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.