Bills Beat Blog



By Joe Buscaglia
Brought to you by:


  


Bills training camp observations: Day 11

The Buffalo Bills got on to the practice field 30 minutes later than expected on Friday night, but they were able to get in a solid evening of work ahead of their initial preseason game.

It was a bit of a shorter practice with the team only in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, but they took a good portion of time during team drills to work on their red zone offense and defense. Even with an abbreviated session, there were still some standouts during the day:

Manuel sharp in red zone, 2 minute sputters
- In the final practice before his 2014 debut, EJ Manuel and the Bills tried to build some momentum in an area that they struggled with last season. The red zone deficiencies of 2013 are well-documented, and it was a focal point of Friday's session for the team's offense specifically. In their first time doing the red zone drill, Manuel had a stretch of three straight attempts that resulted in a touchdown. The second-year quarterback found Robert Woods twice and Chris Gragg once for the solid three-play stretch, with his best effort coming on the last of those three. Manuel went through his first and second reads on that specific play, scanned the field and kept an eye on the closing pressure, then spotted an open Woods in the middle of the end zone at the last moment and got him the ball. That's the type of development the Bills are looking for in that area. In the two-minute drill to end practice, the Bills found a nice hookup between Manuel and Mike Williams to keep the drive alive on a fourth and long, but outside of that play the offense barely got anything going due to both inaccurate throws and collapsing pockets.

Hairston back, no longer at guard
- With Chris Hairston getting back on the field, the Bills decided to give him a look somewhere else along the offensive line. Since training camp has started, Hairston has been exclusively at right guard and splitting first-team reps with Kraig Urbik. The plan has appeared to change shortly before their upcoming preseason game. On Friday, the Bills put Hairston at a position in which most are used to seeing him, using him as the second-team left tackle behind rookie Seantrel Henderson. In his place at guard, rookie Cyril Richardson resumed his role of splitting the first-team snaps at right guard with Urbik. Hairston is trying to find a home anywhere along the offensive line, and if he can prove valuable enough as a swing lineman, he may have a shot to be on the correct side of the roster bubble.

Tight end depth for Sunday
- The return of Lee Smith to practice on Friday signaled that the Bills could be alright on Sunday with how much time they need to allocate to each player. Smith will likely be with the first team, but they know what type of player he is. Expect the majority of snaps to go to second-year player Chris Gragg and the recently signed Dominique Jones. Another player that could get some time on the field at tight end is Evan Rodriguez, who has worked mostly at fullback throughout training camp. He took some reps with Smith, Gragg and Jones during routes versus air. With Chandler and Moeaki sidelined on Friday night, it's unlikely that they'll suit up on Sunday.

Mike Williams has strong day
- Throughout camp thus far it's been either rookie Sammy Watkins or wideout Chris Hogan getting all the praise for their efforts, but Mike Williams stole the show from that position on Friday. The oldest wideout on the roster, Williams showed his high-pointing ability on more than one occasion, mixing it with smooth route running during one-on-one drills. He looks quite healthy and the Bills are depending on all the aforementioned attributes to give them something their roster has been missing for a while now: a bonafide red zone target.

Starting corners rested
- Head coach Doug Marrone continued his line of thinking in being cautious with his starting cornerbacks. Both Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin did not take a single snap on defense during Friday's team drills, a precaution likely taken because both had offseason procedures done. McKelvin hasn't taken a single rep in team drills over the course of the past week, so it's likely that he won't be available for the Bills' upcoming contest. Gilmore has only gotten a rest day here or there, so his availability may be a bit more likely. Marrone did not specify if either player would play in the Hall of Fame game Sunday.

Day 11 MVP: CB Nickell Robey
- The player that barely edged out Mike Williams for most valuable player honors on Friday night was perhaps the smallest on the field. The play of second-year nickel corner Nickell Robey was among the best to end the week of practice. He chipped in two interceptions, a knocked down pass on a blitz attempt and a few separate passes knocked down in coverage. He allowed one completion to wide receiver Caleb Holley on a sharply thrown pass by Jeff Tuel. Besides that, Robey gave up nothing and continued to be a thorn in the side of the offense.

Day 11 LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- The struggles continued for Lewis on Friday in the form of inaccurate throws that resulted in turnovers once again. Normally there isn't too great of a disparity between Lewis and Tuel, despite some of the former's shortcomings throughout the start of camp. However, Friday brought one of Tuel's best performances at camp to date, and coupled with Lewis' continuous misfires, it created some space in the battle to be the backup to EJ Manuel.

