a very, very long time whether they get a new stadium or not."
Outside of the two aforementioned main players, both Donald Trump and Tom Golisano have also made it through to the next stage as finalists in the sale process. According to John Wawrow of The Associated Press, three of the finalists have already gone to a presentation performed by officials of the Bills. The meeting was to give each prospective owner "extensive financial and background information on the franchise."
Pegula, the Bon Jovi-led Toronto group and Trump have all sat through those meetings within the past two weeks, according to Wawrow's report.
The team is expected to continue to march through the sale process and have binding bids due around the start of September. Once binding bids are in the estate can start to narrow down the candidates and ultimately select a winner, with the expectation and hope that the new owner(s) can be ratified at the league's upcoming meetings on October 7-8.
It's been nine years, but the Buffalo Bills finally participated in a joint practice with another NFL franchise on Wednesday. After making the relatively quick trip down to Pittsburgh, the Bills drove down the interstate to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania to take part in a session with the Steelers.
Many of the joint practices around the NFL have resulted in a testy environment with some skirmishes sprinkled in. Following suit, the Bills and Steelers both raised the intensity from a normal training camp practice.
How did the Bills perform against the Steelers in the controlled setting? Here are some observations from the day:
Control kept in live atmosphere
- After the Bills and Steelers went through their positional drills and stretching, they all came together on the main field and started off the very lively joint practice. When they got to team drills the Bills' offense and Steelers' defense paired off to one half of the field, while the Bills' defense and the Steelers' offense went to the other side. If anyone was expecting them to softly get into the joint practice, they were sorely mistaken. The teams immediately went to a live tackling drill and the tempers flared from there. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore laid a big hit along the sideline on a Steelers wide receiver, fullback Evan Rodriguez got into it with some Steelers defenders and safety Aaron Williams even had his helmet thrown after it fell off on a special teams play. Other than those three instances though, the Bills and Steelers showed quite the amount of restraint and poise throughout the practice. While the attitude and energy was a notch higher than most other practices against teammates, the two teams kept it clean for the most part.
EJ's poor day
- One of the biggest questions heading into the pair of practices in Latrobe is how second-year quarterback EJ Manuel would perform against a team that was so successful in stopping him last year. Even with a solid performance in Carolina under his belt, Manuel showed inaccuracy in the first session with the Steelers more than most his other training camp practices in 2014. His throws were all over the place during team drills, whether they were short, intermediate or deep attempts, the ball just wasn't being put in the proper place to facilitate a reception all the time. He did have his moments with some positive throws in the intermediate area to Scott Chandler, but aside from that, Manuel's performance was one to be forgotten.
First-team run defense
- On the bright side of the day, the Bills on the other half of the field continued their recent stretch of positive play. The first-team was outstanding against the first unit of Pittsburgh's offense, specifically against the run. The defensive linemen were occupying their blocks and the linebackers plugged the gaps to limit what Ben Roethlisberger, LeGarrette Blount and the offensive line could do for the majority of practice. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and outside linebacker Nigel Bradham especially stood out in limiting what Blount could do. Pittsburgh's offensive line isn't one of the best in the league, but the defensive line of the Bills once again showed why they are such a potent unit against another group that isn't their own.
- The one-on-one battles between the offensive line of the Bills and the Steelers' defensive line were among one of the more entertaining parts of practice, but the men representing the city of Buffalo weren't exactly winning the battle. One of the main players that struggled throughout the drill is incumbent starting right guard Kraig Urbik, who was actually playing out of position on Wednesday. For the first time in a training camp practice the Bills used Urbik as the first-team left guard, partially due to the injury suffered by starter Chris Williams. In that role, Urbik just couldn't seem to find his footing. He failed to engage with the defender on his four separate one-on-one attempts and lost all his battles easily. That, in comparison to the day that his direct competitor for starting right guard duties had in the drill, has to make Urbik feel a bit uneasy.
Glenn, McKelvin getting increased workload
- Two players that figure significantly into the starting lineup are left tackle Cordy Glenn and cornerback Leodis McKelvin, although each have been missing in action due to separate conditions. Glenn was just recently activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list and McKelvin has been slowly recovering from offseason hip surgery. On Wednesday both took a step forward in their potential return from injuries. Glenn actually took some full contact one-on-one drills, the first time he's done that since his activation. McKelvin was at first announced to likely miss practice, but dressed for the day and partook in both punt returns and even some team drills near the end of the practice. With the amount that cornerback Corey Graham struggled on Wednesday, a quick McKelvin return could be a welcomed sight for the Bills.
Bills' Day 16 MVP: G Cyril Richardson
- The fifth-round rookie picked a great afternoon to have his best practice since coming to the NFL. With Chris Williams injured and sitting out of practice, the Bills elected to have Richardson take all the starting snaps at right guard with Kraig Urbik at left guard, and the rookie was quite impressive. He used his strength to lock up defenders along the line during both team drills and one-on-one's, leading to some praise from offensive line coach Pat Morris. If there are more days like that, Richardson could go a long way in potentially securing the starting job as a rookie.
Bills' Day 16 LVP: G Antonie McClain
- On the flip side, second-team guard Antoine McClain couldn't get the hang of going up against the Steelers defense at any point of the practice. McClain lost all three reps in one-on-one battles, and easily. He's gotten some opportunities throughout camp to audition for perhaps a bigger role, and even a roster spot, but hasn't been able to break through just yet. He's running out of time.
Injury Update: K Dustin Hopkins (groin), S Jonathan Meeks (neck), LB Ty Powell (medical), G Chris Williams (back), TE Tony Moeaki (hamstring), WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
Up Next: The Bills and Steelers get back to work on Thursday night for their final joint practice. Saint Vincent College will house the session at 5:30 pm.
The tradewinds are blowing with plenty of rumors popping up about Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller. All the speculation, as much as it has increased, is still only that according to the man ultimately in charge of pulling the trigger on any deal.
"We have not been contacted by any team about C.J. Spiller," Bills GM Doug Whaley said quite plainly at Saint Vincent College ahead of the first of two joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "These rumors are news to me."
Spiller has been a hot topic for some, with the first insinuation implying that the Bills could be fielding plenty of offers for their former first-round pick as early as this month. That, in concert with some basic roster logic could help get plenty of people to believe that the running back could potentially be on the move if the right deal comes along.
Spiller, who has an electric second-step is going into the final year of his contract with the Bills. Despite his age (27) and the data that points to the age 28 as the biggest drop-off point for most running backs, the former top ten selection could be a relatively hot commodity if available.
Whaley played any of the talk off even more.
"I'll tell you guys, and you know I'm a straight shooter. We have not been contacted by any teams," the GM said. "I can probably see where people see our depth at running back and try to connect the dots with teams that don't have depth, but, again, nobody has talked to us."
The depth is the other part of it. In addition to Spiller, the Bills still have Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon on the roster to give them one of the deepest groups they've had at the position in many years. But until Whaley and the Bills get a call about him, and it's an offer that sweeps them off their feet, the running back likely isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Spiller rushed for 933 yards and two touchdowns in 2013 while dealing with a high ankle sprain for much of the season. He is listed at the top of the running back depth chart for the Bills.
For the first time since 2005, the Buffalo Bills will participate in a set of joint practices with another franchise in the National Football League. Even though the coaches might be looking forward to comparing their team with another squad on the practice field, not everyone is excited.
Running back Fred Jackson is one of those players that haven't adored the idea of going up against another team for three out of four days.
"No not at all, it's just going to be two days of games," Jackson said after Sunday's practice. "It's going to be a game on Wednesday and a game on Thursday then on Friday we get a day off and then a game on Saturday. But it is what it is, we've got to do that and get through it and take every possible advantage of it and get better."
The schedule Jackson alluded to is all in the Bills' upcoming joint practice session with the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The team is scheduled to travel on Tuesday, practice with the Steelers on both Wednesday and Thursday, take a day off on Friday and play the same opponents in their third preseason game on Saturday night.
"It's going to be physical I feel like, going against another team. Don't know each other, trying to prove a point. We've just got to be prepared for everything," said Bills wide receiver Robert Woods. "Just going out there and compete and work hard. New look, new defense."
The exact schedule of events for the joint practices have not been released, but it would be fair to expect both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills to be a big part of the upcoming pair of days. While they may know the schedule, it appears the players are in the same boat as both the media and fans for expectations of the days to come.
"Yeah, I'm not exactly sure how that will work out, I've never done this before," remarked center Eric Wood. "We generally practice against a look team, and obviously our look team is not as good as a starting lineup is going to be. In this case we're going to be going up against a starting defense and then playing in a game against them. I have no idea, I'd say you'd probably be a little more comfortable and prepared before game time."
The practices lead up to the two teams squaring off in a preseason tilt at Heinz Stadium on Saturday night. he Bills last participated in joint practices back in 2005, when they traveled to work with the Green Bay Packers.
Head coach Doug Marrone canceled the team's final on-field session in Rochester Tuesday due to the weather. The next time the team will return to St. John Fisher College is on Monday, August 18 for another night practice.
The Buffalo Bills returned to the field on Sunday afternoon to one of the muggiest weather days once camp started in July. Some of the players were a bit feisty as well, leading to some raised voices and some heightened interactions.
However, everything was kept under control and all safe and secure while the rest of the team worked through one of their final practices before heading off to Pittsburgh. Who stood out? Here are some notes from the day:
Mike Williams: EJs new best friend?
- When in doubt, throw it up to Mike Williams. That seems to be part of EJ Manuel's reasoning over the past couple of weeks. Williams has really stepped up his game over the past two weeks and is proving to be quite the dependable target for Manuel when they need some yards in a tough spot. Once again, Sunday showed off the wide receiver's red zone abilities. He uses his basketball background to rise up and meet the ball at it's highest point, and also has the penchant for getting both feet down. He did that in the end zone, where Manuel got him the ball in the tightest of spaces for him to get his feet down. He did, and it was a touchdown. The role for Williams could be even bigger than originally thought when they acquired him.
