The Buffalo Bills did their best to play weather forecaster in attempting to dodge the rain to get a dry practice in at St. John Fisher College. They were successful, getting their second-to-last session in before their very first live game action of 2014.
A couple of bottom of the roster players really showed their stuff, while a bonafide merry-go-round started at one position on the offensive line due to an injury. Here are some notes from Day 10:
EJ starts strong and has an average finish
- EJ Manuel had a continuation from his strong efforts on Wednesday when the practice first got underway. Manuel was crisp during routes vs. air, hitting his receivers in stride and not making them reach for it like what happens on occasion. Once the practice progressed into the first team drill session, Manuel threw one of his best passes in all of training camp. Starting at their own two-yard line, Manuel reared back and threw a deep ball down the left sideline to an open Sammy Watkins. The receiver didn’t break stride and the ball dropped into the bucket that was his welcoming arms for a reception and burst all the way up the field for a touchdown. Unfortunately from there, Manuel’s practice went from a good start to just average. He started settling for dump off’s in 7-on-7s, he underthrew Marquise Goodwin on a deep route by quite a bit that resulted in an interception and then later on in team drills he couldn’t quite find the same accuracy as he did early on.
Watkins putting on an early show
- Going hand in hand with Manuel’s early prowess was the pair of plays Watkins made at the beginning of practice during team drills. One of them was the aforementioned 98-yard touchdown, but it was an especially notable play for Watkins because of who he did it against. The rookie wide receiver hasn’t been able to beat Stephon Gilmore too badly so far during camp, but he got him on Thursday. He put a shifty move at the beginning of the play, ran by and kept a solid yard or two in distance from Gilmore on the way to catching the pass and speeding off for the touchdown. Another quality play from Watkins came in the form of a pass that caught him by surprise. The wideout ran a slant route to the inside, and as he turned his head around the ball was right on him and high. His reaction time took over and somehow he caught the pass basically with his hands behind his head, making a very difficult catch look quite easy. Another day of practice, and another one in the books that had Watkins making quality plays.
Left guard shuffle
- Coming into training camp the left guard position was thought to be an open and shut case. The team signed Chris Williams in the offseason and he’s taken every single rep until Thursday. So what happens when Williams gets hurt like he did during the session? The Bills used rookie Cyril Richardson in his place, who has turned his training camp around from where it started to regain some trust from the coaching staff. Richardson, though, was one of four different players that took a first-team snap at left guard on Thursday. Counting both him and Williams, a poor effort by Richardson during team drills made the Bills pull him from the lineup and insert Antoine McClain for one play. On that McClain play, he got roasted by Kyle Williams and the team wasn’t happy once again. Following that rep the first-team ran off the field, but when it was their turn next, neither Richardson nor McClain was the man with the first team at left guard… it was then J.J. ‘Unga’s turn at the plate. Eventually Richardson regained first-team duties by the end of practice, but the Bills tried out a lot at the position on Day 10.
Bottom of the roster DT stands out
- A recent signing of the Bills, defensive tackle Landon Cohen could not be contained by any of the three offensive linemen he went up against in one-on-one’s on Thursday. First it was Jared Wheeler, getting pushed straight back and then dished aside by Cohen. Following that, Cohen made J.J. ‘Unga look foolish on a swim move that almost ripped the offensive lineman to the ground. Cohen was to the quarterback in about two seconds. His third rep was against Macky MacPherson, and all Cohen needed to do was bull rush MacPherson straight back. The defensive tackle has some experience at the NFL level, and it showed during Thursday’s practice against three very green players.
Felder Fielding like a Fiend
- Joining Landon Cohen as a recently signed player that stood out on Thursday was cornerback Bobby Felder. Going up against EJ Manuel and Marquise Goodwin during 7-on-7s, the odds were stacked against the relatively unknown cornerback from Nicholls State. Felder did a fairly good job staying in the hip pocket of Goodwin, but Manuel vastly underthrew his wideout and the cornerback pounced on the opportunity. He rose up and brought in the interception, but he wasn’t done there. Felder struck again during team drills with Jeff Tuel as the quarterback. He read both the quarterback and the comeback route perfectly and jumped it along the sideline for his second pick of the day.
Day 10 MVP: DT Kyle Williams
- The reason for the aforementioned left guard shuffle was brought on solely by one man: Kyle Williams. He made Cyril Richardson and Antoine McClain look quite foolish on consecutive plays, which made the offensive staff change the personnel three straight times. Williams is at full health and seems ready to reclaim the same disruptive role that he had in 2013.
Day 10 LVP: WR T.J. Graham
- It’s certainly not for a lack of effort, but T.J. Graham just isn’t making plays consistently enough. It seems as though he drops a completely catchable pass at least once or twice per practice, and when he does catch the pass, often times he either double clutches it or uses his body to complete the catch. It doesn’t look like he’s trusting the very component to a receiver that should come most naturally: his hands. If cuts were to be made today, it’s hard to make a case for Graham as one of the top six wideouts. He has some work to do, but luckily for him, he’s got quite some time to do it.
Up Next: The Bills are back on the field for practice on Friday at 6 pm. It’s their final session before their first preseason game of the year. Practice is open to the public, but a ticket is needed for entry.