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.