Goal line RB
- Fred Jackson has been one of the mainstays in the Buffalo Bills organization, a fan favorite and a leader in the locker room. Among those characteristics and his hard-nosed running style, for whatever reason, he has historically struggled to punch the ball into the end zone from the goal line. He can do it, but not nearly at as high of a rate that would be indicative of his talent level. With that in mind, the Bills could have quite the goal line specialist on their hands in Anthony Dixon. He shows a general disregard on those plays and gets into the end zone at a higher rate than what Jackson has done in 2014. The Bills are in the business of getting seven points rather than just three, and if they have to bring in someone else to do it, they probably should give it a high amount of consideration.
- Fred Jackson was not the happiest of campers on Sunday afternoon. He got into the faces of some of the defensive backs, and while that shouldn't be considered to be all that serious, he let his feelings known after practice. Jackson essentially said that the two practices following a game weren't ideal, but then said they're professionals and will do what's necessary. That isn't all for Jackson, he voiced his general disapproval of heading to Latrobe, Pennsylvania for the upcoming joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers after having been asked if he was excited for them:
"No not at all, it's just going to be two days of games. It's going to be a game on Wednesday and a game on Thursday then on Friday we get a day off and then a game on Saturday, but it is what it is, we've got to do that and get through it and take every possible advantage of it and get better."
It's clear one didn't want to get on Jackson's bad side on Sunday. Click here for more on the feisty practice.
Bradham continuing to improve
- Heading into training camp the weakside linebacker position was one that many people thought would have been more of a battle than it has been. That's not to say rookie Preston Brown or anyone else has done poorly enough to gift the job to another, but third-year player Nigel Bradham has just taken the chance and run with it. Bradham has displayed good quickness and recognition during camp and the preseason games, showing off with solid reps against the run and against a screen on Sunday's practice. Even though he's suspended for the first game, there hasn't been any lingering doubt as to who will get that job when the season opens up.
Don't read into 23 with the 2s
- The past two days of practice free safety Aaron Williams has been getting time on the field with the second-team, paving the way for Duke Williams and Da'Norris Searcy to take all the first-team reps. This could seem peculiar at the start, but don't read anything into it. It's simply a case of the coaching staff wanting other players to familiarize themselves in working with one another ahead of the regular season. If Aaron Williams happens to get injured, they want the transition for the combination of Duke Williams and Searcy to be seamless from a communication perspective. Head coach Doug Marrone added that they have been quite happy with the work that Aaron Williams has done to this point.
Day 15 MVP: WR Sammy Watkins
- Another day, and another pretty outlandish one-handed catch for Sammy Watkins. He even shocked quarterback EJ Manuel with his one grab in team drills. The throw was both behind and high of Watkins, he reached back with his left arm and had it stick to his glove like glue, one-handed. The play drew a big "ooh" and "aah" from the crowd and for good reason. It was likely better than the catch he made earlier in camp that went viral.
Day 15 LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- As camp has progressed it just seems like Thad Lewis is on the wrong page with his receivers more often than anyone else. There are always mixups in communication during a camp, but it's happening with him and resulting in turnovers during team drills at a much higher rate than with any of the other quarterbacks. Perhaps it's the result of him working with second and third-team players, but it's become an alarming regularity.
Up Next: The Bills have Monday off and then resume practice Tuesday morning at 8. Practice will once again be open to the general public.
The Buffalo Bills returned home from North Carolina with their first victory of the preseason and didn't delay themselves from getting back to work. Head coach Doug Marrone elected to take the practice field on the next night in what turned out to be an abbreviated session.
How did the Bills look less than 24 hours removed from the game? Here are some observations from the day:
Lightest practice of camp
- Before the day had begun, Doug Marrone addressed the media and told reporters that Saturday's practice would be a lighter type of day because of the turnaround from the win over the Panthers. He didn't disappoint in that respect, holding to his promise and only making his team go through a practice that lasted one hour and 45 minutes, which is anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes less than an average day for the Bills. The team took the field in helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys and shorts, but were instructed not even to play to a 'thud,' which means just minor contact without anyone hitting the ground. Saturday was a non-contact practice to not only keep the Bills in the proper practice and scheduling habits, but also to not just rest on only the work that was done Friday night in Charlotte. The team hustled off the field and most fans had left St. John Fisher College before it was even 9 pm.
Daily EJ update
- There wasn't too much to dissect for Manuel with a practice that really didn't prove to be all that strenuous. He went through a pair of 7-on-7 drills as well as a couple of 11-on-11s that were mostly nondescript. Through the 7-on-7s, Manuel and the other quarterbacks rarely threw to the outside and mostly just settled for underneath and dump down options. All across the board, you would like to see the quarterbacks take a few more chances in 7-on-7 than they did on Saturday. However, one play of Manuel's sticks out because he didn't tip his hand to the safety. Sammy Watkins ran free with the defense in a zone look, and Manuel froze the safety in his spot knowing Watkins was open before delivering the pass to the rookie. He did not do the same in an 11-on-11 drill later on in the practice, however. Manuel was looking for tight end Scott Chandler over the middle of the field and telegraphed it, which allowed Da'Norris Searcy to jump the play, break it up and tip the ball in the air for his defensive teammate to bring down the interception. The second-year quarterback also chipped in a fade pass to the right sideline to Mike Williams that had the right amount of touch and distance. Williams hauled it in and proved to Manuel once more that he's able to go up and get the ball with the best of them.
Interesting first-team secondary
- Due to the lighter practice, the Bills were likely trying to get significant playing time to some players that don't normally get the opportunity. No changes were more noticeable than what the secondary looked like. Stephon Gilmore resumed his familiar role at right cornerback, but most everything else was different from Wednesday's practice ahead of the Panthers game. This time around, rookie Ross Cockrell was lined up at left cornerback, Corey Graham was the nickel corner, Duke Williams played free safety and Da'Norris Searcy assumed the role of strong safety. Aaron Williams did participate in practice but was with the second team. Don't look too much into these developments, specifically with Aaron Williams, because Saturday could have just served as a practice to keep him a bit more fresh. Cockrell and Graham getting snaps at those positions is good experience for them if the team gets into a bind due to injuries during the regular season.
McClain getting time with the 1s
- The Bills also implemented some different looks on offense as well not only because of the amount of time they had planned on practicing, but because they were also a bit shorthanded from an injury perspective. With starting left guard Chris Williams injured, the Bills used rookie Cyril Richardson and Antoine McClain as the first-team left tackle. Of the two, McClain got the majority of snaps during team drills in what was his biggest chance to date to show the coaching staff that he could help the roster. He had to be disappointed with his day after allowing pressure up the middle in not only the passing game, but also having some runs to his side thwarted because he couldn't sustain his block. As soon as Williams gets back he'll take back the starting duties at left guard. He likely would have regardless of McClain's performance, but now McClain likely won't be pushing for more time based on his chance Saturday.
- Chris Williams (back) was one of a whopping nine players who sat out of the practice due to some sort of injury. He was joined by safety Derek Brim (hip), cornerback Ron Brooks (thigh), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), safety Kenny Ladler (hamstring), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip), safety Jonathan Meeks (neck), tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and linebacker Ty Powell (medical) as those unable to participate in the Saturday session. Many of the names listed as inactive for Saturday's practice have also been mentioned in prior practices as well, so perhaps it was just a rest day for most because of the quick turnaround from the preseason game.
Bills' MVP: HB C.J. Spiller
- The running back got the ball quite a bit during team drills and displayed the same burst and quickness that he had on Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. He has consistently gotten the first reps with the first team before a sub comes in and the same goes for the preseason games as well. He's going to be a big part of the offense that will boast other quality runners.
Bills' LVP: Third-team offense
- In their lone 11-on-11 drill, the Jeff Tuel led squad couldn't muster much of anything against the third-team defense. They were given five plays near the end of practice, and it started off with Alan Branch beating J.J. 'Unga for a sack up the middle. The next play, defensive tackle Damien Jacobs and cornerback Bobby Felder combined for a sack without any blockers around them. Tuel stormed back with two straight dump downs to Evan Rodriguez without spotting anyone open down the field. The five-play stretch was then concluded by defensive end Bryan Johnson beating left tackle Edawn Coughman quite easily for their third sack in five plays.
Up Next: The Bills get back on the practice field on Sunday at 2 pm. The session at St. John Fisher College is open to the general public.
One day removed from their second preseason game of 2014, the Buffalo Bills were greeted by positive news regarding one of their best offensive linemen. Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, who had missed all of training camp due to an undisclosed illness, passed his physical and returned back to the active roster on Saturday.
While some are jumping through hoops and ready to put Glenn back in the lineup immediately, that isn't necessarily the same approach as head coach Doug Marrone and the Bills. In fact, they're using the exact opposite in bringing the left tackle back.
"We're going to take it very, very slowly. I mean, I'm talking about slow to see how he comes back, does on the first couple of days," Marrone stressed. "We'll just do a little bit on the side, a little bit individual. You won't see him participating in any team, not for a while.Then we'll see how he responds because I really don't know."
Glenn had been on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list until the passed physical on Saturday, and has only been able to do work on the side of practices with trainers. With the incumbent left tackle back — and not necessarily a lock to get playing time in the immediate future — some are wondering if seventh-round rookie Seantrel Henderson could move to the right side of the line.
Marrone was quick to thwart the notion.
"Cordy's not back yet," he quickly replied to the idea of moving the rookie. "That's a long time, but, Seantrel can play left tackle in this league."
In fact, the Bills have not yet come to a conclusion on who will be a part of the five-man offensive line to start the season. To this point the only real lock is center Eric Wood, and the tackle discussion is right there in the mix when considering all the options.
"We've got Seantrel ready, Chris Hairston has played," said Marrone speaking about left tackle. "If Cordy comes back and he's at form, then we'll see what's the best combination of five. We're not, both [offensive line coach] Pat [Morris] and I and [offensive coordinator] Nathaniel [Hackett] and I, we haven't solidified that yet."
