Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- A little over a day ahead of the scheduled scrimmage for the Buffalo Bills, the team took to the practice field on Sunday in what turned out to be a shortened session led by Head Coach Doug Marrone.
The Bills were only on the field for a little over two hours, going through three separate rounds of 11-on-11 drills. The idea was likely hatched by Marrone to give his team a little bit of a rest before the hitting goes live during Monday's scrimmage.
Once again the team was without veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb, which left all the first-team reps for rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel. How did he fare, knowing that the spotlight would be on him the whole way through?
As you'll read, it wasn't the best of days for the rookie.
EJ's down day
- Comparatively speaking, EJ Manuel has been the best quarterback at St. John Fisher College through the first six days of practice. Kevin Kolb has done little to cement the starting job and Manuel has looked calm in his first training camp. Without Kolb on the field, however, the ability to compare the two was not an option on Sunday. Due to that fact, Manuel's negative plays are a bit amplified and he'll be looking to come out stronger on Monday. The rookie threw three interceptions throughout 11-on-11 drills. Two were definitively his fault, while the other probably would have been just an incomplete pass had it not been for a spectacular play made by the cornerback in coverage. The first turnover that was his fault came about when Robert Woods was running an in-route over the middle of the field. The throw was a tad behind Woods, giving the defender in coverage a chance to get a hand on it. The ball deflected off both players into the air and safely nestled itself in to the arms of an awaiting Da'Norris Searcy. The second interception that was Manuel's fault came when the Bills were within 30 yards of the end zone. The rookie stared down his target, tight end Lee Smith, and tried to force the football in for a first down. The problem? Rookie Kiko Alonso read it the whole way and stepped in front for another interception. As for the other, you'll read about the rather impressive interception a little farther down the page. Manuel did throw some nice passes on the day, including one to the flat for Fred Jackson who turned it into a touchdown. Even still, it was Manuel's weakest performance to date.
Williams' doing more
- Both Kyle and Mario Williams have each had to temper their expectations through the first week of training camp. On the day of the seventh practice however, both players took an even bigger step forward towards their individual recoveries. Kyle Williams (foot surgery) took part in 1-on-1s against the offensive line for the first time this training camp. His role was also increasing during the team portion of practice as well. With Mario Williams (sore foot), he took a limited amount of snaps during 11-on-11s, marking the first time he had done so at training camp in 2013. Unofficially, the pass rusher got six reps with the first team -- two for every round of 11-on-11s the Bills did -- before being replaced by Jerry Hughes. It's unknown to this point whether the duo will participate in the scrimmage on Monday.
Kicking competition round three
- It will be a battle all summer long, but the kicking competition between veteran Rian Lindell and rookie Dustin Hopkins took a decided turn in the favor of Lindell on Sunday afternoon. The veteran was fairly consistent throughout the day, knocking 10-of-13 attempts through the uprights. Of his 10 positive attempts, Lindell's longest was 45 yards. His three misses were from 43, 46 and 51 yards out. For camp, Lindell is now 35-of-49. As for Hopkins? Well, you'll just have to keep reading to see about his day.
The underrated part to Goodwin's game
- With Stevie Johnson sidelined due to a hamstring injury, third-round rookie Marquise Goodwin has gotten much more exposure than he had been previously. One of his true talents that will likely give him a great chance to be on the field over some other players is somewhat unexpected considering his size. Despite being 5-foot-9 and 183-pounds, Goodwin is an absolutely tenacious blocker down the field and has exhibited that trait through the past two days at practice. The Bills alluded to that part of his game after the draft, but his Olympic speed was the talk of the town. While the speed helps, his blocking may end up being one of his biggest allies for getting playing time.
Gilmore's pretty play
- Once again, Buffalo Bills second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore is making big-time plays in training camp. Already twice named the MVP in the daily practice notes, Gilmore put himself in consideration once again with the best play of the day. EJ Manuel had Marcus Easley one-on-one against Gilmore down the right sideline. The rookie quarterback put enough air under it, making it into a jump ball, thinking the physically gifted Easley could go up and snag it from the air. Little did Manuel know, Gilmore would end up playing it perfectly. The way the cornerback is practicing this year though, the quarterback should start taking note of it. He ran down the sideline stride-for-stride with Easley and watched for the receiver's hands to move up in the slightest. Once he received that visual cue, Gilmore immediately turned towards the ball, keeping his body squarely in front of Easley's for perfect position. Once there, Gilmore leapt up and high-pointed the ball to bring it in for the interception. He went down to the ground with a thud alongside Easley, but held on to it for the prettiest interception of camp thus far.
