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Posted: Friday, 10 May 2013 6:27PM

Thoughts from Bills rookie mini-camp



Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550)  -- Let the overanalyzing begin!

One day in to the Buffalo Bills' three-day rookie mini-camp, the starvation for how the newest members of the team looked is at its peak. The one very important thing to remember is that this was only one day of work -- and the first day at that.

Some of these players may have been battling nerves of hitting an NFL field for the first time, trying to impress the coaches, having the playbook swimming around their head, or somewhere in between all of that. With that said, some players did struggle and some looked rather polished.

Here is a brief synopsis of how each player looked during their first day on the job:

Quarterback EJ Manuel (1st round, 16th overall)
- When you look around the field, you can't help but notice the 6-foot-4, 237-pound Manuel. He looks the part of what you want your quarterback to look like. The day started off for him working on footwork with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, to which Hackett had to correct him a couple of times. The Bills are making some adjustments to the first-round pick's footwork, and from what Manuel says they're predicated on the structure of the designated pass play called. That will firmly play a part in to how quickly he will or won't get on to the field. Once Manuel got to the portion where he could throw to his receivers on timing patterns (without defenders), you could see the ease in which the ball came off his hand. As expected, he hit plenty of receivers in stride and even had an effortless throw down the deep sideline to speedster Marquise Goodwin. However, Manuel was high or behind on some of his throws during this drill. One has to remember that this is one of the first times he's thrown to all of these players before passing too much judgment. There has to be a chemistry built that just can't be replicated through one day of a mini-camp. Here's a small snippet of that very drill:

(Be sure to follow me on Vine all season long for content just like this)

After that wrapped up, the Bills went in to 7-on-7 work. Once again Manuel displayed both his arm strength and effortlessness with some of his throws. His problem in this drill was taking a bit too long in the pocket. Some of it was due to good coverage being shown down the field, and others just waiting too long to pull the trigger. Not to sound like a broken record, but it was only the first day. This is likely the first time he's run through plays with the Bills coaches since his private workout during the pre-draft process. Manuel ended the session throwing off his back foot, attempting to place the ball in to a receiver where the linebacker had the underneath, a cornerback was trailing and a safety played deep -- a standard NFL throw. Manuel sailed the pass, and it went straight in to the arms of Dominique Ellis to end the day. With both good and bad on Manuel's part, it was a pretty even day for the first-round pick.

Wide receiver Robert Woods (2nd round, 41st overall)
- Without a doubt, if I had to award one standout player of the afternoon it would go to Woods. The former USC Trojan oozed the overall polish and fluidity on day one that some receivers only dream of being able to have. Woods is certainly a smooth operator, displaying quickness in and out of his breaks and not having much wasted movement in his steps. He dropped a pair of passes in a drill along the sideline early on when working with positional coach Ike Hilliard, but that was really the last time the ball hit the turf off of Woods' hands. A strong first showing for the man slated to start maybe even right away for the Bills.

Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso (2nd round, 46th overall)
- The highest drafted defensive player for the Bills couldn't do too much in the first practice. There was no contact allowed, no defensive linemen during the 7-on-7's and not much for him to do but get in to coverage. He did a nice job on covering up the running back a pair of times throughout the day, however. The one thing the Bills will have to work on with Alonso is ratcheting down in non-padded practices a little bit, which doesn't sound like a terrible problem to have when you're talking about an inside linebacker. It is something that head coach Doug Marrone did address when he spoke with the media after the session. I wouldn't be shocked if training camp comes along and Alonso gets in to a little skirmish or two. He's a total edge player.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (3rd round, 78th overall)
- Speed, speed and more speed. That's the name of the game with Goodwin who showed off his overall explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. His biggest enemy during the minicamp was his concentration and getting the football firm in to his mitts. He did have one of the highlights of the 7-on-7's though, burning his man for a deep pass down the left sideline from EJ Manuel.

Wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers (Undrafted free agent)
- One of the most highly publicized undrafted players in quite some time, Rogers had an up and down day. During warmups with the receivers group, Rogers couldn't quite get the hang of a chance of direction drill after four straight attempts at it. He was sent to the back of the line and then completed the drill successfully on his fifth attempt. Rogers possesses the size and top-end speed you want out of a receiver, that much is for sure. Throughout the day, he plucked a couple of passes away from his body that otherwise would have been an incompletion. The one thing he lacks, in comparison to a Robert Woods-type of receiver, is the burst in and out of his breaks. He was also used on kickoff coverage during special team drills. He'll need to earn his keep there to secure a spot on the roster.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins (6th round, 177th overall)
- The leg is as good as advertised for Hopkins. The former Florida State Seminole continuously boomed kickoffs out of the end zone during special teams drills. Now, John Potter did the same thing this time around last year, but he was never really a threat to Rian Lindell's job as the field goal kicker. Hopkins definitely is competition for the veteran Lindell. If he and his gold kicking spikes show a good accuracy at training camp, Lindell could be in trouble.

Cornerback Nickell Robey (Undrafted free agent)
- Robey shows the part of an explosive athlete that has some very strong quickness. The thing he'll constantly have to battle in the NFL will be his size. Listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, Robey doesn't have the length to break up passes on certain plays. On one play in particular, it was a five-yard button hook to the slot receiver. In his backpedal, Hopkins recognized it and exploded toward the football but was half a step late. I don't know that he could have reacted quicker, and if he was 5-foot-11 rather than his actual stature, that play would have been broken up. He is an intriguing athlete, though, and will likely push for one of the final spots on the roster.

Cornerback Vernon Kearney (Undrafted free agent)
- There's no questioning Kearney's length or top-end speed. At 6-foot-2, the Lane College product bolted to an impressive 4.45 40-yard dash. He is very thin at 185-pounds, however, especially in the lower half. If he only has to side step with a receiver that runs a fly pattern, Kearney can stick with his man all day long. If he has to backpedal and then turn and run, or deal with misdirection routes, his hips aren't fluid enough to stick with his man consistently. He definitely has NFL-caliber speed, but he has the skill-set of a safety, only trapped in a cornerback's body.

Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (Undrafted free agent)
- The long and lanky Kaufman (6-foot-5, 215-pounds) stood out as the tallest skill position player on the field. He also made the catch of the day, jumping up for a high pass from EJ Manuel while in stride, and having the ball sticking to his right hand like glue before he corralled it in to his body. Through the rest of the day though Kaufman did have trouble with some drops and didn't appear to possess the elite athleticism to gain separation consistently. It's easily understood for a taller receiver, but Kaufman was a bit slower in and out of his breaks and had some wasted movement. He certainly is an interesting case for his size alone, however.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel (Undrafted free agent)
- Tuel didn't get loads of time for reps during 7-on-7's but he did show he could spin a nice, clean football to his receivers. The timing was a bit off with a few of his guys, but that's to be expected a first time a quarterback is throwing to a receiver. Tuel was small in comparison to Manuel, but he's no shrimp himself. At 6-foot-3 and 221-pounds, he has the prototypical frame you look for in a quarterback. He seemed to be picking up the footwork drill pretty well with Nathaniel Hackett. I didn't see him open it up too many times and really toss one long down the field, but it looked as though he was making sound decisions (whether to check it down or not) throughout the session. The ball placement is what needs work, but again, it could just be a case of first-day jitters.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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