Glenn was dressed in his helmet, jersey and shoulder pads along with the rest of his teammates. During his first day back, he participated in the walk-thru and indicidual portions of practice.
The wait for starting left tackle Cordy Glenn is over. Just a few hours ahead of the team's practice on Saturday night the Buffalo Bills announced that Glenn has passed his physical and will be placed on the active roster.
To start training camp the left tackle could not participate in practices because of an undisclosed illness, and as a result was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list. Glenn first started missing time during the team's mandatory minicamp in June, but it is not clear if his time missed during that week was directly linked to the ailment that kept him out of practice.
In his stead the Bills employed seventh-round rookie Seantrel Henderson as the left tackle with the first unit, allowing the rookie to show that he can keep up at the position. With Glenn now cleared and on the way back to full playing time Henderson's role will likely shift to either backup left tackle, or he could possibly get a look at another position along the offensive line.
The Bills get back to work on the practice field at 6:00 pm at St. John Fisher College. The practice is open to the general public, but a ticket is necessary for admission.
Only four days removed from their first preseason game of 2014, the Buffalo Bills — and specifically their first-team offense — took the field and found some rhythm in the early stages of the game. The Bills topped the Carolina Panthers 20-18 for their first preseason win, but perhaps even more impressive was the play of the man that most Bills fans were tuning in to see.
Second-year quarterback EJ Manuel has had a rough start to both his training camp and preseason, but some of his efforts — while not perfect — had the offense moving and created some optimism within the fan base for the season. What specifically did he do right, and who else stood out? Here are some observations from the Bills' victory:
Manuel progresses with progressions
- In the opening preseason game the Bills only allowed EJ Manuel to throw the ball on very scripted plays. There weren't many, if any, five-step drops that allowed the young quarterback to scan the field. That limited where he was looking, but also created safe, secure throws to get his feet wet in action. The results weren't exactly sterling from a statistical perspective, but he did show to be crisp and decisive with this particular game plan. Against Carolina, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett elected to loosen the reins a bit, allowing Manuel to drop back, set up in the pocket and diagnose the play as best he could. It wasn't perfect, and there were instances where Manuel did not go through the progressions that a play may have benefitted from him doing so. However, he did at least do so on a handful of plays, including the two biggest pass plays of the game: a 32-yard connection with slot receiver Chris Hogan, as well as the 28-yard jump-ball to Mike Williams. Particularly on the Williams play Manuel dropped back, scanned the field and spotted the wideout in a one-on-one matchup. He stood tall in the pocket, recognized the matchup and didn't hesitate to deliver the ball and allowed Williams to go up and make a play for the team. Many of those things that were just pointed out on that play can be seen on the 'room for improvement' list, which means what the Bills are saying are starting to spread in Manuel's mind a bit. Does he need to do it more often? Yes. Does he need to prove it in an actual game that counts? Absolutely. However, was it a good first step for the second-year quarterback? Considering how 2014 has started in training camp and in the Hall of Fame Game, the answer to that has the be a definitive yes as well.
The four horsemen
- In 2013 the Bills had only two running backs they knew they could depend on: C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Both players suffered an injury at one point or another in the season, and it even made Spiller try to play through a high ankle sprain when they all knew he wasn't the same running back with the ailment. In the offseason the Bills went out and addressed the weakness in depth by signing Anthony Dixon, and then trading for Bryce Brown during the NFL Draft. That depth showed up against Carolina as all four running backs were highlighted for their individual skill-sets. C.J. Spiller had an electric cutback run early in the game, Fred Jackson provided some tough yards, Anthony Dixon punched the ball in from the goal line and Bryce Brown showed he had a little bit of everything. While Dixon's prowess on the goal line was a talking point, the play of Brown was the most impressive of the quartet. He mixed a bit of speed, power and vision and kept defenders off of him while gaining big yardage. Brown was also impressive against the New York Giants, but he really played well against Carolina.
The problems at left guard continue?
- The easiest argument to make from the 2013 season is about the lack of consistency from the left guard position, and how it put the Bills in less than advantageous positions. Colin Brown and Doug Legursky starting at left guard is a thing of the past, though, and the front office in Orchard Park believed they had found the answer to their problems in free agency. Buffalo elected to sign Chris Williams, an unrestricted free agent and former first-round pick, to a fairly lucrative contract considering what his assumed skill level was. On Friday night in Charlotte, Williams had trouble keeping his opponent from making an impact on the game. It isn't a new thing for the team's starting left guard: he's been exposed from time-to-time during training camp practices. It just hasn't been as regular an occurrence as it was when the Brown/Legursky showdown was happening. On one play in the second quarter, Williams completely whiffed on his block and the defensive tackle slipped through to cause chaos in the pocket for Thad Lewis. The quarterback was eventually brought down on the play, and the left guard was to blame. That wasn't the only time Williams slipped up against the Panthers, either. While he wasn't completely at fault, the push at the goal line for two plays in a row went over his gap. The Bills ran Fred Jackson twice to that side and because Williams couldn't help to get a proper push, the team were stopped dead in their tracks instead of giving the first-team offense some much needed confidence with a win in the red zone.
The battle at strong safety
- One of the main competitions for a starting position coming into camp was to play next to Aaron Williams in the defensive secondary, with the combatants being fourth-year player Da'Norris Searcy and second-year player Duke Williams. Before this week, the competition hasn't been what was originally anticipated. Searcy was getting all the first-team reps with Williams only serving as the second-team free safety alongside Jonathan Meeks. That changed this week when Searcy had to go home to take care of a personal matter which allowed Williams to get the first-team snaps for the first time since training camp started, leading to his first start in preseason on Friday. His start wasn't ideal, missing a tackle opportunity in the second level by trying to stop the player suddenly with his arms. He was able to shake off that play and come up with an outstanding stop against the run. Panthers running back Kenjon Barner took a handoff out wide, and in doing so, signaled Williams to rush up the field, fight through a blocker and then bring down the ball carrier for a fantastic individual effort. Searcy played with the second-team defense and got a gift of an interception. Other than that, his play didn't really stand out. Perhaps the positive plays of Williams will earn him some additional time with the first unit and even jumpstart the competition that was supposed to be, but never really was.
Graham vs. Easley
- With the first five spots at wide receiver fairly solidified, it's likely that there is only one spot up for grabs on the 53-man roster. Former third-round pick T.J. Graham and Marcus Easley are both vying to be the last receiver to make the final cut at the end of the month. For most of training camp, the advantage has gone to Easley who has shown to be a bit more consistent on offense than Graham. In the Hall of Fame Game Easley once again was the more impressive between the two, mainly for his work on special teams. On Friday against the Panthers however, it was Graham's first day that he gained some ground back. Easley fell down on a deep throw and Carolina proceeded to pick it off without much distress, while Graham made a very tough contested catch along the sideline and had a quality punt return. It's going to take many more good days for Graham to win that final job, but Friday was certainly a step in the right direction.
Bills' MVP: HB Bryce Brown
- Brown zipped around all over the field against the Panthers' second and third-team defense, averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 11 attempts. He displayed a good mix of speed and power, and then earned rave reviews from head coach Doug Marrone after the game. Marrone told reporters that he believed Brown had what it took to be a future starting running back in the NFL. It likely won't be this year, but the Bills believe in the young, and low-mileage Brown quite a bit.
Bills' LVP: G Chris Williams
- Watching Williams on Friday, you just never got the sense that he was thoroughly comfortable against the Carolina Panthers. While the Panthers boast a very good defensive front with their first unit, the starting left guard even struggled against the backups in the second quarter. Even though he's played poorly at times, it's still quite an upgrade over what they had playing there in 2013.
Up Next: The Bills next take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Saturday, August 15.
- The preseason can mostly be thought of as fool's gold. A player can earn a reputation with a fan base in the preseason and then come nowhere close to those expectations in the regular season. With that said, it was still good to see second-year quarterback EJ Manuel take a minor step forward in his development. It's something many have been waiting to see, and it must inspire some hope in the decision makers at One Bills Drive that he can get to the place that they want him to. However, it is only preseason and he needs to do all these things more consistently and when there is more at stake. Despite that, his performance on Friday against the Panthers was still necessary for both his confidence and development.
CHARLOTTE — Even though the Buffalo Bills pulled out their first victory of the preseason, many that follow the team will surely be happier based on the performance of second-year quarterback EJ Manuel instead.
The Bills' top passer stayed in for three offensive series and not only did he vastly improve his stat line from nearly a week ago, but displayed poise and confidence while working in the pocket. Manuel ended the day completing 9-of-13 passes for 96 yards and took one sack.
While the team's first-team offense didn't get into the end zone against the Carolina Panthers, they didn't turn the ball over to their opponents either.
"Well, I thought they did a nice job, especially EJ," head coach Doug Marrone said. "I think he was nine for 13 and really moved the team. It was up to the people around him to really get the ball in, as I talked about before. We've been creating opportunities and we've got to take advantage of it."
The highlight of Manuel's night was a 28-yard strike to Buffalo-native Mike Williams. The quarterback dropped back deep into the pocket, scanned the field and spotted the veteran Williams in a one-on-one matchup on a post pattern.
Known for his jump-ball prowess, Manuel gave Williams a chance to bring in the reception and the pair came away with the successful attempt.
"Yeah, Mike, that's what he does. He always tells me to have confidence in him to go up and catch the ball and he did a great job doing it," remarked the Bills quarterback. "I thought we did a very good job at executing what we wanted to execute."
Buffalo's first-team defense showed up with an impressive effort for the second straight week during the Bills' 20-18 victory over the Panthers. In two of their three series, the defense allowed only two yards on three plays. Sandwiched in between, though, was a 10-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a circus catch by rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a 29-yard touchdown.
Making his first ever start in the National Football League, Bills safety Duke Williams felt good about the performance of that side of the ball.
