The first week of Organized Team Activities are in the books for the Buffalo Bills and they’ve gotten their first taste of life as a roster in 2014. The team still has seven practices to go before they head into the mandatory phase of the offseason, but plenty of work was accomplished on Friday.
The Bills saw some returning players once again during the practice, but were also without a handful of players that have yet to participate in team drills to this point of OTAs. What were some of the notable occurrences from Friday?
Here’s a look at some of the performances from the day:
1) Some offensive line struggles
- It wasn’t the entire unit by any means, but a trio of players through the first two units had negative outcomes to a few plays on the field on Friday. Right tackle Erik Pears, backup right guard and rookie Cyril Richardson as well as backup left guard Edawn Coughman all had negative plays. For Pears, he was beat on a sack by Jarius Wynn early in the practice and then Jacquies Smith worked through him and broke up a screen attempt before it even got started. Richardson, a player that some have starting hopes for, was beat soundly by Corbin Bryant on two different occasions. Richardson appeared to be lunging and Bryant took advantage. Coughman also was beaten for a sack inside. Between the three, it wasn’t the greatest of days. Players like Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and others had solid performances.
2) Manuel looks more relaxed
- While he’s still missing some throws, EJ Manuel doesn’t look nearly as eager to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible as he did around this time last year. That was a big problem of his in 2013 throughout the season, and the stress has been to try and slow down the game and not overreact to adverse situations within the pocket. Manuel was waiting on routes with receivers coming open and making some good reads, the placement of the ball just has to be better at times. He will have a relapse every once and again, like when Nickell Robey read his eyes and jumped right in front of a pass for an interception. For the most part, though, Manuel seems a bit more settled.
3) Stop the presses: Spiller, Jackson in same formation
- An idea that has been brought up time and time again by media and fans alike, the Bills showed off a few different looks that had both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the field. Predictably, Jackson was the man in the backfield while Spiller was the more athletic type that was motioned to different parts of the formation. If they can develop that and create a lot of side plays for either player based on those looks, that will be putting two of their better playmakers on the field at one time. The goal should be to continually keep a defense guessing, and a formation like that along with Sammy Watkins on the field among other options should theoretically do the trick.
4) Jacquies Smith making things happen
- Without Mario Williams taking too many reps in team drills and with the absence of Manny Lawson from OTAs, Jacquies Smith has certainly turned in some quietly effective performances. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end was an undrafted free agent out of Missouri back in 2012 with Miami. He was released by the Dolphins, and then had stops in Hamilton (CFL), with the New York Jets and now to Buffalo. On Friday, Smith burned past Erik Pears to break up a well-developed screen play and then showed the recognition to jump up and bat down a swing pass attempt later on in the day. He’s getting a lot of reps during the OTAs, and he’s certainly putting them to use.
5) Things get a little chippy
- Tempers were rising a little bit during the third day of OTAs, which is not what head coach Doug Marrone wants in these non-contact practices. On a couple of different occasions near the end of the session, players had to be broken up within the span of a few plays. Marrone, clearly not happy with it, stopped the practice and shut off the blaring music to get the message across to his team. In training camp, tempers are going to flare and little battles are inevitable due to the physicality of those practices. In OTAs, the goal is to instruct and keep away from injury, which is likely what Marrone stressed. He restarted the practice after the message was delivered and the team finished out the day. The Bills have a three-day weekend to collect their thoughts and reconvene on Tuesday for their next practice.