Up Next: The Bills have a walkthrough scheduled for Saturday morning, then fly out to Canton, Ohio for their first preseason game. They'll take on the New York Giants Sunday night at 8 pm.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 (0) Comments




 

Three Bills return to practice Friday

A rainy Friday evening didn't deter the Buffalo Bills on their final night ahead of their first preseason game of 2014. It also didn't hold a trio of players on the team from getting back on the field before the team travels to Canton, OH for the Hall of Fame game.

Guard Chris Williams, tight end Lee Smith and offensive lineman Chris Hairston all made their return after missing some practice time due to injury. All three players were only away from the field for under a week before they were able to participate in the team's on-field work once again.

Williams, the Bills' starting left guard, left Thursday's practice early due to an injury to his toe but did not need to miss any additional time. Smith had what head coach Doug Marrone labeled a "lower body injury," and missed only Thursday's practice. Hairston had the most longterm injury of the three, having suffered a back injury on Wednesday which forced him to miss Thursday's practice.

In fact the Bills only had two players on the active roster not available to them at practice and both play the same position. Tight ends Scott Chandler and Tony Moeaki each missed yet another chance to get back on the field due to individual injuries.

A groin injury has limited Chandler for the past few days at training camp to all but working with trainers from the sidelines. He and Moeaki, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, have both missed a handful of practices.

Dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, the Bills held an abbreviated final practice Friday, just two days ahead of the Hall of Fame Game to kick off the 2014 NFL preseason. The team will fly out to Ohio on Saturday and then take on the New York Giants Sunday at 8 pm. You can listen to complete play-by-play coverage of the game on WGR Sports Radio 550.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 (0) Comments
Tags :  
Topics : Sports
Social :
Locations : Ohio
People : Chris HairstonChris WilliamsDoug MarroneLee SmithScott ChandlerTony Moeaki




 

Report: Pegula, Trump move on to next stage of Bills sale

The sale of the Buffalo Bills is on the way within the next few months, and two of the known bidders from Tuesday's deadline have gotten good news. According to John Wawrow of The Associated Press, both Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and Donald Trump have been selected to advance to the next stage of the sale of the franchise.

The Toronto-based group interested in purchasing the Bills, with Jon Bon Jovi as the majority owner, were expected to place a nonbinding bid on the team and were reported as doing so. However, Wawrow writes that it is not known at this point if that group has been selected to advance along with Pegula and Trump.

The next step of the sale, according to a source to WGR Sports Radio 550, is those that are chosen to advance will then be vetted by both Morgan Stanley and the National Football League. In turn, the interested parties will also get a deeper look into the team's financial information as the process goes along.

In the Associated Press report, it notes that the earlier deadline for nonbinding bids was a "soft" one, allowing others to send in their bids after the original mark of Tuesday. Those interested will be able to bid "until a prospective owner is identified," according to Wawrow.

Once the parties that move on into the next stage of the sale have been vetted and they get a look at the team's financial information, binding offers will be due on or around the start of September, according to WGR's source. From that point, the trust would move on to the next stage and come to a decision on who the winning party will be.

Additionally, Wawrow writes that the next round of bids will not be sealed, which means that the trust will "have the ability to ask groups to increase their bids."

The current hope by the Bills, the source to WGR said, is to have the winning bidder be put to a league vote at the meetings on October 7 and 8 in New York City. The person or group must be approved by 24 of 31 owners.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 (9) Comments




 

Bills training camp observations: Day 10

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.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
 (8) Comments




 

Bills back to only two healthy TEs; starting guard injured

Merely a day removed from the Buffalo Bills getting Chris Gragg back on the practice field from his bout with heat cramps, the team once again went down to only two available tight ends for Thursday’s practice. This time around, Lee Smith joined both Scott Chandler and Tony Moeaki as the tight ends that were unable to participate throughout the afternoon session.

Smith had to miss Thursday’s practice due to what head coach Doug Marrone called a “lower body injury.” While there isn’t any indication what that injury might be or what Smith’s timetable is, he was seen sporting an athletic sleeve on his lower right leg.

Marrone also didn’t have any updated information regarding how long Chandler (groin) would be out, and it was already determined that Moeaki (hamstring) would be out for a while. Without the trio, the Bills are down to only Gragg and Dominique Jones as the available tight ends.

The team also had to spend the majority of practice without starting left guard Chris Williams available to the team. Williams suffered a toe injury early on in team drills, left with a trainer, and did not return.