"That's what we're supposed to do. When we step out on the field, we expect to get a three-and-out every time," Williams said. "When we don't we're a little disappointed in each other, but we never get down. We bend, but don't break. They scored a touchdown early, but we were able to get off the field on our last possession."
The Benjamin reception was the first catch in the young, first-round pick's career — but he wasn't the only one. Sammy Watkins, the Bills' first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, hauled in his first, second and third reception of the preseason, totaling 21 yards on the evening.
"It was a crazy feeling. I got the butterflies out of the way," said the fourth overall pick of this year's draft. "It felt good to just get my first catch and get the first down. It felt great and I got into the game."
The Bills forged ahead in the second quarter after Anthony Dixon plunged into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown, and didn't look back. The Panthers later turned a Jeff Tuel interception into a successful touchdown, but weren't able to convert on the two-point try, allowing the Bills to maintain their lead. Tuel then connected with wide receiver Chris Summers to extend the lead once more and guarantee the victory.
The Panthers rallied late and scored a touchdown to bring them within two points and then even recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt with under two minutes to play. Their attempts were thwarted by a late interception by safety Jonathan Meeks, which sent the Bills home with the win.
Da'Norris Searcy also had an interception for Buffalo, while Jarius Wynn, Corbin Bryant and rookie Randell Johnson each chipped in a sack in the winning effort.
Carolina played the game without two of their best players at the start, with both quarterback Cam Newton and defensive end Charles Johnson sitting out due to their respective injuries on a list of 10 total players that were unable to participate. The Bills declared only five of their players inactive, giving cornerback Leodis McKelvin, safety Kenny Ladler, tackle Cordy Glenn, safety Derek Brim and tackle Edawn Coughman the night off from the game due to injury.
Buffalo gets right back to work on Saturday night with their 14th practice of training camp at St. John Fisher College. Their next preseason game isn't for another eight days, when the go on the road once again and take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
CHARLOTTE -- The Buffalo Bills are approaching their second preseason game, but they'll be a little shorthanded due to some lingering injuries from both the offseason and training camp. When the Bills take the field at Bank of America Stadium to go up against the Carolina Panthers, four players on the active roster will not be available.
The team announced that cornerback Leodis McKelvin, safety Kenny Ladler, tackle Edawn Coughman and safety Derek Brim will not play against the Panthers on Friday night. Tackle Cordy Glenn will also be unavailable, but he has not been activated off the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list to this point, and is not a member of the active roster.
The Bills suffered two injuries on Wednesday afternoon, the team's final practice session of the week before the upcoming contest, when defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (hamstring) and safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) each had to leave the practice early. It is unknown how much playing time they will get in this game, if they get any at all.
Keep checking back for more as it becomes available.
Only four days removed from their last preseason contest, the Buffalo Bills are back at work when they take on the Carolina Panthers on Friday evening. It will be the second chance for EJ Manuel and the first-team offense to move the ball a bit more than they did last week, but it all depends on how the coaching staff approaches it.
It's the first preseason game for the Panthers, so we're not likely to see their starting units all that long. Some of which — namely, Cam Newton — may not even play at all. Which story lines are there for Bills' fans to keep a keen eye on? As always, here are five things to watch for in the upcoming contest.
1) EJ's time and responsibilities
- Following the loss to the New York Giants, fans were likely disappointed by two separate things: the little amount of time quarterback EJ Manuel had on the field, and, how little production the offense seemed to muster with the starting signal caller in the game. That leads to the biggest questions for the next game: how long will head coach Doug Marrone keep Manuel in the game against the Panthers, and will he be able to bounce back and show a bit better to the eyes of many? While his first exhibition contest wasn't as much of a failure as some made it out to be — Manuel actually did well in both decisiveness and giving his receivers a chance to make a play — he still could have looked better in the process considering how much time on the field they've had already at training camp. Marrone may decide that the upcoming game is essentially preseason tilt number 1B, giving Manuel a similar amount of time (two drives) on the field as he did Sunday. The preference for many would be to give him additional time with the top unit, inspire some confidence and try to shake off the noticeable rust that was seen on both Tuesday and Wednesday at practice. He must rid himself of the indecisiveness he portrayed this week at practice and also show that he can go through his progressions in a game setting. These are very important facets to his game that he should improve on ahead of the regular season.
2) Will Cyrus and Seantrel bounce back?
- The offensive line has continued to be a question mark all throughout training camp with numerous positions in flux. Two of the main additions through the draft, second-round tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and seventh-round tackle Seantrel Henderson, have struggled over the course of the past week. For Kouandjio, his preseason debut couldn't have gone much worse in his opening series of work. He evened out a little bit as the game wore on, but once again at practice he was playing a bit too unbalanced and the defensive line was able to take advantage. On the other hand Henderson was solid in his preseason debut, playing into the third quarter to maintain some quality repetitions against different opponents. When he got back on the practice field this week, however, he took a major step back. Jerry Hughes had his number on both Tuesday and Wednesday, constantly making his presence felt in the backfield. The Bills need Henderson to get back to how he was playing fairly quickly in the event that Cordy Glenn has to miss any time in the regular season.
3) Second-team run defense
- The first-team defense was one of the big highlights for the Bills during the Hall of Fame Game. They didn't surrender any ground to the first-team offense and even forced a turnover with all the pressure they brought on Eli Manning. Once they exited the field, the floodgates opened up for New York on the ground. The rookie linebacking duo of Preston Brown and Randell Johnson, both of which residing on the second-team defense, had a night to forget in their preseason debut. Brown was getting gobbled up by blockers and Johnson was taking poor angles to the ball carrier time and time again. The two had to cringe a bit during their film review of the game, but they can only learn from it and grow. It would be fair to expect a bit of a smarter approach to the upcoming game in Carolina and potentially better results after getting their feet wet last weekend.
4) Possible big opportunity for Duke Williams
- The Bills excused safety Da'Norris Searcy from Wednesday's practice to take care of a personal matter and have said that they're unsure if they'll have him back for the game on Friday evening. Through the first 13 practices at training camp, there has been no competition for the starting job at strong safety — it's been all Searcy since the start. Second-year player Duke Williams, who has been short on opportunities with the first-team defense, might see an ample amount of time on the field if Searcy is not back with the team in time. He had a thundering hit during the team's first preseason game, and really made a quality play in stuffing Anthony Dixon at the goal line during Wednesday's practice. While Searcy has shown to be limited in coverage, Williams does not have those same limitations but does lack the overall experience that the former brings to the team. A strong showing with the first team could help Williams get into the mix a bit more for the starting job.
5) Hogan vs. Woods
- The biggest surprise of the game against the Giants was not how little EJ Manuel played, but how nonexistent Robert Woods was with the first-team offense. When the team went to three wide receiver sets, Chris Hogan came into the game to run with the ones, leaving Woods over on the sidelines to stew. The trend continued over the past two days of practice at St. John Fisher College, leading up to one of the strongest days Woods has had in training camp this year. On Wednesday Woods was catching everything in sight, and perhaps more noticeable than anything, he was playing with a bit of an edge. Perhaps the Bills were trying to send a message to Woods to cut the complacency and keep the edgy and motivated demeanor that helped him become a solid part of the passing game as a rookie. He is clearly a more talented player than Hogan and everything this offseason pointed to Woods having a big role in the 2014 offense. If Woods gets more time on the field Friday night, perhaps Marrone was just attempting to motivate a player on his team the best way that he knew how to.
Just when you thought you had the sale of the Buffalo Bills all figured out, new entrants get thrown into the mix.
According to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, the Bills have up to eight suitors that are scheduled to meet with the estate of Ralph Wilson, Jr.. While the exact number is not known, it is more than the three bidders that have been confirmed to have submitted nonbinding bids ahead of the July 29 deadline.
While it was earmarked for quite some time as the first big day of the sale, as it turns out the deadline was flexible. As the Bills are a privately owned entity, they can change deadlines as they see fit, which led to the flexibility of allowing other groups to indicate their interest.
The three parties that have been mentioned since July 29 have been Terry and Kim Pegula, the Toronto-based group led by Jon Bon Jovi and Donald Trump. While that trio has been identified, the names of other persons or groups have yet to be in more than a speculative manner.
There has been at least some speculation regarding two others that could possibly have interest in the team. There is the Los Angeles-based hedgefund manager Jeffrey Gundlach, who has ties to western New York, along with Pabst Blue Ribbon owner C. Dean Metropoulos.
It is unclear if these are two of the 'mystery' groups that have advanced to the next stage. A part of that next stage, though, will be the aforementioned in-person meetings that will take place over the next three weeks, some of which in the Detroit area. Trump has already gone through the process, and the Pegulas will meet with the trust next week in New York City, according to Graham's report.
The Buffalo Bills are now 13 days into training camp and some of the same problems have lingered throughout the duration of practices. Outside of a few days, the starting offensive unit of the Bills have struggled to establish themselves against their own teammates.
Wednesday was no exception for the first unit, failing to reach the level of consistency most teams are looking for by this point in an individual training camp. So what is the overwhelming problem? It all starts with the player that touches the ball each and every play.
EJ's struggles continue
- The same EJ Manuel that was seen during Tuesday's practice reappeared on Wednesday. For the second straight day, Manuel was apprehensive, indecisive and mostly inaccurate. His most common course of action on any given play was to look for his first read to be open, pat the ball in the pocket and either take a sack or throw an inaccurate pass. The inconsistency in going through his progressions has to be the most maddening part for the coaching staff. If the light goes on, Manuel could be a different quarterback and find more comfort and poise in the pocket. On Wednedsay Jeff Tuel was throwing the ball a bit crisper and was going through his progressions, but don't read anything into that fact. The Bills won't even consider benching Manuel in the early going, no matter how Tuel looks throughout training camp and the preseason.
