Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- Following a day off, the Buffalo Bills got back to work bright and early on Wednesday morning. The last time the Bills were on the field they went through a 100-plus play scrimmage that featured full contact and live tackling.
As the coaches asked the team to dial it down in their next practice, there were some clear story lines as the session rolled along.
- For the third straight practice, the Buffalo Bills did not have veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb on the field and it doesn't appear they'll have him on Thursday either. Still grieving the loss of his grandmother with his family, Kolb was excused from Monday and Wednesday's practice, and Head Coach Doug Marrone said the expectation was that Kolb would be back at St. John Fisher College on Thursday night. Seeing as how there is a practice on Thursday morning, that would mean the veteran is missing his fifth straight day of 11-on-11 repetitions while rookie EJ Manuel gets all the rest of them. In Kolb's absence, Manuel hasn't made the figurative stark declaration that the job is his by the way he's played. In fact, Manuel has only been so-so since Kolb suffered the injury. Even when Kolb does return to campus, he still has to have his knee injury cleared by team doctors. The more time the veteran misses, the more time Manuel gets entrenched with the first unit.
Glenn the guard?
- For the first time since he's been a member of the Buffalo Bills, second-year player Cordy Glenn took reps at left guard. The Bills were very cautious with how they explained it. Glenn, the starting left tackle, has been in that position since winning the battle over Chris Hairston in 2012. The team explained it as an act to try Glenn inside just to have the option of him being a swing player. The best explanation one can think of is based off just how poorly both Colin Brown and Doug Legursky have played to this point in time. One of them likely has to win the job… so rather than depending on the loser of the battle being the primary backup, the Bills at this point may have more faith in their backup left tackle than they do in the loser of Brown v. Legursky. If the Glenn at left guard trend continues then maybe there's more to the story. For now though, it's only a one time thing.
- Not exactly a household name for Bills fans to this point, but Thomas Welch has been one of the more quietly effective players along the second-unit of the offensive line. They liked his play so much that the move of Glenn to left guard on Wednesday brought Welch up to the first team at left tackle. Want to know more about this mystery player? Well, besides being one of WGR's training camp sleepers this year, Welch is a 6-foot-7, 310-pound player out of Vanderbilt that's only 26 years old. He has one start in his life, getting time on the field with the New England Patriots in 2011. As mentioned previously, it could only be a one-day stint with the first-team. However, that one day could mean quite a lot when trying to figure out who stays and who goes on the final cut down day.
Spiller the Wednesday QB Killer
- At this point in his career, it's safe to say that most know the weakest part of C.J. Spiller's game is picking up blitzes to help his quarterback. Since entering the league, Spiller has improved leaps and bounds in this area, but still will be the weak link from time to time. On Wednesday, Spiller was lucky a pair of defensive players couldn't hit rookie EJ Manuel. The running back's worst offense came on a pass protection attempt against Jerry Hughes. Spiller whiffed on the block completely, and Hughes scampered into the backfield for yet another sack during practice. It's not a good enough excuse to keep him off the field on crucial third downs, but he does have his moments where he'll be overwhelmed by a blitzing defender.
Gilmore impressive again
- It seems like a daily occurrence, but second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore continued his strong camp with another dynamite play. This one didn't result in an interception, but he was in position for another one. EJ Manuel tried a deep throw down the right sideline to rookie wide receiver Robert Woods. The ball hung in the air a bit too long, and Gilmore had his body positioned perfectly once again -- squarely in front of Woods with the ability to go up and make the play. However this time Gilmore only managed to knock the ball down.
- Speaking of players in the secondary, Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers both did not participate in Wednesday's practice, which allowed another new face to get first-team reps at an outside corner position. Predominately playing as the nickel corner before Wednesday, Ron Brooks saddled up on the right side of the line of scrimmage throughout the practice. Previously Rogers, McKelvin and T.J. Heath got some time with the first team. However, both Heath and Crezdon Butler have struggled in camp which led to Brooks being moved outside. With that move, undrafted rookie Nickell Robey received first-team reps at nickel corner. He had an impressive spring and seems to have earned some trust from the coaching staff despite being just a rookie.
- The battle for punting duties is up for grabs, and both Shawn Powell and Brian Stahovich got some work while under similarly adverse conditions. Each player had four punts when the team was backed up to their own four-yard line. Even the wind was blowing in the face of the punters. One thrived while the other came up woefully inadequate. Powell was the first to punt four straight times. His yardages (with unofficial hang times) were 39 (4.4), 31 (4.3), 26 (3.0) and 51 (4.3). As for Stahovich, he was the clear winner of the day. His punt yardages were 42 (4.1), 52 (4.2), 55 (4.1) and 38 (4.2). The competition is far from over. In fact, preseason will likely be the determining factor for the normally even battle.
Dareus trends up
- Most will agree it's a big season for former third-overall pick Marcell Dareus. In his third season in the NFL now, Dareus has seen the rest of the players drafted around him become big-time players in the league. On Wednesday, Dareus made sure he was seen by his positive play. During the one-on-one drills, the defensive lineman tore through Kraig Urbik to get to the quarterback rather succinctly. Later on in the day, Dareus dropped back a couple of steps after lining up on the nose and read EJ Manuel going through his progressions. He timed the the throw with his jump and batted down the football. That's an underrated part of Dareus' game.
Day 9 MVP: WR Brad Smith
- It was a bit of a ho-hum practice with no clear as day standouts, but one of the most consistent players on the field was wide receiver Brad Smith. The recently re-negotiated Smith was strong over the middle of the field, and was the favorite of quarterback Jeff Tuel throughout the day during team drills. Smith doesn't do anything extraordinary, but he doesn't drop many passes either. That's why normally fans never hear much about him.
Day 9 LVP: CB Crezdon Butler
- In what's been an awful camp for Butler, he was burned down the sideline a couple more times on Wednesday. Not only that, Butler is now dealing with an aggravated nose injury after taking a helmet to the face not too long ago. If you'll recall, Butler got into a little scuffle with wideout Chris Hogan that ended in the cornerback having blood drip down his face. Not fully healed just yet, sometimes Butler's helmet re-aggravates the heavily taped nose. Butler needs a massive turnaround in training camp, especially with all these injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart.
The Bills get back on the practice field on Thursday morning at 8. Practice will once again be open to the public.