Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- For the first and only time of 2013, the Buffalo Bills held an actual practice at St. John Fisher College that only the media and not the public were allowed to attend. And for the second straight day, the Bills worked without their recently injured first-round pick EJ Manuel behind the center.
The Manuel situation still is without a public timetable of when the rookie may in fact be back from his surgery, so veteran Kevin Kolb continued to try and get the upper-hand in the quarterback competition.
How did the veteran look in the team's second day back from their second preseason game? As you'll read, it wasn't exactly a spectacular day for him or most on the offensive side of the ball.
- EJ Manuel had his turn when Kevin Kolb missed a little over a week due to an injury and the death of a family member, and now the latter gets his turn to shine with Manuel sidelined due to surgery. In his second day back Kolb didn't have a great day but finished strong during the two-minute drill. Throughout the morning session Kolb (unofficially) completed 10-of-17 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the three touchdowns came during his eight-play portion of the red zone 11-on-11s. To end his part of practice, Kolb connected during the two-minute drill on a fly down the right sideline with Marquise Goodwin for a 39-yard touchdown. The pass was Kolb's best on Monday by a very wide margin. Despite the scoring prowess, Kolb's day was only average. Just like any other practice he reverted back to a tendency that gets him into trouble too many times. He does it so much that it could be referred to in verb form as 'Kolbing,' when the veteran doesn't have his first read and then elects to buy time by rolling right and drifting back all at once, and then finally unloading a pass off his back foot. It's that type of indecision that has helped Manuel pass him by in the competition. At this point in time however, the Bills don't have a choice as to who gets the first-team reps.
Another tough day for Tuel Time
- If you subscribe to the notion that undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel should be in consideration for the backup job or even the starting one, then you'll want to avert your eyes for the next few lines. To say Tuel struggled for the majority of practice would be an understatement. The rookie started going 0-for-8 on pass attempts, including six misses in the red zone portion of team work. Before the Bills got into the two-minute drill portion, Tuel completed just 3-of-12 passes for 24 yards. The rookie was missing badly on passes, often sailing them over the heads of the intended targets or even staring down his receivers to give the defenders a leg up. Then when the defense started to pull back on the pressure within the confines of the two-minute defense Tuel actually had a strong drive. He connected with fellow undrafted rookie Da'Rick Rogers on a 49-yard pickup down the right sideline and engineered a six-play touchdown drive that ended in a scoring toss to running back Tashard Choice in the flat. Tuel is too erratic to be entrusted with even backup duties at this point in his career, but he has shown enough to be a developmental type of quarterback who could eventually turn into a dependable backup. It's too early to ask anything more of the undrafted player then that.
McKelvin making plays on the ball
- It was his second day back from his latest injury, but cornerback Leodis McKelvin showed some ability in coverage when working with the second-team defense. McKelvin is the favorite to be the starting cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore, but the Bills are likely bringing him along slowly before getting him back with the top unit too quickly. In the first of four 11-on-11 sessions, rookie Jeff Tuel looked deep down the seam for wide receiver Brad Smith. The ball hung in the air for too much time and the covering McKelvin was able to stay with the wideout, get himself turned around and swatted the pass down. Later on the veteran corner was covering rookie speedster Marquise Goodwin in the red zone and swatted away a pass from Tuel that was slightly behind Goodwin over the middle of the field. For a player that has struggled so mightily in batting down passes in coverage, Monday was a positive step in McKelvin's potential march back to the starting lineup.
Heath merely a placeholder
- Without Crezdon Butler being able to participate in team drills at practice Monday, the Bills elected to give T.J. Heath some time at first-team cornerback for the second time in training camp. Heath failed to impress in his first stint with the top unit and played to that same level on Monday. During the red zone 11-on-11s, Heath had a great chance to knock down a pass and maybe even more. It was a failed back shoulder throw to the front right corner of the end zone by Kevin Kolb and Heath actually read the play correctly. He broke on the ball and whiffed entirely, allowing for the receiver to complete the catch and cash in for six points. Later on in the day when Tuel connected with Da'Rick Rogers on the 49-yard pass during the two-minute drill, the man trailing a yard behind in coverage was Heath. Right now he's battling to make the 53-man roster and is probably on the wrong side of the bubble. Once McKelvin is fully healthy, it's expected that Heath steps aside for the former first-round pick with the first team.