Woods with an edge
- In a peculiar action on Sunday, the Bills didn't use wide receiver Robert Woods with the first team in their first preseason game. Whatever message that delivered to Woods seemed to have worked on Wednesday at practice. The wideout was playing with a bit of an angry streak, but in a good way. You could just tell by his body language early on in the practice that he was just a bit agitated, and that appeared to be the best way to motivate him. He came out and had one of his best practices of training camp so far with multiple difficult catches in traffic. He saved the best for last, making a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone with the cornerback draped all over him. It's unknown to this point how head coach Doug Marrone will use him on Friday, but they should continue to motivate Woods in a similar way… because it worked.
- The past two days of practice have not been kind to starting tight end Scott Chandler. Dropped passes plagued Chandler's return to practice on Tuesday and he added another three on Wednesday as well. He's been a solid target in the past and his hands have never really been a huge issue since he's been with the organization. Perhaps it's a case of him trying to play catch-up with the offense and his teammates after missing a few days of practice and the first preseason game due to a groin injury. Whatever the case may be, Chandler needs to ditch this newfound habit… and quickly. Lee Smith has been healthy, he's a better blocker and has had a solid camp so far. Smith isn't really a serious competitor to be the starter, but he has been quite consistent at St. John Fisher College to this point.
Landon Cohen making waves
- For those that kept the television on all the way through the second half of the Hall of Fame Game, most took notice of a player that was relatively anonymous to a good number of fans before the contest. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen was consistently winning his matchups against the Giants and has also been doing similar things during training camp. On Wednesday, he had an impressive rep against rookie guard Cyril Richardson where he bull-rushed the offensive lineman for two steps, then did a quick spin and got upfield past his man and into the backfield. Cohen does have some experience at the NFL level, so perhaps it wasn't just a bottom of the roster type of signing. If his play continues he might be one of those players no one expected, that could push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Live goal line
- The Bills concluded their shortened week of practice with a four-play, live goal line session to get the players at least a little familiar with hitting before they played in their second preseason game. In one of the few successful offensive plays in the red zone area, Fred Jackson plunged forward over the left side of the line of scrimmage from the two-yard line and got into the end zone. On the next play, it was Anthony Dixon's turn to try and find pay dirt. The run play was designed to go to the right side and second-year safety Duke Williams read it beautifully. The big-hitting safety met Dixon at the line of scrimmage and didn't surrender any ground, waiting for teammates to come stop the play in full. On the third play, the second-team offense trotted on to the field and once again they tried a running play. Fullback Evan Rodriguez took a handoff over the left guard, but there was no push up front and all that happened was a big pile that kept him out of the end zone. On the fourth play, the Bills' lone pass attempt, Jeff Tuel took the snap and turned left, only to find defensive end Manny Lawson free right in front of him. The play was dead right there. Yet again, defense reigned supreme on the Bills' practice field.
Day 13 MVP: DE Jerry Hughes
- The day's most valuable and least valuable are tied into one another. Starting defensive end Jerry Hughes was consistently in the backfield for sack after sack, and blowing up run plays all the same. He couldn't be blocked on Wednesday and the Bills' offense, who were busy trying to install their offense, didn't offer any help to the man he was beating so soundly all day long. That man? Well, he's the least valuable player.
Day 13 LVP: OT Seantrel Henderson
- For the second straight day, the rookie left tackle getting reps in place of Cordy Glenn could not get a hold on how to slow down Hughes. Seantrel Henderson was beaten time, after time, after time, after time. He's had a strong effort in training camp through the first 11 days, and even showed quite well against the New York Giants on Sunday. He needs to take the last two practices and put them deep in his pocket, never to be seen or heard from again. He'll get plenty of time on the field on Friday night, because he could be playing a significant role for the team if Glenn cannot get back on the field in time for the regular season.
Up Next: The Bills will travel to Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, leading up to their second preseason game of 2014. They'll take on the Carolina Panthers Friday night at 7:30 pm.
A hamstring injury has claimed another member of the Buffalo Bills the day before they leave for their next preseason game. After going through the paces at Wednesday's practice, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus had to be limited in the latter part of the session after he sustained an injury to his hamstring.
While his status for Friday's contest is unknown the Bills had a similar situation occur last Friday, the day before they left for Canton, Ohio and the Hall of Fame Game. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin injured his hamstring and was held out of the game against the New York Giants because of it.
The Bills were also without four players participating in practice. Leodis McKelvin (hip), Da'Norris Searcy, Doug Legursky (back) and Edawn Coughman (oblique) all did not practice Wednesday, leaving their status for Friday night in doubt. Searcy was excused from Wednesday's practice for personal reasons, with his status for their upcoming preseason game being up in the air as well.
Safeties Derek Brim and Kenny Ladler, along with tight end Tony Moeaki all participated in the individual drills, but did not take any snaps during team drills.
The Bills take on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm.
When the Buffalo Bills opened up their preseason schedule on Sunday with a loss to the New York Giants, they likely hoped to get back on the practice field this week and attempt to fix the mistakes they made. As the team returned to the turf at St. John Fisher College, the rust that was evident against the Giants resided with them through Tuesday night.
It was not a sharp practice for a few different parties up and down the Bills roster — specifically on the offensive side of the ball. While there were a couple of defensive standouts, the session was mostly dominated by the poor performance from the side of the ball employed to score points.
Just like in Canton, EJ never got going
- EJ Manuel's day in Canton was overblown by some, but his performance on Tuesday did not inspire much confidence for his first time back on the field since. During the team's first preseason game Manuel never really got into the flow of the game and ended up with his now well-known and, well, poor stat line. As noted by WGR following the contest, Manuel's decisiveness during the game was one of his strong points, regardless of how the plays turned out. That all but vanished on Tuesday outside a handful of instances, often times waiting too long for his read to come open. One of his biggest enemies has been standing back for too long and patting the ball, eventually settling for either the dump-off option or for a quarterback scramble. It's borderline inexcusable to tuck the ball and run during a 7-on-7 drill where there is no pass rush, which is what Manuel has done on many occasions. The shots down the field on go routes are worked into the game plan and he's taught to take the shot if there is single coverage. Outside of that, though, he needs to get out of his comfort zone and fit the ball into tight windows, or else he'll just continue to settle for the small stuff. Teams will figure that out quite quickly.
Offensive line blues
- Manuel had his share of struggles in the pocket, but in no way was he helped out by the starting contingent of offensive linemen that were on the field Tuesday. Of the five starters, only Eric Wood had a fairly positive and consistent day, while left tackle Seantrel Henderson, left guard Chris Williams, right guard Kraig Urbik and right tackle Erik Pears all gave up ground to their opponent, granting the defense penetration to thwart whatever play was coming their way. Williams couldn't seem to get his footing and was dominated by Marcell Dareus whenever the two were matched up. The struggles of Urbik continued as well, which is a great indication of why the Bills are looking all over the roster to find his replacement in the starting lineup. No one on the offensive line had a worse day than Henderson, however, but we'll get back to him in just a bit.
Tuel the favorite for backup duty?
- While there may be some talk of a natural rotation with the backup quarterbacks, there was a definitive change in how the repetitions were divvied between Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis. Before Tuesday, either Tuel or Lewis would get a set of snaps with the second team in the first portion of team drills. Once the Bills returned to their team drills after some other work, whoever did not get the second-team snaps the first time around would then receive them. On Tuesday, there was no such rotation. Tuel, the second-year undrafted free agent, received every single second-team snap during team drills during the Bills' most recent practice. It isn't any surprise, due to Lewis being downright dreadful in both practices and the team's first preseason game. Tuel has a definitive leg up on the competition now, and could possibly lock it up with a week or two more of quality performances.
Richardson's reps continue
- The right guard competition has been well-documented and the rotation that was seen at the end of last week has continued even after the first preseason game. Kraig Urbik once again split first-team snaps with fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson and it doesn't appear there is any end in sight for that current setup. While team drills were going on, whoever was not in with the first-team on a given rep stands next to offensive line coach Pat Morris and prepares for his next set of snaps. The Bills have now tried J.J. 'Unga, Chris Hairston and now Richardson to try and replace Urbik as the starting right guard. Actions speak louder than words, and Urbik needs to cling onto his job with every nail that he has.
Is Hogan a lock?
- A surprising development from the game on Sunday was in regards to wide receiver Robert Woods not being a part of the first-team offense in any capacity. Instead, the starting receivers were Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and camp standout Chris Hogan played slot receiver with EJ Manuel and company. While Woods received some reps with EJ Manuel on Tuesday, Hogan was once again the player mainly residing as the slot receiver with the first team. It was an accepted notion that four of the wide receiver spots on the roster were spoken for with Watkins, Williams, Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Now, that number may need to be bumped up to five. Chris Hogan has done mostly everything right and the coaches have taken notice in a big way.
Day 12 MVP: DT Marcell Dareus
- Most of the recap was consisting of updates on offense because their poor performance was the story of the session. However, Marcell Dareus had a gem of a practice in his domination of the team's interior offensive line, and namely, left guard Chris Williams. The defensive tackle continued to rip through the line during team drills on both running and passing plays. His mix of power, balance and speed was far too much for Williams and company to contain Tuesday.
Day 12 LVP: OT Seantrel Henderson
- The rookie left tackle played well on Sunday against the New York Giants, but he had a rookie type of performance in their first practice back. Henderson failed to execute on his assignments, being the main contributor to EJ Manuel taking a sack at least two times. One on play, Henderson inexplicably went to block the inside man while defensive end Manny Lawson went unblocked and unexcitedly walked into the backfield. The run game wasn't much of a success for Henderson (or for the rest of the starting offensive line, really), either. He has been the strongest rookie offensive lineman so far for Buffalo, but Tuesday needs to be chalked up as a down day.
Up Next: The Bills return to the practice field one more time before their next preseason game. They're scheduled to practice at 2 pm on Wednesday. The session is open to the general public.
Two days removed from their first preseason game of 2014 the Buffalo Bills received some good news ahead of Tuesday's practice: their three offensive skill players that missed the New York Giants contest would be getting back on the field.