In his place, the Bills shifted rookie guard Cyril Richardson over to the left side and gave the fifth-round pick most of the first-team snaps. As of Wednesday, Richardson had been splitting first-team reps at right guard with the incumbent Kraig Urbik in place of Chris Hairston, who left that practice with a back injury. Hairston was once again unable to participate on Thursday.

The Bills have only one more practice before their first preseason game of 2014. The team will be under the lights of Growney Stadium at St. John Fisher College on Friday night at 6. The practice will be open to the public, but a ticket is needed for entry.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
 (4) Comments




 

Bills training camp observations: Day 9

EJ Manuel
The Buffalo Bills took the field on Wednesday afternoon following their day off from practice, only to get their session delayed an hour due to inclement weather. Just short of an hour into practice thunder erupted in the sky above them, a loud announcement sounded that practice would be delayed and the Bills ran into the locker room for cover.

Lightning crashed a couple of times but eventually the weather lifted enough for the Bills to take the field in front of a plucky crowd of around 75 fans. Even though he threw an interception in team drills before the rain delay, the team’s young quarterback came back refreshed and ready for the rest of practice.

EJ’s best practice yet
- Once the Bills got back on the field following the rain delay Wednesday, EJ Manuel looked quite relaxed all throughout the remainder of practice. His work during team drills stood out, hitting all his receivers in stride and helping them continue to move the ball down the field. The passes were crisp and decisive just like his diagnostic skills for each passing play he participated in. Manuel only overthrew his targets a pair of times in the second half of practice — with one of them quite possibly being on purpose to a completely covered up wide receiver — making his performance a good one in the scope of what has been seen so far from the young player. It’s a definite step in the right direction as far as practice is concerned.

Richardson reps increasing
- Fans of incumbent starting right guard Kraig Urbik can’t be too pleased because for the fourth time since the end of last season, Urbik has lost some first-team repetitions to another player by the Bills. Head coach Doug Marrone has reaffirmed that it is an open competition on a few different occasions since the start of training camp, and the newest entrant into the fray is rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson. After an incredibly slow start to offseason workouts and even training camp, Richardson has very quickly worked his way back to a favorable spot with the coaching staff. They entrusted him with more responsibility as the second-team left guard over the weekend, and now is getting reps with the first team at right guard. They’re giving him a shot, which is worse news for Urbik than it is good news for Richardson, at least for the time being. If the rookie continues to play well, all bets are off.

Bradham explains himself
- Since the start of the offseason workouts, the Bills have been spewing positivity out whenever it came to outside linebacker Nigel Bradham. They thought he had an outstanding spring, they believe that he has a more mature mindset coming into the year and they rewarded him with almost all the first-team reps at weakside linebacker to this point in training camp. That came to a screeching halt earlier in the afternoon when news broke that Bradham had been suspended by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy, which led most to believe he’d gotten himself into trouble once again. The only difference is, he didn’t. It was the same charge stemming from last year, that was later dismissed, and that is also forcing Bradham to miss the team’s first game. Unlike it did last year, it didn’t appear he was on Marrone’s bad side in his first practice since the news broke. Bradham took all his reps, fully explained himself and seemed like he was ready to move on. It seems as though the Bills are ready to move on with him, too.

Gragg gets back
- A welcomed sight at St. John Fisher College, a third tight end got back on the field for the team Wednesday. Chris Gragg, who was hospitalized for two days with heat cramps, was back in full pads with the rest of his teammates. Scott Chandler (groin) and Tony Moeaki (hamstring) watched the practice from the sidelines while Gragg, Lee Smith and Dominique Jones took all the reps. Gragg lost some ground but he has a lot of time to make it up with Moeaki out, and an even larger opportunity if Chandler is out for a significant amount of time as well.

Hairston leaves early
- In the aforementioned right guard competition, another piece to the puzzle is former fourth-round pick Chris Hairston. He has been splitting first-team reps with Urbik throughout training camp to this point at right guard, but has yet to really take a stronghold of the opportunity at hand. Hairston, who was injured at the beginning of training camp in 2013, had to leave practice early on Wednesday due to an injury to the same body part that kept him from participating last July and August. After practice head coach Doug Marrone revealed Hairston suffered a back injury, but his status for upcoming practices is not yet known. Hairston can play both guard and offensive tackle, but is thought to be fighting for a roster spot in 2014.

