Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- On the final day of practice before the Buffalo Bills hit the road for the first time in 2013, the decision was made by Head Coach Doug Marrone as to who would be getting the start in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Rookie quarterback and first-round pick EJ Manuel will get the start -- due mostly to an injury to Kevin Kolb -- and he led the first-team out on to the field for the fourth straight practice Friday night.
Both Manuel and Tuel got plenty of practice time once again under the lights at St. John Fisher College.
- The toast of this year's training camp is EJ Manuel and how he progresses throughout the days on the field. Sometimes though, it's just a very bland and average performance for the man slinging the football around the field with the first team. When the Bills were in team drills, Manuel excelled in getting the ball out on time during Friday's practice, even though they weren't necessarily large yielding plays. Manuel trusted his receivers to make plays for him during the red zone 11-on-11's and let C.J. Spiller do the rest of the work. During the two-minute drill to end the practice, Manuel made the questionable decision to loft one up down the left sideline to wide receiver Chris Hogan in single coverage on 3rd-and-1, rather than just getting the first down. On the 4th-and-1, which turned out to be Manuel's final play of the practice, the rookie tried to force it over to Robert Woods along the right sideline. The only problem was that Stephon Gilmore was in perfect position and gave up nothing to the rookie duo on offense.
- The best rookie on the field Friday was fifth-round selection and safety Jonathan Meeks. Getting some time with the second-team alongside Duke Williams, Meeks was trusted on several occasions to bring some pressure from the defensive backfield into the offensive backfield. On one play, Meeks had C.J. Spiller dead in the backfield on a draw, but the no tackling aspect of practice allowed for the running back to squirm his way out of trouble. On a play later on in practice, Meeks was once again sent on a blitz that collapsed the pocket and allowed for his teammate Kourtnei Brown to pick up a sack on quarterback Jeff Tuel. The very next play, which was a 4th down scenario, Tuel had a miscommunication with his receiver and tossed a pass up down the field without any offensive player in sight. Meeks calmly ran over to the ball and caught it for the interception.
- One of the biggest problems rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel has is the tendency to sail the ball over the heads of his receivers on deeper patterns. He'll feed a ball in to a receiver in impressive fashion over the middle of the field, but it's the deeper throws that aren't the greatest for the rookie. On numerous occasions Friday, Tuel went deep down the sideline to a receiver but could not connect because it was too far out in front of the player. He also got pegged for an intentional grounding call during the two-minute drill to end practice, which cost pivotal yardage. The rookie did have a very pretty throw to end practice, however. On 4th down in the two-minute drill, Tuel fed the ball perfectly to wideout DeMarco Sampson 15 yards down the field along the right sideline for a first down with time ticking away. Rian Lindell hurried out and kicked a 50-yard field goal to end practice because of the newfound field position.
Friday's starting cornerback opposite Gilmore…
- There have only been 11 practices that the Bills have gone through thus far, and already five different players have gotten reps with the first team as a starting cornerback on the outside opposite second-year sensation Stephon Gilmore. First it was Justin Rogers who then injured his hamstring, then it was T.J. Heath, followed by Leodis McKelvin (now injured) and second-year player Ron Brooks was there on Thursday. Friday night brought another new name to the surface. Undrafted and undersized free agent rookie Nickell Robey took the snaps at right cornerback with the first team Friday, while Ron Brooks still got some time as the nickel corner when called upon. It's rather alarming when there are five separate players used at starting corner in only 11 days.
Glenn's up-and-down day
- For left tackle Cordy Glenn, his practice started off in spectacular fashion. During one-on-ones against the defensive linemen, Glenn kept his training camp nemesis Jerry Hughes at bay on an attempted wide rush. Then Manny Lawson tried a change-of-direction pass rush attempt at Glenn, to which the big left tackle thwarted with ease. Once the Bills got into team drills however, Glenn's positive day started trending the opposite way. Hughes victimized Glenn twice during 11-on-11s, once on a running play that he blew up in the backfield and another on a pass rushing attempt. Glenn is still a work in progress.
Tallest Bills WR making tough catches
- With seemingly eight receivers ahead of him on the depth chart at this point, undrafted rookie Brandon Kaufman hasn't made too many headlines throughout spring workouts and now 11 days of training camp. On Friday though, Kaufman made some tough catches that can only put him in a good light with the coaching staff. His highlight of the day was a toe-tapping grab along the right sideline that only his 6-foot-5 frame could get ahold of. The other impressive thing about Kaufman was that he was going all out for the passes thrown his direction. Even if he didn't have a shot at the ball, the wideout attempted to sprawl out for the catch just in hopes to make a big play. The odds are stacked against Kaufman of making the team at this point, but the practice squad is not out of the question.
Powell punts his way into lead
- To this point, it's been a pretty even and unspectacular competition to be the punter of the Buffalo Bills. Both Shawn Powell and Brian Stahovich have had single, booming punts from time to time, but neither have possessed the consistency the staff may be looking for. That changed on Friday when Powell had his best day of training camp. Powell had punts of over 50 yards four separate times, and in six total attempts, his average hang time (unofficially) was 4.33 seconds. On the other hand, Stahovich did not possess the consistency, nor the hang time that Powell brought on Friday. Stahovich punted the ball five times, averaging a hang time (unofficially) of 3.9 seconds and had only two punts over 50 yards.
Good practice for recent acquisition
- Heading into a game where second and third-team players will dominate the amount of time on the field, one third-team offensive lineman had a very good practice for the Bills. Third-string right tackle Tony Hills was quite strong in the one-on-ones, easily brushing aside an attempt by Marcus Dowtin. Then into the two-minute drill, Hills was noticeable in his pass protection against one of the standouts of camp, Kourtnei Brown. It's unlikely Hills will make the team, but he contributed positively on Friday night.
Bills MVP: OLB Jerry Hughes
- Surprise, surprise. One of the candidates for the Most Valuable Player in training camp this year once again performs well in a practice setting. Hughes was able to get by Cordy Glenn on two different occasions during team drills and even showed some ability to stuff the run. No matter how Hughes tries to downplay it, Sunday's game in Indianapolis has to mean quite a bit to him. Plus, we'll see if Hughes is just a product of being the perfect match against Cordy Glenn or if he's actually taking a big step in his career. Camp can certainly be deceiving. One cannot simply forget the incredibly productive summer Shawne Merriman had with the Bills one year.
Bills LVP: S Aaron Williams
- As a safety, Williams was fairly strong in his support on Friday night. It was his work in the one-on-one drills against wide receivers that earned him least valuable player honors. The former cornerback was beat three consecutive times by different receivers, making the third-year player get frustrated with himself. Luckily for him he doesn't have to cover outside receivers too often anymore, but it's a stark reminder of how much more he's cut out to play safety in the NFL as opposed to cornerback.
The Bills will leave Saturday afternoon and travel to Indianapolis. They'll take on the Colts Sunday at 1:30 pm from Lucas Oil Stadium.