Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- On the third day of training camp at St. John Fisher College, the pads went on, the pads started popping, and the level of intensity was turned up a few notches.
The Buffalo Bills got to participate in their first practice under Doug Marrone where hitting was acceptable. Tuesday also marked the first time some of the depth chart was upset by players that were limited on the field due to injuries.
With all due respect to the drama surrounding the Mario Williams sore foot that has taken him off-campus the past two days, today's practice notes will exclude the topic that seems to be already developing. Besides that mention of course. If you want more on it, click here.
Hitting! Thudding! Football!
- There's something incredibly refreshing about watching the first padded practice of the year. Perhaps it's from being over-saturated by hitting as the regular season goes along, and then not having live hitting for over half the year. Whatever it stems from, having some actual contact is a welcomed addition to training camp. The Bills took advantage, playing to a thud during some drills. For those unfamiliar with the term, 'thud' means making initial contact between the defender and ball carrier but keeps the mentality that everyone should stay on their feet. The Bills participated in a drill that lined up three offensive linemen and a running back against three defensive linemen and a linebacker. The contact also dramatically improved the competitive levels during 1-on-1's between the offensive and defensive lines as well.
- Speaking of which, the Bills participated in 1-on-1's for the second time in three days. Each player got around two reps, just due to the volume of players that needed to get work in. Throughout those reps Kraig Urbik (2-0), Erik Pears (2-0) and Zack Chibane (2-0) performed the strongest on the offensive side of the ball while the standouts on defense were Kourtnei Brown (3-1) and Marcell Dareus (2-0). On the negative side of things, Hutch Eckerson (0-2) and Manny Lawson (0-2) each struggled during their appearances.
Enough already, tell me about the quarterbacks
- For the second straight day, Kevin Kolb struggled to get anything started as the man taking the first-team repetitions. Much like on Monday, Kolb's decision making just seemed half a second behind where it should be. Now, it wasn't all bad for the veteran quarterback on Tuesday. He did connect on some intermediate throws, swing passes and screen passes. However, once again he threw an interception to Stephon Gilmore (which was negated by a Jerry Hughes offsides penalty) and put another throw right in Gilmore's hands. On the other hand, while not spectacular EJ Manuel didn't damage his case to be the top quarterback in the depth chart. To the untrained eye, Manuel has been the better quarterback each of the past two days.
First scuffle of summer
- The way the Bills practice under Head Coach Doug Marrone, it wasn't going to be long before a couple of players got into a disagreement on the field that ended in extracurricular physical activity. In the first battle of the summer, it featured cornerback Crezdon Butler against rookie wide receiver Robert Woods. The two were engaged on a block after one certain play and the two wrestled each other to the ground. It ended up with Butler on top of Woods, throwing a few little jabs at the wideout all while the rookie's helmet was coming off. Round one goes to the cornerback.
ILB Kiko Alonso
- In the first day of physical contact, watching starting inside linebacker and rookie Kiko Alonso was a major component of today's practice. Still waiting to see him tackle, seeing him be able to use his body to get to the ball carrier was good enough for the first padded practice of training camp. He didn't disappoint, meeting the ball carrier in the proper gap as the Bills worked on the running game for a good portion of Tuesday. The scrimmage on Monday night could be where Alonso really makes his mark.
- It was a day of firsts for the Bills, because Tuesday also marked the initial time Rian Lindell and Dustin Hopkins had field goal attempts for their developing competition. The veteran Lindell, who many believe has a lot of work to do to regain the job, went 13-of-18 on the day. Those numbers include a stretch where Lindell hit only 1-of-4 without any pressure coming at him. For the rookie Hopkins, he went 14-of-17, hitting 7 of his last 8 attempts. As long as he doesn't blow it during preseason, it really does appear the rookie with the stronger leg has a good chance at winning the job outright.
- Through the first two days, injuries really didn't take their toll on the Bills. On Tuesday though, the Bills had to adjust their depth charts because of some players not being able to take part in the team portion of practice. Kyle Williams, Justin Rogers, Scott Chandler and Jamie Blatnick all did not participate in that portion of practice. Rookie linebacker Keith Pough injured himself during team drills and then walked off the field with a trainer. With Chandler, everything was going as scheduled until he took a rep when the quarterbacks were working with their pass catchers exclusively. Chandler walked off the field and immediately plopped down on the exercise bike. The injuries made some playing time available for younger players trying to fight to get on the roster at outside linebacker and cornerback especially.
CB T.J. Heath
- The direct recipient of Justin Rogers not participating in team drills was the little known cornerback T.J. Heath. Most fans on Twitter replied with, 'Who?' Despite the relative anonymity Heath stepped in for Rogers as the right cornerback with the first team. Leodis McKelvin likely didn't get bumped up due to missing most of spring practices while rehabbing from his off-season surgery. Marrone even alluded to that fact during one of his press conferences in the past couple of days. Heath held his own, not giving up any big plays to the receivers in front of him. Perhaps he's a dark horse to hook on with the 53-man roster.
Day 3 MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore
- The awards of the day will start with the man who got his hands on the ball the most on defense. Gilmore made a pretty over-the-shoulder interception on a play that Kolb lofted in to the air. On another pass play, Gilmore read Kolb's eyes and had the ball in range of another interception just above his head, but the ball skidded through his hands. Despite not completing the catch, Gilmore was the standout of the day, covering up his assignment for much of the 11-on-11 work.
Day 3 LVP: OLB Jerry Hughes
- A strong set of spring practices got the Bills excited about what Jerry Hughes could do in the defense. On Tuesday though, the outside linebacker failed to impress. During his first rep of 1-on-1's versus Cordy Glenn, Hughes won with ease. That was about the last positive thing that went his way during the morning session. Hughes couldn't beat Zebrie Sanders or Erik Pears in his other two tries throughout the drill. It's already been written a couple of times, but Hughes being offsides on the play negated Gilmore's pretty interception of Kevin Kolb. Hughes had a big opportunity to shine with both Mario Williams and Jamie Blatnick not participating, but it was Kourtnei Brown that stepped up with the additional time.
The Bills get back to work Wednesday morning starting at 8 am. The practice is once again open to the public.