The Bills welcomed back wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, tight end Scott Chandler and tight end Tony Moeaki back to the practice field from short-term injuries. Goodwin was the most recent of the trio to suffer an injury, hurting his hamstring just a day before the Bills traveled to Canton, Ohio for the Hall of Fame Game. The wide receiver got back on the field and was limited during team drills.
As for Chandler and Moeaki, they have each contributed to the tight end position being quite shorthanded for the past week of practice. It first started with Moeaki's hamstring injury that happened in concert with Chris Gragg having a bout with heat cramps. Days later, Chandler injured his groin and wasn't able to participate in practice through the weekend.
Chandler was back working in team drills, which represented a good sign for his full return to the field. He later told the team's official website that he would play in the team's next preseason game on Friday.
On the other hand Moeaki did not participate in team drills on Tuesday, instead only doing the individual portion of the practice and then heading to the locker room. The Bills said after practice that that had been the plan for the tight end all along.
The team was also without three players able to participate at practice: cornerback Leodis McKelvin, center Doug Legursky and safety Derek Brim. McKelvin is still limited from his offseason hip procedure and hasn't participated in team drills in over a week, Legursky is said to have a back injury and the undrafted free agent rookie Brim also has a hip injury.
In addition to those three, reserve offensive tackle Edawn Coughman had to leave the practice due to a strained oblique. He had been taking second-team snaps at left tackle behind Seantrel Henderson.
The Bills have one more practice session before they travel to Charlotte on Thursday. They'll take the field Wednesday afternoon at 2 pm, preparing for their second preseason game on Friday night versus the Carolina Panthers.
The Buffalo Bills are getting closer to the unveiling of the newly renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium to the general public. The team allowed WGR Sports Radio 550 have a sneak peak to see just how far along they are with a little under three weeks to go before the first preseason game. Click through to see all the images!
Over the weekend, Jon Bon Jovi wrote an open letter to the fans through The Buffalo News to declare that he was committed to making sure the Bills stay successful in Buffalo. According to the newest report, the trust overseeing the sale of the franchise needs a little bit more than that.
According to John Kryk of The Toronto Sun, the Toronto-based group led by Bon Jovi have been permitted by the Bills to resubmit their initial nonbinding bid for the team, one that will likely be a bit higher than their original offer.
Citing sources with knowledge of the situation, Kryk reported that the group's first nonbinding bid submitted to the trust was actually rejected by Morgan Stanley, the financial firm selected to handle this stage of the sale. The new nonbinding bid will likely be between $1 billion and $1.1 billion.
In addition to the heightened bid the Toronto-based group, that also includes Larry Tanenbaum of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment and Edward Rogers of Rogers Communication, must provide "greater assurances," that their plan is to keep the team in the Buffalo area for the longhaul.
According to Kryk, the bid is expected to be resubmitted by the end of Tuesday. If it is not, or if it is deemed to be below what the trust calls for in this part of the sale process, the trio's chances of successfully owning the franchise will be dead.
Both Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and Donald Trump have each advanced to the next stage of the sale process, in which they will be vetted by both Morgan Stanely and the National Football League. According to reports, they are the only two to qualify for the next stage at this point in time.
The vetting will begin shortly after the finalists have been fully identified by the trust of Ralph Wilson, which could lead to the final, binding bids being due on or around the start of September. The current goal is to have a new owner picked and in place to be ratified by the upcoming owner's meeting on October 7 and 8.
The preseason is finally here and the Buffalo Bills have one game officially under their belts. While there was quite a bit of rust that needed to be kicked off, the team brought both positive and negative plays to the table for their first contest.
Who stood out for positive play and who needs a better preseason game number two on Friday? Here are some reactions from the game that was:
It wasn't great, it wasn't terrible… EJ's day just was.
- The anticipation for EJ Manuel's first game of the 2014 preseason was in full force with many hoping that he would eradicate the negative aspects of his game in one fell swoop. Those hoping for that type of day likely weren't satisfied by his 2-of-7 performance that resulted in just 19 total passing yards. Despite the statistics, there was at least a pair of good things that came from Manuel's performance. First, he was decisive on Sunday. Of the many things his coaches are trying to instill in him for the upcoming season, having that trait is distinctly among them. He also gave Mike Williams the chance to make a play on a jump ball in the end zone, another need area for him to progress. The other pockets of his game that beg for improvement are still a work in progress, however. They limited his time in the pocket during his two possessions and he got the ball out rather quickly. The problem, though, is the defense read him pretty easily on three separate occasions. The defensive line of the Giants batted down two passes and the defense very nearly intercepted one attempt when the Bills were knocking on the door deep in New York territory. So, as the title of the paragraph indicates, it wasn't his best or worst day…. it was just a day.
Woods doesn't play with the 1s
- One of the more intriguing aspects of the game was in regards to the usage of Robert Woods. Coming into training camp, the second-year wideout was thought to be one of the key contributors to the Bills on offense and the running mate to rookie Sammy Watkins. Except, that wasn't the case on Sunday night. Mike Williams got the start along with Watkins and camp standout Chris Hogan took reps in the slot, relegating Woods to duties with the second-team offense. This could just be a case of getting other players looks with different teammates, but for it to come in their first preseason game is something worth monitoring as the next few practices come and go. It even took EJ Manuel by surprise, saying as much when he was asked about it after the contest. When Woods was in the game though, he made his presence felt with a few catches and the team's lone touchdown. All eyes will be on the wide receiver rotation in the next two days of practice and the upcoming game with the Carolina Panthers.
Bradham shines versus the run
- From what it looked like in his three defensive series on the field, Nigel Bradham is doing quite well in his role as the team's starting weakside linebacker. The Giants ran the ball for most the time that Bradham was on the field, and it seemed like the third-year linebacker was always around the carrier to bring him down. The weakside linebacker is a role that is a very high profile one in Jim Schwartz's defense and the Bills have been speaking in a glowing manner about Bradham since training camp has begun. Despite the one-game suspension he's facing at the beginning of the season, Bradham looks primed to be the team's starter barring an injury or an unexpected string of poor performances.
Tuel the second-team quarterback
- The battle to be the backup to EJ Manuel is on and Jeff Tuel was the surprise second entrant into the team's game against the Giants. The second-year, former undrafted player has been splitting second-team series with Thad Lewis during training camp, and he's apparently outperformed Lewis to the point where he was the man getting the second-team reps versus New York Sunday. After a so-so performance by the first-team offense, Tuel entered the game, hit a few passes and started building some enthusiasm into their offensive output. Despite his interception, which was more of a bad luck deflection than anything, Tuel had a relatively solid day going up against the second and third-team defense of the Giants. And more importantly, he outperformed Lewis yet again due to another poorly thrown turnover by the latter. Lewis is losing this competition with each day he continues to play below Tuel's level.
Seantrel has solid debut
- It was a bit surprising when after the game head coach Doug Marrone said that rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson had a lot of work to do as an offensive tackle in the league, because from the press box perspective it seemed as though Henderson was having a solid debut. He looked under control and thwarted the efforts of Jason Pierre-Paul on the few series that they were matched up. The Bills even gave Henderson an extended look on the field, playing him into the second half to give him some additional experience rather than having him come out with the other starting players. Despite what Marrone said, it looked like Henderson had a good debut given that he's a seventh-round pick. If there's one thing for certain, he was infinitely better than the other tackle the team drafted in 2014.
Kouandjio has anything but
- When Marrone made his comment about Henderson, he was also asked about second-round pick and rookie tackle Cyrus Kouandjio at the same time, and he felt the same way about both of those players. Kouandjio certainly deserved that criticism after an abysmal start to his professional career. The second-round pick entered the game at right tackle with the second-team offense and promptly had two plays blow up in the backfield due to his poor execution. The first, Kouandjio misidentified who he was supposed to block and ended up taking on the same defender out wide as right guard Kraig Urbik, leaving the inside wide open for the run play to be stuffed. On the next play, Kouandjio's balance wasn't there and defensive end Damontre Moore made him look absolutely inept for an easy sack of Jeff Tuel. After Kouandjio ran off the field, offensive line coach Pat Morris immediately went and spoke with his rookie tackle to try and calm him down because it was really the roughest of rough starts. On his next series, he played with a bit more poise and control, but still wasn't as effective as Henderson. Kouandjio has had a rough training camp and start to his professional career, but the Bills are in no position to give up on a player with as much talent as they saw in him at Alabama. He's just a bit more raw than they were expecting.
Bills' MVP: DT Kyle Williams
- The biggest play of the game in favor of the Bills was from the doing of one of their best players, and one of their defensive mainstays. Kyle Williams whipped around his man and got to Eli Manning for the sack and forced the fumble all in one play. The Bills were able to recover and were in fantastic position to put the ball in the end zone all because the disruptive Williams was able to have his way again, just as he has so many times in his career.
Bills' LVP: CB Michael Carter
- No one person is to blame for the preseason loss because so many players made their way on to the field on Sunday. However, one play put the Giants up on the scoreboard for good, and it was a very long play that did it. Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib saw wideout Corey Washington beat Bills cornerback Michael Carter deep down the right sideline and was able to feed it to his target for a 73-yard touchdown. Carter, who has struggled at camp with both coverage and in not being able to avoid the temptation of grabbing the jersey of receivers, didn't see the field again after that bad, bad beat.
Up Next: The Bills travel to Carolina for their second preseason game. They'll take on the Panthers on Friday night.
- It's still early into the process for the preseason and the Bills have more time than any team to work out all the kinks. It appeared as though their first-team defense was solid for the entirety of their time on the field, and now it's about getting EJ Manuel to the point in which they believe he's ready to win them games in bunches. He's not there yet, but the team believes he can get there. It's one very small step in the long journey that will end at the conclusion of the month of August. However, the Bills have their feet wet and now are on the same playing field as the rest of the National Football League: four more preseason tilts until the games start to mean something.
CANTON, Ohio — Under the lights of Fawcett Stadium and under the microscope of the National Football League and the annual Hall of Fame Game, EJ Manuel's first official game in 2014 came to a halt without any stark plays from one side to the other.
