When the Buffalo Bills opened up their preseason schedule on Sunday with a loss to the New York Giants, they likely hoped to get back on the practice field this week and attempt to fix the mistakes they made. As the team returned to the turf at St. John Fisher College, the rust that was evident against the Giants resided with them through Tuesday night.
It was not a sharp practice for a few different parties up and down the Bills roster — specifically on the offensive side of the ball. While there were a couple of defensive standouts, the session was mostly dominated by the poor performance from the side of the ball employed to score points.
Just like in Canton, EJ never got going
- EJ Manuel’s day in Canton was overblown by some, but his performance on Tuesday did not inspire much confidence for his first time back on the field since. During the team’s first preseason game Manuel never really got into the flow of the game and ended up with his now well-known and, well, poor stat line. As noted by WGR following the contest, Manuel’s decisiveness during the game was one of his strong points, regardless of how the plays turned out. That all but vanished on Tuesday outside a handful of instances, often times waiting too long for his read to come open. One of his biggest enemies has been standing back for too long and patting the ball, eventually settling for either the dump-off option or for a quarterback scramble. It’s borderline inexcusable to tuck the ball and run during a 7-on-7 drill where there is no pass rush, which is what Manuel has done on many occasions. The shots down the field on go routes are worked into the game plan and he’s taught to take the shot if there is single coverage. Outside of that, though, he needs to get out of his comfort zone and fit the ball into tight windows, or else he’ll just continue to settle for the small stuff. Teams will figure that out quite quickly.
Offensive line blues
- Manuel had his share of struggles in the pocket, but in no way was he helped out by the starting contingent of offensive linemen that were on the field Tuesday. Of the five starters, only Eric Wood had a fairly positive and consistent day, while left tackle Seantrel Henderson, left guard Chris Williams, right guard Kraig Urbik and right tackle Erik Pears all gave up ground to their opponent, granting the defense penetration to thwart whatever play was coming their way. Williams couldn’t seem to get his footing and was dominated by Marcell Dareus whenever the two were matched up. The struggles of Urbik continued as well, which is a great indication of why the Bills are looking all over the roster to find his replacement in the starting lineup. No one on the offensive line had a worse day than Henderson, however, but we’ll get back to him in just a bit.
Tuel the favorite for backup duty?
- While there may be some talk of a natural rotation with the backup quarterbacks, there was a definitive change in how the repetitions were divvied between Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis. Before Tuesday, either Tuel or Lewis would get a set of snaps with the second team in the first portion of team drills. Once the Bills returned to their team drills after some other work, whoever did not get the second-team snaps the first time around would then receive them. On Tuesday, there was no such rotation. Tuel, the second-year undrafted free agent, received every single second-team snap during team drills during the Bills’ most recent practice. It isn’t any surprise, due to Lewis being downright dreadful in both practices and the team’s first preseason game. Tuel has a definitive leg up on the competition now, and could possibly lock it up with a week or two more of quality performances.
Richardson’s reps continue
- The right guard competition has been well-documented and the rotation that was seen at the end of last week has continued even after the first preseason game. Kraig Urbik once again split first-team snaps with fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson and it doesn’t appear there is any end in sight for that current setup. While team drills were going on, whoever was not in with the first-team on a given rep stands next to offensive line coach Pat Morris and prepares for his next set of snaps. The Bills have now tried J.J. ‘Unga, Chris Hairston and now Richardson to try and replace Urbik as the starting right guard. Actions speak louder than words, and Urbik needs to cling onto his job with every nail that he has.
Is Hogan a lock?
- A surprising development from the game on Sunday was in regards to wide receiver Robert Woods not being a part of the first-team offense in any capacity. Instead, the starting receivers were Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and camp standout Chris Hogan played slot receiver with EJ Manuel and company. While Woods received some reps with EJ Manuel on Tuesday, Hogan was once again the player mainly residing as the slot receiver with the first team. It was an accepted notion that four of the wide receiver spots on the roster were spoken for with Watkins, Williams, Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Now, that number may need to be bumped up to five. Chris Hogan has done mostly everything right and the coaches have taken notice in a big way.
Day 12 MVP: DT Marcell Dareus
- Most of the recap was consisting of updates on offense because their poor performance was the story of the session. However, Marcell Dareus had a gem of a practice in his domination of the team’s interior offensive line, and namely, left guard Chris Williams. The defensive tackle continued to rip through the line during team drills on both running and passing plays. His mix of power, balance and speed was far too much for Williams and company to contain Tuesday.
Day 12 LVP: OT Seantrel Henderson
- The rookie left tackle played well on Sunday against the New York Giants, but he had a rookie type of performance in their first practice back. Henderson failed to execute on his assignments, being the main contributor to EJ Manuel taking a sack at least two times. One on play, Henderson inexplicably went to block the inside man while defensive end Manny Lawson went unblocked and unexcitedly walked into the backfield. The run game wasn’t much of a success for Henderson (or for the rest of the starting offensive line, really), either. He has been the strongest rookie offensive lineman so far for Buffalo, but Tuesday needs to be chalked up as a down day.
Up Next: The Bills return to the practice field one more time before their next preseason game. They’re scheduled to practice at 2 pm on Wednesday. The session is open to the general public.