BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
To call Monday afternoon’s practice uneventful would be an understatement. To be fair, Buffalo had a preseason game on Sunday and flew back into Rochester, N.Y. Sunday evening. While the practice was a bit light, there is still plenty to talk about.
Buffalo’s three quarterbacks took time working with the offense Monday. Of the three, EJ Manuel exhibited the best natural arm. Manuel connected on a deep pass to Chris Hogan early in the practice. The ball was perfectly placed and Hogan caught the ball in stride. Later in the practice, Manuel dialed up another deep pass, this one intended for Robert Woods. Manuel’s throw was on the money, but Crezdon Butler broke up the pass at the last possible second.
Perhaps the most encouraging news of the day for Manuel was that he wasn’t staring down his wide receivers as he did on Sunday against the Colts. Manuel did a nice job on Monday of going through his progressions.
Jeff Tuel impressed on Monday with his accuracy and ball placement. Tuel has a natural chemistry with Marcus Easley, continuing to hit Easley whenever the wide receiver had a bit of separation. While Tuel’s day was impressive overall, he did make one dangerous pass that should have been intercepted by Jordan Dangerfield. The missed opportunity led to a series of pushups from Dangerfield as a sort of self-punishment.
During red zone work, Tuel hit a player who appeared to be Chris Gragg (his jersey was rolled up, making it hard to confirm his number) for a touchdown. His most impressive pass of the day was a 60-plus yard pass to Marquise Goodwin that hit the speedster in stride. All in all, Tuel continued to be impressive on Monday.
Kevin Kolb also took reps on Monday and was the least impressive of the quarterbacks. Perhaps Kolb’s knee is still bothering him, but he threw a few passes low or over their intended target. Not all of Kolb’s incomplete passes were his fault, however, as his first two passes of the day were on the money but each dropped by a wide receiver.
Kolb did show a bit of mobility when he couldn’t find an open receiver. He was able to scramble out of the pocket and throw the ball away. That said, it seems Kolb is still working some rust off as he returns from his injury.
Wide Receiver Play
Robert Woods provided the biggest scare of the day when he stayed down for a minute after a deep pass thrown to him by Manuel. As previously mentioned, Butler made a good play on the ball to break up the pass. Woods may have then landed on the ball as it appeared he may have had the wind knocked out of him. He did return later to team drills as well as punt return drills.
T.J. Graham wasn’t seen much on Monday. He stepped out of practice early after suffering a groin pull, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. The wide receiver that benefited most from Graham’s absence was Chris Hogan. Hogan worked with the first-team offense in Graham’s place and as mentioned, Manuel found Hogan open down the left sideline for a big gain. Later in the practice, Hogan did bobble a ball on a slant pattern thrown to him by Manuel, but it’s clear that Hogan is rising up the Bills’ depth chart.
Marquise Goodwin was the recipient of a long touchdown pass from Tuel as previously mentioned. The speed receiver may have a bigger role than I imagined for him in 2013; he is not nearly as raw of a receiver as I thought. In fact, I’d go as far as to say he was extremely underutilized at Texas.
Da’Rick Rogers had a few catches on Monday, but he didn’t do anything that really jumped off the page to me. As of Monday, it appears that Rogers is battling the likes of Brad Smith for the sixth wide receiver spot with Hogan leapfrogging them both.
Kick and Punt Work
The Bills worked a bit on return coverage and kickoff and punt returns on Monday. Just like Sunday, Marquise Goodwin showed the best ability to find running lanes. He’s going to be a dangerous kick returner for Buffalo in 2013.
Goodwin also took reps as a punt returner Monday. Robert Woods also saw opportunities and did not muff any punt returns as he did against the Colts. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin, in a jersey but with no pads or helmet, also took the time to catch punts Monday.
Crezdon Butler’s strong play from Sunday continued at Bills camp. The cornerback saw first-team reps on Monday and held his own. Butler not only broke up the aforementioned deep ball but had at least one more pass breakup. Confidence is building in Butler, and his ability to cover outside wide receivers could come in handy if an injury occurs to Stephon Gilmore or Leodis McKelvin this season.
Buffalo’s next training camp practice is Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET. Keep an eye on my Twitter for more live tweeting from Bills camp!