Day 9 MVP: WR Robert Woods
- Woods took over during the 7-on-7 goal line drill to end practice on Wednesday. Woods ran his routes correctly, didn’t come back to the ball when he was near the goal line and displayed outstanding hands during his few reps. Woods first took a well-placed over the shoulder throw from EJ Manuel while a defender was draped all over the wide receiver. Woods simply reached out with his right arm, still getting his left arm dragged from behind and corralled the pass in for a touchdown. It was a gorgeous play.

Day 9 LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- Training camp has not been kind to Thad Lewis in 2014. Lewis has been erratic and is on the wrong page with his receivers way more often than he should be. He threw a bad interception to Michael Carter on the sideline during a throw that required to be closer to the boundary for the receiver. While Jeff Tuel hasn’t stood out in any way, he has made less mistakes than Lewis. So far, the nod would have to go to Tuel to be the backup, but there is still a long way to go.

Up Next: The Bills resume practice on Thursday, July 31 at 8 am. Practice is open to the general public, with no ticket being required for entry.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
 (9) Comments




 

NFL suspends Bills Bradham for 1 game

For the second straight year, Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nigel Bradham is his own worst enemy. On the verge of a starting position in both the 2013 and 2014 versions of training camp, Bradham will have to answer to head coach Doug Marrone once again.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Football League suspended the linebacker for one game without pay for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Bradham will still be allowed to participate in both the practices and games throughout preseason. When the first week of the season arrives, Bradham will not be eligible for the active roster until Monday, September 8, the day after the Bills take on the Chicago Bears in their regular season opener.

In 2013, Bradham was stopped and ticketed for possession of marijuana following one of the team's preseason games. At that point in time, he was in a battle with Arthur Moats for the second starting inside linebacker job beside Kiko Alonso and a little after the news set in, Moats started taking the majority of first-team repetitions.

It was from that charge, however, that the league elected to suspend him for the first game of the season. Even though the charges were dismissed and Bradham appealed to the league, they ultimately decided the action was still worthy of a one-game ban.

This year, Bradham was in a strong position to replace the injured Alonso at weakside linebacker in the Bills' new 4-3 base defensive scheme. Both Marrone and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz have raved about his work through offseason workouts and into the first two weeks of training camp.

Bradham is a third-year linebacker out of Florida State University, whom the Bills selected in the fourth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 (18) Comments
Tags :  
Topics : Sports
Social :
People : Arthur MoatsDoug MarroneJim SchwartzKiko AlonsoNigel Bradham




 

Bills enter next chapter of sale: so what's next?

The Buffalo Bills are officially up for sale and prospective owners have until the end of business on Tuesday to declare their intentions to the team's hired legal and financial firms. The notable day of the sale process, July 29 marks the deadline for interested parties to submit their paperwork to the team to be a part of the bidding process, and also the next stage of the sale.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the interested persons or groups must submit a nonbinding bid to the trust with an idea of a purchase price. Those numbers are not locked in, however. The July 29 deadline is solely for indications of interest that are due, and to identify the key potential buyers. 

To even get to this point in the sale, prospective owners had to sign an initial non-disclosure agreement. Once the nonbinding bids are in, the source said the trust will look to very quickly narrow down the list of prospective buyers to those that they believe are the most suitable potential new owners of the Bills.

After the serious candidates have been identified, over the course of the next month a vetting process will be performed by the trust’s financial firm — Morgan Stanley, and also by the National Football League as part of the sale process. The vetting process could be done in a fairly short amount of time, with a window of mid-to-late August being the target.

Once that has been completed and all the serious candidates have been vetted, according to the source, binding offers will be due on or around the start of September. From there the trust would move on to the next stage and come to a decision on who the winning party will be. 

From that point, it would ultimately lead to the hopeful ratification of the new owner at one of the league’s upcoming owners meetings. The current hope by the Bills, the source said, is to have the winning bidder be put to a league vote at the meetings on October 7 and 8 in New York City. The person or group must be approved by 24 of 31 owners.

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula, rocker Jon Bon Jovi (along with MLSE’s Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers of Rogers Communication), former Sabres owner Tom Golisano and Donald Trump are the four most publicly known names linked to the sale of the team. It is likely that the Bills will receive other nonbinding bids by the end of the business day on Tuesday in addition to those four.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
 (46) Comments




 

Bills training camp observations: Day 8

It happens around this time every single year. Once the novelty of training camp begins to wear off and all the players have to deal with is constant communication and banter with their teammates, eventually a boiling point happens during one random practice.

While the Buffalo Bills were a team on paper, they were divided by offense and defense as two separate entities for a solid 30 minute stretch on Monday night. Tempers flared and it resulted in some activities that head coach Doug Marrone is not very fond of, but it also led to the most spirited practice to date.

