The Buffalo Bills are now 13 days into training camp and some of the same problems have lingered throughout the duration of practices. Outside of a few days, the starting offensive unit of the Bills have struggled to establish themselves against their own teammates.
Wednesday was no exception for the first unit, failing to reach the level of consistency most teams are looking for by this point in an individual training camp. So what is the overwhelming problem? It all starts with the player that touches the ball each and every play.
EJ’s struggles continue
- The same EJ Manuel that was seen during Tuesday’s practice reappeared on Wednesday. For the second straight day, Manuel was apprehensive, indecisive and mostly inaccurate. His most common course of action on any given play was to look for his first read to be open, pat the ball in the pocket and either take a sack or throw an inaccurate pass. The inconsistency in going through his progressions has to be the most maddening part for the coaching staff. If the light goes on, Manuel could be a different quarterback and find more comfort and poise in the pocket. On Wednedsay Jeff Tuel was throwing the ball a bit crisper and was going through his progressions, but don’t read anything into that fact. The Bills won’t even consider benching Manuel in the early going, no matter how Tuel looks throughout training camp and the preseason.
Woods with an edge
- In a peculiar action on Sunday, the Bills didn’t use wide receiver Robert Woods with the first team in their first preseason game. Whatever message that delivered to Woods seemed to have worked on Wednesday at practice. The wideout was playing with a bit of an angry streak, but in a good way. You could just tell by his body language early on in the practice that he was just a bit agitated, and that appeared to be the best way to motivate him. He came out and had one of his best practices of training camp so far with multiple difficult catches in traffic. He saved the best for last, making a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone with the cornerback draped all over him. It’s unknown to this point how head coach Doug Marrone will use him on Friday, but they should continue to motivate Woods in a similar way… because it worked.
- The past two days of practice have not been kind to starting tight end Scott Chandler. Dropped passes plagued Chandler’s return to practice on Tuesday and he added another three on Wednesday as well. He’s been a solid target in the past and his hands have never really been a huge issue since he’s been with the organization. Perhaps it’s a case of him trying to play catch-up with the offense and his teammates after missing a few days of practice and the first preseason game due to a groin injury. Whatever the case may be, Chandler needs to ditch this newfound habit… and quickly. Lee Smith has been healthy, he’s a better blocker and has had a solid camp so far. Smith isn't really a serious competitor to be the starter, but he has been quite consistent at St. John Fisher College to this point.
Landon Cohen making waves
- For those that kept the television on all the way through the second half of the Hall of Fame Game, most took notice of a player that was relatively anonymous to a good number of fans before the contest. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen was consistently winning his matchups against the Giants and has also been doing similar things during training camp. On Wednesday, he had an impressive rep against rookie guard Cyril Richardson where he bull-rushed the offensive lineman for two steps, then did a quick spin and got upfield past his man and into the backfield. Cohen does have some experience at the NFL level, so perhaps it wasn’t just a bottom of the roster type of signing. If his play continues he might be one of those players no one expected, that could push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Live goal line
- The Bills concluded their shortened week of practice with a four-play, live goal line session to get the players at least a little familiar with hitting before they played in their second preseason game. In one of the few successful offensive plays in the red zone area, Fred Jackson plunged forward over the left side of the line of scrimmage from the two-yard line and got into the end zone. On the next play, it was Anthony Dixon’s turn to try and find pay dirt. The run play was designed to go to the right side and second-year safety Duke Williams read it beautifully. The big-hitting safety met Dixon at the line of scrimmage and didn’t surrender any ground, waiting for teammates to come stop the play in full. On the third play, the second-team offense trotted on to the field and once again they tried a running play. Fullback Evan Rodriguez took a handoff over the left guard, but there was no push up front and all that happened was a big pile that kept him out of the end zone. On the fourth play, the Bills’ lone pass attempt, Jeff Tuel took the snap and turned left, only to find defensive end Manny Lawson free right in front of him. The play was dead right there. Yet again, defense reigned supreme on the Bills’ practice field.
Day 13 MVP: DE Jerry Hughes
- The day’s most valuable and least valuable are tied into one another. Starting defensive end Jerry Hughes was consistently in the backfield for sack after sack, and blowing up run plays all the same. He couldn’t be blocked on Wednesday and the Bills’ offense, who were busy trying to install their offense, didn’t offer any help to the man he was beating so soundly all day long. That man? Well, he’s the least valuable player.
Day 13 LVP: OT Seantrel Henderson
- For the second straight day, the rookie left tackle getting reps in place of Cordy Glenn could not get a hold on how to slow down Hughes. Seantrel Henderson was beaten time, after time, after time, after time. He’s had a strong effort in training camp through the first 11 days, and even showed quite well against the New York Giants on Sunday. He needs to take the last two practices and put them deep in his pocket, never to be seen or heard from again. He’ll get plenty of time on the field on Friday night, because he could be playing a significant role for the team if Glenn cannot get back on the field in time for the regular season.
Up Next: The Bills will travel to Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, leading up to their second preseason game of 2014. They’ll take on the Carolina Panthers Friday night at 7:30 pm.