Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- For the first time in quite some time, the Buffalo Bills had an actual live scrimmage during training camp at St. John Fisher College. Throughout the evening, the Bills ran a whopping 123 plays during 11-on-11 drills, getting a large amount of time on the field for may players desperately trying to make an impression.
With many of the starting players off to the side for the majority of the session, some second and third-team players took advantage. The scrimmage was largely dominated by the defense, but there were some obvious standouts on offense.
EJ outshined… by Jeff Tuel?
- It wasn't the most awe-inspiring of starts for first-round quarterback EJ Manuel. Fresh off of a three-interception day on Sunday, the rookie started the live scrimmage with another pair of interceptions. Leodis McKelvin read Manuel's eyes on the first, stepped in front of it and scampered back all the way for a touchdown. Then Manuel had the second ball deflected at the line of scrimmage by Marcus Dowtin, with Arthur Moats corralling the ball for another turnover. From that point, it was slow and steady but the rookie eventually came around. Manuel's initial first down came on his ninth drive, which was a touchdown to T.J. Graham. He went on to throw another touchdown, and rush for another. His totals for the day consisted of 56 snaps, completing 6 passes on 13 attempts for 79 yards. Manuel took four sacks and had three first downs in his 12 series on the field. On the other hand, seemingly out of nowhere undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel came out firing. Within his first four drives, Tuel connected on three separate deep balls (to Marquise Goodwin, Da'Rick Rogers and Marcus Easley respectively). He gave the receivers a good enough chance to go up and make a play, which is precisely what these young receivers angling for a roster spot want. Tuel didn't throw a touchdown pass, but he didn't turn the ball over either.
Carrington flashes... again
- Defensive lineman Alex Carrington continued one of the strongest training camps of 2013 with just a phenomenal showing during the live scrimmage. Carrington is constantly getting through the line of scrimmage and into the backfield, wreaking havoc to the original offensive play call. He helped contribute to a pair of sacks throughout Monday's session as well. At training camp at least, Carrington has gotten to the level of play that Buddy Nix first envisioned for him when they selected him in the third round.
McKelvin up, McKelvin down
- There's two versions of Leodis McKelvin. There's good Leodis, and bad Leodis. Good Leodis showed up a couple of times during the scrimmage. Heck, both versions of Leodis even popped up on the same play. Starting at left cornerback with the first-team, one of McKelvin's first plays on the field was the aforementioned interception that he returned for a touchdown. Good Leodis! Just a few plays later, McKelvin muffed a punt catch attempt. Bad Leodis! Later on in the practice during the two-minute drill, wideout Marquise Goodwin tried a double-move on McKelvin, to which the corner stayed right with the speedster (there's good Leodis). EJ Manuel still liked what he saw in the one-on-one matchup and threw it up to Goodwin. It seemed like McKelvin was in perfect position, but rather than using both arms to swat it down, he only used one to try and bat at it. Predictably, McKelvin missed and the catch was completed. Bad Leodis strikes again. That play really was a microcosm of his career to this point in time.
Best third-team player of the scrimmage award goes to…
- Often an afterthought in the inside linebacker discussion, Chris White came to play on Monday night. More importantly, he came to lay huge hits on running backs trying to plow their way through to the goal-line. On one series inside the five-yard line, White made the stop three out of four plays. He even gave what looked to be the biggest hit of the day on a helpless Tashard Choice at the one-yard line on a fourth-down play. White was ferocious in that portion of practice.
Just let the man rush the passer
- It's not often that you'll see outside linebacker Jerry Hughes in man-on-man coverage. If tonight was any indication, you know why. While Hughes has displayed an array of moves to the quarterback through spring and the first week of training camp, a coverage linebacker he is not. Fullback Drew Smith went out for a pass and drew the coverage from Hughes. Smith headed toward the end zone and the ball came his way. Rather than reading the fullback's hands and motions, Hughes just stood there, didn't look back for the ball or even wave his hands in the air to try and force the incompletion. The ball made it to Smith for the score.
Goodwin getting big
- This must be the third straight day rookie wide receiver Marquise Goodwin has made it in to the practice notes, but that's what happens when an injury opens up more reps on the field for a young player. To Goodwin's credit, he has stepped up his game in a big way since Stevie Johnson went down with an injury. Showing off his speed and blocking ability in earlier practices, it was the skill to go up and make a tough catch over a cornerback that reigned supreme on Monday. At 5-foot-9, Goodwin has supreme athleticism to get up and high point the ball. He's been very impressive over the past few days.
Gilmore lets one up
- The sentence you're about to read is not one that has been written too many times through eight practices at St. John Fisher College. Stephon Gilmore got beat for a touchdown. The second-year player has been exquisite in his efforts at training camp thus far, looking as though he's poised for a breakout year in the league. However, EJ Manuel and T.J. Graham hooked up to get the best of him on one play at the scrimmage. Not only was it the first touchdown Manuel threw for, but it was the only technical first down on the rookie's ninth drive. Don't sound the alarm bells or anything, but the way Gilmore has played it's fair to remind fans that he has had moments to forget as well.
The Kendall Gaskins Show
- Undrafted rookie Kendall Gaskins may not have envisioned the amount of carries he would get during Monday's scrimmage, but he got his fair share. C.J. Spiller only took a few reps at the beginning and Fred Jackson didn't get very many either. Combine those with Zach Brown getting injured, it became Gaskins' time to shine. The 6-foot-1, 238-pound rookie prides himself on a physical running style, and that was on display during his time on the field. The Bills gave him 16 carries, and he also caught another four passes, looking impressive while doing so. His only down moment, fumbling the ball on third-down near the goal-line. He'll likely be kicking himself for that play over any celebration of how well he ran on the other 19 plays.
Day 8 MVP: OLB Jamie Blatnick
- While there were many different candidates for the Most Valuable Player during the scrimmage, it was clear as day who had the best practice (in the opinion of your humble guide, of course). Outside linebacker Jamie Blatnick was constantly in the backfield, making routine plays in the run game and forcing negative plays for the offense. He would have racked up a sack on at least two different plays, and forced the quarterback outside the pocket which paved the way for another sack for a teammate. The Bills were excited about Blatnick, enough so that they elected to release Mark Anderson. Days like Monday night certainly help their decision.
Day 8 LVP: CB T.J. Heath
- A few different cornerbacks could have earned these honors, but Heath had the worst day of the bunch. First, he got burnt to a crisp by Marquise Goodwin on a comeback route that set up the very next play. Goodwin hit Heath with a double move, and Heath bit so that he wouldn't fall prey to the comeback route again. Instead this time, Goodwin turned it upfield and gained separation from Heath. The ball thrown by Tuel wasn't the greatest, which allowed Heath to get back in the play. However, Goodwin went up and out-jumped the cornerback for the reception which set up the offense on the five-yard line. Keep in mind, Heath is 6-foot-1 and Goodwin is 5-foot-9. However, he wasn't alone in the cornerback room for negative plays. McKelvin, Kip Edwards and Jumal Rolle also contributed to those efforts as well.
With the scrimmage behind them, the Bills have Tuesday off from practice. They return to the field on Wednesday morning at 8 am. Practice is open to the general public.