Manuel, the second-year quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, was given the first two offensive series by Doug Marrone to see what he could do. The former first-round pick led two short drives and came away with a mediocre stat line and led his team to three points.
"The performances was not good enough for a win, and we've got to get better," Marrone said of Manuel and the rest of his team. "All of them."
Manuel completed his first pass attempt of the evening to Lee Smith, an 8-yard gain right in between the hashmarks to signal the middle of the field. From there, Manuel missed on a deep throw to rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins and had his next attempt batted down at the line of scrimmage by Mathias Kiwanuka.
A Bills fumble recovery set Manuel and the first-team offense up at the 22-yard line of the New York Giants. The second-year quarterback had one 11-yard completion marred by another batted down pass and one that almost resulted in an interception in the end zone, ending Manuel's day at 2-of-7 for 19 yards.
"We're still gonna look at the film. I'm still gonna critique what I need to critique. I thought I did a pretty good job when I was in. I thought the first unit, we did what we had to do," Manuel said, summing up his performance. "I think if it was a point where Coach wanted us to continue to play and show what we needed to show, he would have done that. But I think he knows that being that it's our first game and we have another one coming up soon, I'm sure we'll get some more run coming up next week."
The Bills' second in command for the evening, second-year quarterback Jeff Tuel, came into the game against the Giants' second-team defense and got the offense moving for the first time of the night.
Over three series to end the first half, Tuel completed 12-of-17 passes for 74 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He has been in a battle with Thad Lewis to be the second-string quarterback during training camp, and got the nod in the team's first foray into the preseason schedule.
As for the rest of the team, the Bills fell victim to a 17-13 loss from the hands of the Giants to complete the annual contest staged just behind the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Robert Woods claimed the team's first and only touchdown off the arm of Tuel, Dan Carpenter had two field goals, but it wasn't enough as New York used a 73-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib to wide receiver Corey Washington to take the lead for good.
"We had an opportunity to win the game and didn't. That's the one thing we've got to do, we've got to win football games," Marrone said. "I'm glad we have five [preseason games]. I'm glad we've got some time to get better. But make no mistake about it, when we go out there it doesn't really matter to me whether it's player A or player Z at the bottom of the roster. For me, we have to win as a team no matter what we do."
Although a turnover set them up close to the Giants' end zone early on in the game which resulted in a field goal, the Bills squandered two separate opportunities in the red zone to put points on the board. Both Tuel and Lewis threw an interception the end zone that changed the course of the game and gave New York possession at their own 20-yard line.
The debut for one of the most highly anticipated rookies in the NFL this year was a quiet one to say the least. The Bills' first-round pick, Watkins, was targeted twice but came away from the contest without a reception.
The rookie said nerves were not among his feelings ahead of the game.
"Oh not at all. Once I'm on the field and have two or three plays, I'm fine," Watkins remarked. "I wish I could have got a ball and got tackled, then it would have been out the window. I can't wait to catch a ball and get hit."
It was also a special evening for the Bills as an organization, seeing former wide receiver and Hall of Fame inductee Andre Reed get honored in front of the packed house at Fawcett Stadium one more time. The coin toss also had a Bills feel to it as well, with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly doing the honors.
"It was everything," Manuel said of watching Kelly flip the coin. "Just to see him out here and to see he was doing a lot better was awesome."
Among those not in the lineup for the Bills on Sunday were cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (hip), Leodis McKelvin (hip), tight ends Scott Chandler (groin), Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. The Bills have a short week of practice before going back on the road to take on the Carolina Panthers Friday night.
Nearing their first preseason game of 2014, the Buffalo Bills have declared five players unavailable in the Hall of Fame Game versus the New York Giants. The Bills will be without cornerback Leodis McKelvin, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, tight end Tony Moeaki, tight end Scott Chandler and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin during Sunday's contest.
Three out of that contingent of five suffered injuries over the course of the past week at training camp on the field at St. John Fisher College. While their timetables for return are unclear, Moeaki (hamstring), Chandler (groin) and Goodwin (hamstring) will not dress due to those ailments.
Gilmore and McKelvin each had offseason hip procedures and have been limited at camp in varying degrees. Gilmore has taken some team reps through the past week, but did not participate during Friday's practice. McKelvin, on the other hand, has not taken a snap in team drills over the past week.
The Bills and Giants kick things off in Canton, Ohio at 8 pm.
Upon the completion of their 11th practice of training camp at St. John Fisher College the Buffalo Bills were mum on their plans for their starting players, including quarterback EJ Manuel. The second-year player is entering a crucial season not only for his development but for the team's as well, and Sunday marks his first time on the field in 2014 against live opponents.
While some would prefer the Bills to limit their plans for Manuel in the team's first preseason game of the year, but that doesn't appear to be in the plans. According to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, Manuel is expected to play "well into" the first quarter, while New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is only expected to get a series or two.
The Bills are up against the Giants in this year's version of the Hall of Fame Game, an annual contest between two teams right behind the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The two sides are scheduled to kick off the preseason schedule at 8pm in front of a national television audience.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement is a special moment for all that get the honor of unveiling their bust as members of the game's elite. As promised, Buffalo Bills greats Jim Kelly and Andre Reed provided something that made for one of the most memorable moments for Bills fans everywhere.
Leading up, there were only rumors to that point, even some fans chanting "one more pass," in hopes that the two link up one more time on one of the grandest stages of them all. Kelly wouldn't commit anything before the ceremony, but did tease that something was on the way.
"I know we have a little special thing at the end with Andre, so I'm looking forward to that," he said. "Just to have this many people here already and all the people we've seen near the hotel since I've been here, it doesn't surprise me that Buffalo Bill fans are here in full force."
And to put it bluntly, they delivered.
After Reed spent over 30 minutes thanking all those that helped him get to this point in his life, Reed ran to the far end of the stage, raised his arms and asked for one more pass from the man who delivered so many over the course of his career. Jim Kelly reared back, sent one Reed's way and made for a moment that won't soon be forgotten.
Kelly, who is in an extremely public fight against cancer, made it so that he would be in attendance for Reed the way that his wide receiver of so many years supported him when he got the call to the Hall. Despite his physical conditions, despite the toll it would take on his body… the former Bills quarterback wouldn't have it any other way.
"I don't know how important it is, but in my mind, it was a must," Kelly remarked. "For me, I know I have something small to do with him being here, but Andre's my man. He's the reason I'm wearing this gold jacket because of all the great catches he had and all the things did with his career. It's a blessing that he's here today."
The Hall of Fame quarterback admitted that he was feeling a little tired from all of the events, driving up and down the state of Ohio as part of the weekend's festivities. Predictably, Kelly refused to complain and said that he's doing alright.
No matter where you turn at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio — essentially in the backyard of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — you'll see a Bills jersey before too long. Fans came in droves to see Reed finally realize his dream of so many, many years and to live in the glory days one more time.
And when Kelly came into view, a few chanted the words "Kelly tough, Kelly tough." It's a saying that has made many waves due to Kelly's present condition and how positive he's been even through all the radiation and chemotherapy he's had to endure.
"It means a lot," he said of the fans chanting 'Kelly tough.' "'Kelly tough' might be one thing as far as a physical part. But the mental part for all those people out there that are suffering something similar that I am, it's the people around them that make the toughness come out. That's for me, that's how it's been. I've known I've always been physically tough, but the mental toughness is another thing. I've had so many great people behind me, not only just my family, but all the people in Buffalo. So I couldn't ask for anything better."
But as Kelly insisted, it's not about him. Saturday, August 2, 2014 is about one man that donned the jersey of the Buffalo Bills in the early 90s — Andre Reed. Reed took out roughly three minutes of his speech to talk about Kelly.
"I was known for my toughness going across the middle, making that catch, breaking tackles. But the toughest individual I've ever met in my life is Jim Kelly, number 12," the wide receiver began. "You're an inspiration to all those you touch. I'm honored to call you my teammate, my friend and my family member. And now, my fellow Hall of Famer. "
The two even had a running joke that they shared with all those in attendance and watching all over the world. One that served perhaps as a preview of what was to come.
"We always joked about when I would say every time I left the huddle whether it was a run or pass play, 'Right here, bro.' I said that every time. I didn't care if it was a run or a pass... I was open," Reed said.
It didn't even matter if it was at the Hall of Fame Enshrinement, Reed was open. And Kelly found him for one last pass.
The summer has moved into its final month and just like that the National Football League preseason is here. To start things off the league has decided that the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants will be the first two to take the field for the 2014 season.
The Bills have plenty of questions and get an extra preseason game to help figure out the answers to all those queries. It all begins Sunday night for the league's annual Hall of Fame Game, putting the Bills on display to a national audience. Just like the past several years, here are five things to watch for in the upcoming contest:
1) How long does EJ play?
- It's the age old question for the beginning of the NFL preseason. With their first of five games, how long do you subject your starting quarterback to the pressure and live action with the season just a month away? It really all depends on the individual team's situation. For instance, on the Giants' side the expectation would probably be that Eli Manning plays no more than a series or two. With EJ Manuel being as young as he is and needing all the experience he can get in a game setting, there could be some temptation to put him in for longer. Despite that line of thinking, this season is a vital one to many people mainly due to the ongoing ownership questions. Wins are needed to make impressions on whoever ends up with the team. That, combined with some moving pieces on the offensive line, could put Manuel in the same realm as Manning despite needing some more snaps.
2) Sammy's Debut
- The most exciting piece of the offseason for the Buffalo Bills was when they moved up in the draft order to add the electric wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and Sunday night will be the first chance the rest of America gets to see him in action in an NFL setting. He might get a similar amount of time on the field as Manuel, but perhaps the Bills might want to show him off a little bit with a play or two designed just for him. Even without playing a down the buzz surrounding Watkins is already fairly high, and if he's able to do something special in the first series or two, it could reach a whole different level.
