While other teams around the National Football League are just getting started at training camp, the Buffalo Bills have already gone through a full week’s worth of work. Only a week away from their first preseason game, the Bills have a lot on their collective plate at practice throughout the next few days.
Head coach Doug Marrone introduced live hitting on Saturday for the first time in 2014 and they kept that going for a second straight day, giving the team their first taste of goal line work. Compared to their efforts on Saturday, specifically by the offense, Sunday brought about much more optimism.
- The man with the most influence on the outcome of the 2014 regular season is undoubtedly EJ Manuel, and to this point in training camp he hasn’t done much to inspire the overwhelming confidence his coaches and teammates seem to have in him. While that much held true during the seventh practice of camp, Manuel showed a lot more than he did in previous efforts. A difference from a practice a few days ago, the second-year quarterback was decisive in 7-on-7 drills and found a lot of receivers in space. He still struggled with going through all of his reads, which is concerning because it appears as though Jeff Tuel has no problem doing so in the offense, and that has limited him at practice so far. That, in addition to his inaccuracy, is what holds him back from realizing the potential the Bills believe that he has. In his favor, however, is the fact that the Bills went out this offseason and acquired two receivers that are very good at making bad throws look good. With transactions like those and how those two players have performed in camp so far, the Bills appear as though they’re eliminating any and all excuses for Manuel’s second season.
Hogan gets time with the 1s
- It has been written numerous times over the past two years, but wide receiver Chris Hogan had another very good practice for the Bills on Sunday. Shaking off a two-drop performance on Friday night, Hogan was strong in his routes and on the ball whenever given the opportunity during the afternoon practice. Due to all his strong play throughout the first six days of camp, the Bills rewarded him with time on the field with the first-team offense as the third wide receiver. It wasn’t a direct shot at Mike Williams, but more of a pat on the back to Hogan who has done mostly everything right to this point. Williams also got time with the first unit. It’s quite a long training camp so there are no guarantees on July 27, but with more performances like the one he’s had consistently (and special teams experience to boot), he could remove any doubt that he makes the roster.
Red Zone Mike
- Captain Obvious supports the next sentence: The Bills want to be much better in the red zone and on the goal line than they were in 2013. To help them do just that, from a theoretical standpoint anyway, they traded for Mike Williams and his 25 career touchdowns in four seasons (after grabbing 23 in his first three). Williams showed off that skill set on Sunday as the team continued to work in tight and help the offense progress. If there was a jump ball to be had, the wideout went up and got it on all but one occasion. After one catch in the back corner of the end zone, he looked at the crowd and took a bow, which drew some laughs from the crowd but also indicated that he is totally in control in those areas of the field. That will be where he is most important to the team, considering their dreadful past at capitalizing on in-close opportunities with getting six points rather than only three.
Don’t run with your head down vs. 2nd team defense
- Through two days of live hitting at St. John Fisher College the biggest hitter has been identified, and it’s not someone one would initially expect. Jonathan Meeks, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2013 and backup strong safety, has been crushing teammates during the last two practices. He was the player responsible for the big hit that left wide receiver Kevin Elliott, to put it ever so delicately, a bit woozy. The hit was clean and it was one of a handful that he’s brought to practice over the weekend. He likely won’t push for a starting job in 2014, but his presence on the roster as a suitable backup is evident.
Richardson gets a step up
- An inauspicious start to the training camp of fifth-round pick and rookie guard Cyril Richardson has led to many being skeptical about his chances of making an impact on the roster in his inaugural season. Despite some bad beats through the first five practices, starting on Saturday night Richardson was bumped up a unit. Initially serving as the third-team left guard Richardson and Antoine McClain, who was the second-team left guard through the first five practices, switched places. It’s been a steep learning curve for the rookie and he hasn’t necessarily taken advantage of his heightened opportunities in the past two days, but at the very least the Bills are giving him the chance to prove himself.
Day 7 MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore
- Gilmore has been a cool customer through the first six days of training camp, and it wasn’t until Sunday that he started to show the signs of what he did at St. John Fisher College in 2013. He mirrored the receivers anywhere they went and minimized their impact on the given play, regardless if they made the catch. He earned MVP honors with a fantastic one-handed interception in the end zone against EJ Manuel and Sammy Watkins, sticking with the impressive rookie and then turning his head around to be in perfect position to come away with the turnover. He added another interception in the practice to put his day over the top.
Day 7 LVP: WR Chris Summers
- Among the players fighting to get noticed out of the wide receiver group, Summers really hasn’t stood out for any reason beside his height. In a drill where a 6-foot-5 player should dominate against smaller corners, Summers failed to make an impact in jump-ball setting in the end zone. He doesn’t get a lot of separation on the initial route and then fails to rise up and meet the ball at it’s highest point. The throw needs to be there, but even when it was not it didn’t appear as though he had the right positioning during and after the route’s completion to inspire confidence in a successful attempt.
Up Next: The Bills resume practice on Monday morning at 8 o’clock. The session will once again be open to the general public. [Edit: The Bills, likely due to the expected weather, have changed Monday's practice to 6 pm. It's open to the public and fans will not need a ticket for entry.]