BBD Staff Writer: Glenn Gifford
I had the opportunity to attend Buffalo Bills training camp today for the first time this season, and I am happy to report that there was no shortage of emotion on the fields of St. John Fisher College. Today saw the first fight of camp, as well as some other less-publicized arguing and smack talk that almost erupted into more violence.
I’ll begin with some basic observations and then try to be more specific with regards to selected players, coaches and schemes. I will also look at some positional battles and give my two cents, all the while fully realizing that we are only three practices into training camp.
Head coach Doug Marrone was impressive with the time that he personally spent with the entire offensive line throughout individual drills. He was really in the trenches with his linemen. Each player was spoken with and/or coached up at different times. The offensive line is what Marrone knows best. He was hands on and I would suspect that the linemen respect their coach.
Offensive coordinator Nathianel Hackett is a real high-energy guy. I could hear him from my vantage point and paid particular attention to him jumping around as plays were taking place. (Yes, I said jumping around.) He is highly involved, and his increased tempo and pace of play seem to be a reflection of who he is as a person and as a coach.
At one point the defense seemed to be getting the better of the play on the field, and Hackett pleaded for his offense to pick up their intensity. The offense did and the pads started to pop.
During the first installment of 11-on-11, cornerback Crezdon Butler got tangled up with second-round pick rookie wide receiver Robert Woods on the far side of the field. Shortly afterwards, punches were thrown. Stevie Johnson was right in there to break things up.
Make no mistake, Stevie was on the side of fellow receiver Woods during the altercation. I gave Butler the decision in the fight based solely on position and number of punches thrown. What is not getting any media attention were two other incidents that were much more entertaining and exciting.
One of my new favorite Bills is Marcus Dowtin. The second-year linebacker from North Alabama was all over the field today. He made several plays in 7-on-7 as well as 11-on-11. He was vocal with the running backs and offensive line whenever he made a play.
Those comments, however, drew the ire from the remaining offensive players that were watching.
At one point Dowtin was calling on all of the offensive players. The best part about all of this was that he kept making plays after his trash talk. He would make another play and start right back in on them.
Keep an eye on Dowtin. The Bills may need some depth at linebacker and Dowtin may be the guy.
For my money, however, the most heated moment in camp today was an exchange between running back Tashard Choice and safety Aaron Williams.
Williams really laid into Choice on an off-tackle play over the right side. The play was not over but it was drawing to a conclusion when the very vocal Choice got popped. Choice went off on Williams and the exchange lasted well over 3 minutes after both had left the field.
“And that goes for all of y’all,” I distinctly heard Williams say aloud to the offense. After he said this, jeers came from the offense. I immediately tweeted that it was about to go down between Choice and Williams. They seemed to patch things up toward the end, but at the time, the Choice-Williams war of words was far more heated than the lightweight battle between Butler and Woods.
Players of the Day: Defense
Dowtin – This kid will push to make the team. He was all over the field today and was one of about four defenders who stood out. I love his moxie and emotion. It is sincere and far less manufactured than Choice’s words.
Kiko Alonso – Get used to him at inside linebacker, Bills fans. Kiko is the real deal. He is a smart player who really seems to be able to diagnose plays well. He needs to add a few pounds of muscle, but if he does, he should be something special. Today was a really good day for Kiko.
Stephon Gilmore – Gilmore was the silent assassin today. He looked like a shutdown cornerback this morning. He had really tight coverage all day long. He plays with an even keel and does not seem to get rattled. There should be no worries on his side from today’s performance, Bills fans. Gilmore’s day included an interception and a nice pass breakup.
Marcell Dareus – Everyone needs to calm down in regards to interior defensive lineman Marcell Dareus’ play. This guy is a beast and was tough to block all morning. If his head is right, he is going to have a breakout year.
Players of the Day: Offense
Da’Rick Rogers – Rogers had a few nice receptions and looks to be as good as advertised, though his problem has never really been talent on the field. He got behind the defense on two occasions and made some nice catches. Additionally, I saw him with Stevie Johnson on the sideline several times reviewing and discussing routes. Good work today, Da’Rick.
C.J. Spiller – A simple screen turned into a touchdown in 11-on-11 drills. CJ really looks poised to take over this offense. Not much else to say about his play today other than “Wow!”
EJ Manuel – Manuel was easily the better of the two potential starting quarterbacks today. While it must be taken into account that Kolb faced the majority of blitzes and first-team defensive looks, EJ looked poised. He also has the ability to make things happen with his feet that Kolb does not have. This was more than apparent when Kolb ran read option plays.
Today was Manuel’s day, but I will reserve anointing him the starter until he has to face the blitzing and looks that Kolb faced today.
Dustin Hopkins – It may be time to load torpedo bay two with incumbent kicker Rian Lindell. Dustin Hopkins has a big-time foot. He was knocking 42-yard field goals off of the midpoint of the scissor lift, 20 yards behind the uprights, with consistency. Lindell was almost equally as accurate, but lacks the distance that Hopkins has.
This was very evident on kickoff duties. Hopkins kicks to the back of the end zone, while Lindell’s kick offs are returned and barely make it to the goal line. The winds of change may be blowing in the area of kicker. This competition will be interesting to watch as camp progresses.
Colin Brown – I am including Brown on this list because he did well in 11-on-11 today. He has been getting first-team reps at left guard over Doug Legursky thus far, and he seems to be doing a capable job in the starting role. This battle is not over yet, however.
Many have asked me to comment at length on Kevin Kolb. I felt bad for Kevin today. He was pressured and when he was pressured, bad things happened. I want to wait and see how Manuel fares under the duress that Kolb was under today, but if you want my first-glance opinion, Manuel will not do any worse under pressure because of his ability to make plays with his feet.
I would be happy to answer any questions that you have. I will be returning to St. John Fisher next week and will be once again be live tweeting observations from camp and then reporting my notes here at Buffalo Bills Draft.