Boy, that escalated quickly
- It certainly did jump up a notch, Champ. For those in attendance on Monday night, they got to see big hits, scrums and an intense back-and-forth between offensive and defensive players. While the exact catalyst of the events is unknown, things got fairly chippy starting with rookie offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio throwing punches at defensive lineman Ikponmwosa Igbinosun. That was only the start of it, and from there things only got more heated. Lined up on the opposite side of the field, defensive end Jerry Hughes was shouting something in the direction of the offensive line before things really broke down. There were a couple of loud thuds in this version of team drills, all leading up to the biggest scrum of the night between a pair of third-string players. Defensive end Bryan Johnson and center Macky MacPherson started getting into it well after the play, they whipped each other around and Johnson even threw, at least, four punches to the midsection of MacPherson. It was at that moment that Marrone felt like enough was enough. He is not shy about his feelings on things breaking down during a camp practice like that. Point blank: he hates it. While the rest of the team went into the special teams period, the head coach yelled out for both the offensive and defensive lines to huddle up and try to stop what was happening before it got even more heated and out of hand. After a few stern words, Marrone had his group laughing and it seemed like the two sides came to an understanding once the coach left. That wasn’t the last of it, though, as Marrone spoke with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson after practice, followed by a powwow with both Kyle and Mario Williams. It's likely a safe bet to not anticipate too many more of those moments in a Doug Marrone led training camp.

Two-minute drill gets three completions, but ends in EJ INT
- The Bills didn’t make their practice ‘live’ at all on Monday like they had the previous two days, but they crossed off another first for the 2014 version of training camp. The team ran through their two-minute drill in what was, very much like the rest of practice, a very spirited exercise. EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis each got to run the two-minute offense in the team’s second-to-last drill of Monday’s practice, with Lewis getting much better results. Both players were set up with 1:42 to go on the clock and 75 yards in front of them before they reached the end zone. In two out of his first three plays, Manuel found Fred Jackson twice for 24 yards, and then linked up with Marquise Goodwin for a six-yard slant pattern. The quarterback only threw five passes total, however, and both almost resulted in turnovers. The first was an attempt to find Robert Woods on an intermediate route, but the ball was placed a good two to three yards in front of the wide receiver. Safety Jonathan Meeks was half a step away from getting the interception. To end the session for the first-team offense, Manuel thought he had found his wideout breaking towards the sideline in man-to-man coverage, but he locked on and did not look off the cornerback who was playing in zone coverage. Cornerback Ron Brooks read Manuel’s eyes, drifted back and came away with an impressive interception — undoubtedly his best play of camp -- and perhaps his best since being drafted by the team. Thad Lewis led a rather sloppy two-minute drill that ended up four yards short of the end zone when the quarterback found T.J. Graham on a last second heave. The defense won this round, again.

Kouandjio’s struggles continue
- It’s been a slow process for the rookie and it seems as though the book may be out from his teammates going up against him in practice. Kouandjio has the tendency to get too tall out of his stance which creates many more chances for his opponents to get him unbalanced. Once he does this, if the defensive end or whomever he’s up against decides to give a good, solid jab up high on his pads, the rookie loses just enough ground to lose his man completely. Throughout the day, Kouandjio suffered bad beats against Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and Jacquies Smith all in different drills. Young players have struggled like this in the past, and it’s certainly fair to note the second-round pick only turned 21 a week ago. However, the Bills had to be expecting a more polished player than the one they’ve seen at this point in camp. He’ll get plenty of opportunities throughout practices to improve, and it’s entirely possible that he will improve. It just hasn’t happened yet.

DL Williamses with a quality day
- One of the players that torched Kouandjio on two straight plays in team drills was Mario Williams and the defensive end has been quite impressive during camp, most notably on Monday. Williams was in the backfield on more than just his sack plays and didn’t look phased by what the offense was throwing at the defense in the slightest bit. Both he and Kyle Williams had a total of four sacks during Thad Lewis’ two-minute drill, with the latter Williams beating rookie Cyril Richardson at least once, if not both times. The performance was especially good timing considering defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz boasted earlier in the day that blitzing on his own terms is what will help the Bills to success. Having the defensive linemen that he does, Schwartz has to be feeling fairly good about their prospects heading into 2014.