The best undrafted wide receiver in camp is not who'd you expect
- Quietly building a strong résumé from his work during training camp, undrafted free agent wideout Brandon Kaufman has turned himself into a dependable target for the quarterback and is able to gain separation from the second and third-team defensive backs. He's not the quickest, nor is he the most deceptive in and out of his breaks, but Kaufman makes up for it with his size and dependability. As he's shown through the first two preseason games, Kaufman was a consistent target for his quarterback during Monday's practice. It's a big 'if' due to his ectomorphic frame, but if Kaufman were able to put on 25-30 pounds he'd be a very good developmental receiving tight end prospect. The Bills need to stash him away on the practice squad because he's been performing at a superb level lately.
Graham gets back into team work
- Sidelined for the Minnesota game and for some practice time leading up to it, wide receiver T.J. Graham took reps during 11-on-11s for the first time since suffering his injury. He made a nice catch during the red zone portion, but he also struggled in his concentration on the ball by allowing himself to have a pair of unforced drops during practice. The starting job is his for now, but Graham can't make a habit of dropping the football like that during practice. Rookie Marquise Goodwin has been very good throughout training camp and is Graham's direct backup at the X-receiver position. If he's not careful, the Bills may be inclined to give Goodwin some more time on the field with the top unit.
Backup guard has quality day
- Outside of Kraig Urbik as the starting right guard and Eric Wood at center, the interior offensive line play has been less than ideal. While most of the others struggled again on Monday, one backup rose up to have a very impressive day throughout practice. Antoine Caldwell, who signed with the Bills with training camp already in session, excelled during both the 1-on-1s and 11-on-11s on Monday. On his first solo rep, Caldwell dealt with defensive lineman Corbin Bryant rather easily, and then succeeded against the tough assignment that is starter Alex Carrington. The backup right guard continued that into team drills and was able to contain the defenders lined up in front of him.
Turn the page
- It was not as successful a practice for undrafted third-string center Ryan Turnley as it was for Caldwell. Turnley struggled to establish himself in both 1-on-1s (getting beat by Alan Branch) and during 11-on-11s (Kyle Williams ripping through the line for a stop in the backfield), allowing for doubt to creep in. Then in the third of four team sessions, Turnley had the big no-no of snapping a ball low to quarterback Jeff Tuel that took the rookie passer completely out of rhythm. The first cut-down day is a little over a week away, and Turnley will likely be a candidate for the initial round of player releases.
Day 16 MVP: DL Kyle Williams
- Kyle Williams was borderline unstoppable on Monday. He dominated both his 1-on-1 attempts, chipped in for 2.5 sacks (of the seven total the Bills defense had), and combine those with his stuffs in the backfield on run plays and Williams had 4.5 tackles for loss. The defensive lineman is now six-and-a-half months removed from his surgery and admitted that he's getting close but isn't all the way back just yet. It doesn't appear as though Williams has lost any of his explosion after his second straight off-season with surgery and it's ensuing rehab portion.
Day 16 LVP: LG Colin Brown
- Those wondering who Kyle Williams victimized the most, well, look no further than the Bills' current starting left guard. Brown was beaten badly by Williams in both his 1-on-1 attempts, and struggled through team drills in working with the players beside him. On one play, Brown attempted to shove defensive lineman Corbin Bryant over towards left tackle Cordy Glenn while Glenn was already engaged with an oncoming pass-rusher. Bryant simply bounced off Glenn's backside and had Kevin Kolb dead for a sack in the backfield. There's no clarity on if Brown will hang on to the job at left guard, but the one thing for certain is that position on the line has left far too much to be desired.
Did Not Practice: QB EJ Manuel, G Keith Williams
Limited Participants: CB Crezdon Butler, HB Kendall Gaskins, LB Kourtnei Brown, OT Thomas Welch
The Bills have their final night practice of training camp on Tuesday at 6 pm. The session is open to public, but only for those that have a ticket for entry.