3) Three youngsters on the O-Line
- Besides adding pieces for EJ Manuel to throw the ball to, the Bills second biggest area that they addressed was to bring in offensive linemen. Left guard, right guard and right tackle were all issues at one point or another in the 2013 season and the Bills addressed them accordingly. The team signed veteran guard Chris Williams to start at left guard, they drafted tackle Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round, drafted guard Cyril Richardson in the fifth-round and then doubled up on tackle by selecting Seantrel Henderson in the seventh round. Since the start of training camp, normal starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been unable to practice due to an undisclosed illness, leaving Henderson in with the first-team at that position. Kouandjio has struggled out of the gate at right tackle and has been designated for the second-team behind Erik Pears, while Richardson has improved and now splits reps with the incumbent right guard Kraig Urbik. The play of the young trio will be among one of the more fascinating things to watch to see just how far they've come in 11 days of work.
4) Tuel vs. Lewis
- Just a few days into training camp the Bills made the decision to split second-team series between Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis, signaling the start of a competition to be Manuel's direct backup. Through the first two weeks of camp, Lewis has been the far less impressive quarterback of the two and will need to make up some ground during the five preseason games that the Bills have been afforded this year. Tuel hasn't made a definitive statement with his play that the job is his to lose -- he's been inconsistent as well -- but he has shown a bit more in limiting his turnovers as opposed to his counterpart. Regardless of how they look at practice, the duo will receive a hearty amount of playing time on Sunday and in the rest of the preseason to weigh who brings the most to the table as the team's main backup.
5) The battle for sixth wideout
- There hasn't been much mention of the defense in this piece, but that's due in large part to a lot of those decisions having been already made. One of the more compelling roster battles, just because of one of the entrants involved, has to be for the final wide receiver spot. The Bills very well could keep seven receivers, but the expectation is that six will be the magic number. The team has four spots already spoken for in the form of Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams and Marquise Goodwin. With the way that Chris Hogan has played in the first two weeks, he is head and shoulders above the rest of the group for the fifth spot. That leaves a trio of players who have a legitimate shot at cracking the roster: T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley and Kevin Elliott. Graham, the former starter and third round pick, just hasn't progressed since he's gotten in the league and hasn't made enough plays in practice to secure his spot. Easley's role is as a special teams standout, but can he show enough on the offensive side of the ball to warrant the final roster spot? The wildcard is Elliott, who has the frame (6-foot-3, 205-pounds) and the physicality that the Bills love, but lapses in concentration with catching the ball have left him firmly on the bubble to make the team. All three will get plenty of time on the field Sunday, and one could end up having the leg up as they shift to a shortened next week ahead of preseason game number two.
Bills Injuries as of Saturday:
TE Tony Moeaki (hamstring)
TE Scott Chandler (groin)
WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
The Buffalo Bills got on to the practice field 30 minutes later than expected on Friday night, but they were able to get in a solid evening of work ahead of their initial preseason game.
It was a bit of a shorter practice with the team only in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, but they took a good portion of time during team drills to work on their red zone offense and defense. Even with an abbreviated session, there were still some standouts during the day:
Manuel sharp in red zone, 2 minute sputters
- In the final practice before his 2014 debut, EJ Manuel and the Bills tried to build some momentum in an area that they struggled with last season. The red zone deficiencies of 2013 are well-documented, and it was a focal point of Friday's session for the team's offense specifically. In their first time doing the red zone drill, Manuel had a stretch of three straight attempts that resulted in a touchdown. The second-year quarterback found Robert Woods twice and Chris Gragg once for the solid three-play stretch, with his best effort coming on the last of those three. Manuel went through his first and second reads on that specific play, scanned the field and kept an eye on the closing pressure, then spotted an open Woods in the middle of the end zone at the last moment and got him the ball. That's the type of development the Bills are looking for in that area. In the two-minute drill to end practice, the Bills found a nice hookup between Manuel and Mike Williams to keep the drive alive on a fourth and long, but outside of that play the offense barely got anything going due to both inaccurate throws and collapsing pockets.
Hairston back, no longer at guard
- With Chris Hairston getting back on the field, the Bills decided to give him a look somewhere else along the offensive line. Since training camp has started, Hairston has been exclusively at right guard and splitting first-team reps with Kraig Urbik. The plan has appeared to change shortly before their upcoming preseason game. On Friday, the Bills put Hairston at a position in which most are used to seeing him, using him as the second-team left tackle behind rookie Seantrel Henderson. In his place at guard, rookie Cyril Richardson resumed his role of splitting the first-team snaps at right guard with Urbik. Hairston is trying to find a home anywhere along the offensive line, and if he can prove valuable enough as a swing lineman, he may have a shot to be on the correct side of the roster bubble.
Tight end depth for Sunday
- The return of Lee Smith to practice on Friday signaled that the Bills could be alright on Sunday with how much time they need to allocate to each player. Smith will likely be with the first team, but they know what type of player he is. Expect the majority of snaps to go to second-year player Chris Gragg and the recently signed Dominique Jones. Another player that could get some time on the field at tight end is Evan Rodriguez, who has worked mostly at fullback throughout training camp. He took some reps with Smith, Gragg and Jones during routes versus air. With Chandler and Moeaki sidelined on Friday night, it's unlikely that they'll suit up on Sunday.
Mike Williams has strong day
- Throughout camp thus far it's been either rookie Sammy Watkins or wideout Chris Hogan getting all the praise for their efforts, but Mike Williams stole the show from that position on Friday. The oldest wideout on the roster, Williams showed his high-pointing ability on more than one occasion, mixing it with smooth route running during one-on-one drills. He looks quite healthy and the Bills are depending on all the aforementioned attributes to give them something their roster has been missing for a while now: a bonafide red zone target.
Starting corners rested
- Head coach Doug Marrone continued his line of thinking in being cautious with his starting cornerbacks. Both Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin did not take a single snap on defense during Friday's team drills, a precaution likely taken because both had offseason procedures done. McKelvin hasn't taken a single rep in team drills over the course of the past week, so it's likely that he won't be available for the Bills' upcoming contest. Gilmore has only gotten a rest day here or there, so his availability may be a bit more likely. Marrone did not specify if either player would play in the Hall of Fame game Sunday.
Day 11 MVP: CB Nickell Robey
- The player that barely edged out Mike Williams for most valuable player honors on Friday night was perhaps the smallest on the field. The play of second-year nickel corner Nickell Robey was among the best to end the week of practice. He chipped in two interceptions, a knocked down pass on a blitz attempt and a few separate passes knocked down in coverage. He allowed one completion to wide receiver Caleb Holley on a sharply thrown pass by Jeff Tuel. Besides that, Robey gave up nothing and continued to be a thorn in the side of the offense.
Day 11 LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- The struggles continued for Lewis on Friday in the form of inaccurate throws that resulted in turnovers once again. Normally there isn't too great of a disparity between Lewis and Tuel, despite some of the former's shortcomings throughout the start of camp. However, Friday brought one of Tuel's best performances at camp to date, and coupled with Lewis' continuous misfires, it created some space in the battle to be the backup to EJ Manuel.
Up Next: The Bills have a walkthrough scheduled for Saturday morning, then fly out to Canton, Ohio for their first preseason game. They'll take on the New York Giants Sunday night at 8 pm.
A rainy Friday evening didn't deter the Buffalo Bills on their final night ahead of their first preseason game of 2014. It also didn't hold a trio of players on the team from getting back on the field before the team travels to Canton, OH for the Hall of Fame game.
Guard Chris Williams, tight end Lee Smith and offensive lineman Chris Hairston all made their return after missing some practice time due to injury. All three players were only away from the field for under a week before they were able to participate in the team's on-field work once again.
Williams, the Bills' starting left guard, left Thursday's practice early due to an injury to his toe but did not need to miss any additional time. Smith had what head coach Doug Marrone labeled a "lower body injury," and missed only Thursday's practice. Hairston had the most longterm injury of the three, having suffered a back injury on Wednesday which forced him to miss Thursday's practice.
In fact the Bills only had two players on the active roster not available to them at practice and both play the same position. Tight ends Scott Chandler and Tony Moeaki each missed yet another chance to get back on the field due to individual injuries.
A groin injury has limited Chandler for the past few days at training camp to all but working with trainers from the sidelines. He and Moeaki, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, have both missed a handful of practices.
Dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, the Bills held an abbreviated final practice Friday, just two days ahead of the Hall of Fame Game to kick off the 2014 NFL preseason. The team will fly out to Ohio on Saturday and then take on the New York Giants Sunday at 8 pm. You can listen to complete play-by-play coverage of the game on WGR Sports Radio 550.
The sale of the Buffalo Bills is on the way within the next few months, and two of the known bidders from Tuesday's deadline have gotten good news. According to John Wawrow of The Associated Press, both Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and Donald Trump have been selected to advance to the next stage of the sale of the franchise.
The Toronto-based group interested in purchasing the Bills, with Jon Bon Jovi as the majority owner, were expected to place a nonbinding bid on the team and were reported as doing so. However, Wawrow writes that it is not known at this point if that group has been selected to advance along with Pegula and Trump.
The next step of the sale, according to a source to WGR Sports Radio 550, is those that are chosen to advance will then be vetted by both Morgan Stanley and the National Football League. In turn, the interested parties will also get a deeper look into the team's financial information as the process goes along.
In the Associated Press report, it notes that the earlier deadline for nonbinding bids was a "soft" one, allowing others to send in their bids after the original mark of Tuesday. Those interested will be able to bid "until a prospective owner is identified," according to Wawrow.
Once the parties that move on into the next stage of the sale have been vetted and they get a look at the team's financial information, binding offers will be due on or around the start of September, according to WGR's source. From that point, the trust would move on to the next stage and come to a decision on who the winning party will be.
Additionally, Wawrow writes that the next round of bids will not be sealed, which means that the trust will "have the ability to ask groups to increase their bids."
The current hope by the Bills, the source to WGR said, is to have the winning bidder be put to a league vote at the meetings on October 7 and 8 in New York City. The person or group must be approved by 24 of 31 owners.