Surprise on the depth chart?
- When the running back group is brought up, the names C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are both brought up almost simultaneously. Since the May draft, the third name out of people's mouths is former Philadelphia Eagles runner Bryce Brown as the likely heir apparent to one of those two roles if one, or both, leave the Bills as an unrestricted free agent next year. There’s just one problem: Brown isn’t even third on the depth chart on his own team yet. The Bills sent along their first official depth chart and Brown was listed as the fourth running back, while free agent acquisition and special teams ace Anthony Dixon took up the third spot. Dixon has been running quite hard during camp and is a lot faster than one would initially imagine. Perhaps the Bills are making Brown earn it, perhaps they’re trying to redshirt him if or when the stuff hits the fan next March with Spiller and Jackson, or, maybe the Bills just feel Dixon is the better runner right now. Whichever reason it is, it’s one of the only surprises on the first depth chart.

No Watkins, No Williams
- Two of the more important players on the Bills’ roster did not take part in the majority of team drills, but it does not appear either will have a lingering effect. Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins watched the majority of reps from the sidelines, allowing time on the field to Chris Hogan with the first-team. The way it was described to the media is that Watkins was merely getting a rest day after being such a presence through the first seven days of camp. On the other hand, safety Aaron Williams was too sick to be out on the field and practice at St. John Fisher College. It is unclear at this point how, if at all, these absences will affect future practices.

Day 8 MVP: DE Mario Williams
- Mario Williams used all the tools in his arsenal: speed, power, reading the offensive lineman, and more, to have his most productive day of training camp since it began on July 20. It’s a reminder of how much taller, bigger and stronger he is than the players he goes up against from week to week. If he was a bit more sudden it would likely create more opportunities, but for the time being Williams is having a very good camp.

Day 8 LVP: OT Cyrus Kouandjio
- Once again Kouandjio couldn’t get out of his way and let the margin between him and Erik Pears for the starting right tackle job grow a little bit more. A solid performance on Sunday during the Hall of Fame Game could help his confidence heading into future practices, because he just hasn’t gotten the hang of the NFL yet.

Injury Update: The Bills held out safety Kenny Ladler (hamstring) and tight ends Scott Chandler (groin), Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and Chris Gragg (heat cramps) from Monday’s session. Leodis McKelvin was dressed for practice once more, but for the fourth straight day did not take any part in team drills.

Up Next: The Bills have Tuesday off from practice and then get back for their third-to-last session before the Hall of Fame Game. The team will take the field on Wednesday at 2 pm at St. John Fisher College. The practice is open to the general public.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press
 (5) Comments




 

Bills' Schwartz gives gilmpse into blitz philosophy

When Mike Pettine left the Buffalo Bills to take the job as the head coach with the Cleveland Browns, many considered the departure of the defensive coordinator to be among one of the biggest losses of the offseason. Pettine had a unique playcalling style on that side of the ball and it resulted in the Bills setting a franchise record for sacks in one season.

To replace him, the Bills hired former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who before that was a well-respected defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Through his time in the National Football League, Schwartz has been heralded for having strong defensive lines that have set the tone for his unit.

In Buffalo, that won't appear to be a problem with the quartet of starters they've lined up in Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Due in part to the failed experiment of Dave Wannstedt as the Bills defensive coordinator very recently, some have made the connection of Schwartz's defensive theory being similar to that of Wannstedt: rely on the front four to create pressure and rarely blitz.

Some might even be scared of the defensive coordinator when he called on logic and simple math Monday, explaining that a blitz isn't always necessary due to the front four being as talented, and strong as they are.

"Generally offenses are going to protect with five, six guys," Schwartz started. "We've got four, there's a couple of guys that are gonna be one-on-one, and we've got guys that can win one-on-one."

If the first seven practices are any indication, though, the Bills won't be hesitant to blitz... at all. The Bills have sent linebackers both inside and outside, cornerbacks and safeties alike to get the offense to make a mistake. Instead of blitzing from all over like they did with Pettine in 2013, Schwartz has a little bit of a different interpretation on how to best utilize the added pressure.

"I think any time you can blitz on your own terms, you're at an advantage defensively," he said. "By that I mean you don't have to blitz to get a pass rush. If you can rely on your front four to get a pass rush, you can do so many more things with your coverage. And then when you want to blitz, you can blitz. It's not, 'Well we've got to get pressure on the quarterback so we have to blitz.' And I think that's one of the advantages of having a strong front four."

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
 (18) Comments
Tags :  
Topics : Sports
Social :
Locations : Buffalo
People : Dave WannstedtJerry HughesJim SchwartzKyle WilliamsMarcell DareusMike Pettine