As I sit in my cozy dorm room here at St. John Fisher, preparing for our second week of training camp coverage on WGR, here are my observations from week one and some things I'll be tracking in week two.
Obviously EJ Manuel was the top story going into camp and he made it through the first week just fine. It wasn't a "wow" week, but he looked comfortable in his pro quarterback shoes and never once did he look lost or overmatched.
Some of Manuel's best moments came on the very first night of practice as he threw some picture perfect deep balls on go routes during one on one drills between the wide receivers and defensive backs. He clearly has the arm strength but he showed some nice touch through the first week of practices too. I had mentioned in my camp preview that I was interested to see if Manuel had a good feel for the offense and that appears to be the case for the rookie who said he spent much of his time following the draft, studying Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's playbook.
Manuel seemed to be at ease with whatever Hackett asked him to do and had no problem with the no huddle, up tempo offense as he got plays off on the average, every 15 seconds.
While Manuel did not see the exotic defenses that were being thrown at Kevin Kolb, when the defense did blitz, Manuel did a good job of making the quick decision and getting the ball out fast, as opposed to Kolb who held on to the ball too long on numerous occasions.
Week one in the QB battle clearly went to Manuel but it might have been more about Kolb being that bad as opposed to Manuel excelling. Kolb appeared flustered at times by what the defense was doing. Too many sacks(they would be sacks if quarterbacks were allowed to be hit), too many bad decisions and too many passes into sidelines. That was a big part of Kolb's week.
Manuel has to keep getting better and will have to up his game since the defense is now throwing more looks at the Florida State product.
While Kolb and Manuel drew my attention most often, I would say the wide receivers were the most impressive group in week one. I know what I'm going to get from Stevie Johnson but its a pretty young and inexperienced group after him on the depth chart.
Second year pro T.J. Graham looks like he is ready to have a bigger impact on the offense. Graham, who studied film of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace in the off season, was consistent catching the football and was able to get open deep a handful of times.
Rookie Robert Woods picked up where he left off during the OTA's, showing his ability to consistently find open space and make the catch. You have to be impressed by Marquise Goodwin's speed and Da'Rick Rogers was referred to as a "young Randy Moss" by former NFL scout/personnel man Pat Kirwan, who was in camp for cbssports.com.
The tight end group had a strong first week as well. I was amazed at how good Scott Chandler looked, just seven months removed from a torn ACL. Chandler was running with no noticeable problems and was sharp in his cuts. As usual, he caught most everything thrown his way. As did Mike Caussin who showed a reliable pair of hands while catching short to intermediate passes. Rookie tight end Chris Gragg has a little bit of stretch the field in him, as opposed to the other tight ends, and Gragg showed good hands too.
Quite honestly I spent most of my time last week concentrating on the offense so I'm planning to take a good look at the defense in week two. It has been fun watching the different looks and blitzes coming from Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine's group. One of their nickel packages included just one down lineman and five linebackers. They are definitely blitzing more with linebackers and safeties coming from different directions. A four man rush was the norm last season but it seems to be a rarity in camp thus far.
I'll be keeping a close eye on the linebackers this week since the Bills are counting on big things from a pair of youngsters, second year pro Nigel Bradham and rookie Kiko Alonso. I'm going to be monitoring the starting cornerback spot opposite Stephon Gilmore since no one has taken hold of the job. Although, the top candidate, Leodis McKelvin was eased back into practice last week after off season groin surgery.
Speaking of no one grabbing the job, the battle at left guard remains wide open after Doug Marrone basically called out both Colin Brown and Doug Legursky.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn had an up and down week which might bear watching since the aforementioned left guard spot is a question mark and right tackle Erik Pears is coming off an injury shortened, ineffective 2012 season. I'm not issuing any panic notice about the offensive line but we should keep an eye on that group for potential problems.
There's a game at the end of week two with the Bills playing their pre-season opener at Indianapolis on Sunday. It'll be interesting to see how they look facing someone other than a teammate. I remember watching Andrew Luck's first exhibition game last season and he moved the Colts offense up and down the field against the Rams with relative ease. I can't wait to see how EJ Manuel does in his pre season debut.
Stay with us for extensive coverage of Bills training camp on WGR Sportsradio 550 and at WGR550.com.