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Bills Beat Blog

By Joe Buscaglia
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Bills training camp observations: Day 16

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.

Urbik struggles
- 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.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

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Locations : BuffaloLatrobePennsylvaniaPittsburgh
People : Aaron WilliamsAntoine McClainAntonie McClainBen RoethlisbergerBrandon SpikesChris WilliamsCordy GlennCorey GrahamCyril RichardsonDustin HopkinsEvan RodriguezJonathan MeeksKraig UrbikLeodis McKelvinNigel BradhamPat MorrisScott ChandlerStephon GilmoreTony Moeaki

08/13/2014 9:38PM
Bills training camp observations: Day 16
Please enter your comments below.
08/13/2014 10:16PM
So you mean EJ sucked again? What else is new Joe? We know he isn't good. Come on now. But just as I figured, the injury list is piling up. What a Joke!
08/13/2014 10:32PM
Lay off EJ
08/13/2014 10:34PM
Chris Brown's view differs
Interesting... Chris Brown had a more positive review of EJ's day.
08/13/2014 10:34PM
You rarely have anything positive to say about our team.
08/13/2014 10:41PM
It's Sad When....
EJ's performance in Carolina is nothing more than mediocre by any other NFL QB standards, yet the buffalo media considers it "solid".
08/13/2014 11:09PM
Run game
I notice you didn't comment really on the run game. I know the offensive line was struggling, but how did our RB's do? Was CJ showing continued signs of his burst being back? How did bryce brown look? Did fred ex power his eay through defendersand show nice runs? I am curious to know thanks. Keep up the great work Joe B I am a huge fan!!!
08/14/2014 12:46AM
Bad day for EJ???
What a surprise!! This guy has to go.
08/14/2014 7:47AM
E.J. Bad Perfomance?
Again, & again, & again & again! When does this change to benefit the team this year? Lets not waste another whole season. Wake the H-LL up Coaching and Management.
08/14/2014 8:42AM
Time to hit the Panic Button
There can be no denying it at this point - EJ will hold us back this year. Even the most positive of us know inside he just isn't good. Imagine when we're playing a regular season game against a defense that's game-planned all week. Manuel can't even hit wide open guys in practice - what makes you think he's going to turn into Peyton Manning once the season starts. What you see with Manuel is what you're gonna get. There's going to be a lot of dump-offs and check downs this year, a lot of running, a lot of short yardage plays sprinkled with the occasional 15-20 yard play to Chandler. Not much different than last year. It's time to pull the plug on this guy and have him ride the pine and work on his accuracy and reads all year long. The answer doesn't lie in our 2 backups right now - both who aren't NFL caliber players. I don't know if anybody's still out there, but a guy like Grossman is worlds ahead of Manuel at this point. He's not your long-term answer, but if you want to win now - a veteran who can get the ball consistently to his WRs and can read defenses is the difference between a 9-10 win season and another 5-6 win season. Pull the plug now and activate Plan B.
08/14/2014 8:48AM
Better trade for an experienced QB ASAP!!!
08/14/2014 9:07AM
You and Chris Brown seem to have two different take aways from EJ'S performance
08/14/2014 9:17AM
Sabres take
It's purdy darn quiet around here. Where are the trades mon?
08/14/2014 10:19AM
Chris Brown...
Is employed by the Bills organization. Of course he is going to lean more towards the positive side. That is why you are seeing the difference in opinion.
08/14/2014 1:02PM
Keep hating, hater!
08/14/2014 1:03PM
Trade offer
Trade spiller for Brian hoyer. Just saying. It helps Cleveland solve their QB battle and helps Buffalo if Manuel just can't get better
08/14/2014 1:36PM
EJ critics
you guys are pathetic. incredibly hyperbolic. EJ is the QB of this team for at least the next 2 years. deal with it. if you don't like it and are so sure he will suck and drag the team down with him than just stop being a fan during the Manuel era. of course, you armchair gms are mentally weak losers... so you'll stay.
08/14/2014 1:57PM
ej just do your thing bro
who wouldn't have hang up on the first day. Just correct your problems and strive to be the best. It's a learning thing but if kraig is having problems now. it's only going to get harder as time gose by. but lets see how he will adjust today. good luck kraig because time is really running out. Lets go ruff buff.
08/14/2014 2:12PM
Listen I know hindsight is 20/20, but this guard thing is getting to be kind of scary. I wonder if the Bills regret not going after Andy Levitre since they couldn't sign Byrd. The guard play last year was a little problem, which could easily turn into a BIG problem this year.
08/14/2014 4:28PM
Writing sucks
Will you every write a article without misusing words? If you don't understand the use of a large world just stop using it.
08/14/2014 6:25PM
Buscaglia strikes out again.
"Marrone calls EJ's Wed practice his best in accuracy & comp pct. so far. Encouraged by progress " Coaches and staff have numbers and completions to back up their press conference comments. Buscaglia is one of the few to frequently bang on EJ for incompletions, however he never gives us any numbers of drops, completions, percentages or anything. Hard to take this dude seriously.
08/14/2014 8:17PM
EJ getting heat for 60% completion?
2013 Season: Brady 60.5 Luck 60.2 Flacco 59 Stafford 58.5 Kaep 58.4
08/14/2014 9:15PM
We need a qb pretty quick i mean again ej sucks cmon. Doug get a qb from somewhere we cant afford to have ej wreck our year
08/15/2014 12:11AM
Bills fans better hope that EJ Manuel is not as bad as he looked when the Bills played Pittsburgh last year. He sucked in that game -and in the Tampa game. Its one thing to look good in practice when nobody's hitting the QB, and another when the real combat starts.
08/19/2014 12:58AM
Here we go..
The excuse machine is all greased-up and ready for another season. Can the Bills ever find a QB without a ready excuse for "longballaphobia" ? Yeah EJ the..Bills defense was dropping into coverage for Ben too....but, gee! Ben has an NFL arm and you do NOT!!
08/19/2014 1:02AM
EJ has almost everything that you want in a QB...
Problem is ...HE SUCKS!!
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