- While left guard is getting all the attention recently due to Doug Marrone not being particularly pleased with the competitors, left tackle Cordy Glenn has also become a bit of an enigma. Glenn had a strong training camp, preseason and start to the regular season in 2012. His production dipped once he sustained an injury and came back from it later on in the year, however. To start training camp in 2013, Glenn has flashed in good ways and also stood out for some negative plays as well. Glenn is very good at covering many things up. Most bull rush attempts are futile due to his size and anchoring ability, and he even has the feet to stay with wide rushers as well. However, Glenn has shown real trouble with two types of moves. The first, a pass rusher that gets him moving one way and then has the burst to switch directions while Glenn is in the middle of a step gives him some trouble. The second, a player that has the ability to go wide and bend low to the ground, dip the shoulder and sneak past the big left tackle. Glenn is young and still can learn the technique to avoid this from being a problem for the long-term, but it is a bit of a problem right now.
1-on-1 flashes from defensive linemen
- One of the most compelling parts of watching practice during training camp is seeing the offensive linemen go up against the defensive linemen in 1-on-1 showdowns. During a defensively dominated practice, that trend kept up during that specific drill as well. The big winner was fourth-year player Alex Carrington. He fired the first shot, flying past right guard Kraig Urbik with a smooth spin move that got him to the quarterback without being touched. Jerry Hughes got very low on a later rep, dipping his shoulder on a wide rush against Cordy Glenn. The left tackle didn't even touch him and Hughes got in for the would-be sack. Undrafted rookie Keith Pough made Zebrie Sanders look silly with a perfect swim move, and then Jamie Blatnick zipped by Thomas Welch on a different attempt. Reserve defensive lineman Corbin Bryant also had a spectacular drill winning all three times, beating Keith Williams, Antoine Caldwell and Doug Legursky.
Trying day for Tuel
- Just because the Buffalo Bills only have three quarterbacks on the roster, it does not mean the third man of that group is a shoe-in to be one of the 53 men that inevitably make the team outright. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel has been getting what will likely be his most extended practice time throughout the past two days, and hasn't made the most of it. Tuel sails his fair share of passes and tends to hold on to the ball too long in the pocket. If Kevin Kolb can't play in the scrimmage on Monday, that will be another huge opportunity for Tuel to make an impression. He needs it at this point.
Day 7 MVP: LB Kiko Alonso
- The player that many Bills fans are talking about on defense, second-round pick and rookie inside linebacker Kiko Alonso had a very impressive day from start to finish. In the first period of team drills, Alonso tore his way upfield through the offensive line and delivered solid contact on a running play to Tashard Choice. If he could tackle, the play would have resulted in a loss of yardage. He also displayed good coverage, only being beaten by a perfect throw to Fred Jackson in the flat during 7-on-7's. He got his revenge in the final session of 11-on-11s though, reading EJ Manuel's eyes and making the move to step in front of Lee Smith for an interception. Alonso is one of the players that will likely thrive the most in Monday's scrimmage. He got a brief taste of hitting on Saturday, so this will be the first time he's given the green light for much of the practice. It should be interesting at the very least to see if his natural aggressiveness works for or against him.
Day 7 LVP: K Dustin Hopkins
- How bad was Dustin Hopkins' day? Well, it started off in a very average way. Hopkins hit 4-of-7, but he did nail a 52-yard attempt. In the second set of kicking activities, Hopkins couldn't get it together. He missed 3-of-4 attempts, including one from 32 yards out. If you're keeping track at home, the rookie went just 5-of-11 for the day, bringing his camp totals to 31-of-46. It's been written many times that Hopkins would have to virtually lose all confidence in himself to lose this job with all the factors working against Lindell. It was a windy day on Sunday, but Hopkins can ill-afford to have any more days like that.
The Bills resume practice on Monday night for their much publicized scrimmage. It starts at 6 pm and is open to the public, but fans must need a ticket to get in.