EJ Manuel doesn’t expect any training wheels this season.
“I don’t think we’ll be limited at all in terms of play calling,” the Buffalo Bills’ second-year quarterback said Tuesday, following the first day of mandatory minicamp. “At the end of the day, it’s all about execution. You can go out there with 20 plays. If you execute those plays well, you’re going to win the game. Football’s not that hard, you just got to execute and make plays.”
Throughout spring practices, the Bills have shown a lot more than 20 plays. Coach Doug Marrone said last week the team has given Manuel the “full scale” of offensive plays to digest.
“I like the fact that he’s putting more on us, especially because we’ve got young guys in skill positions,” Manuel said. “It’s really put more of the onus on us to get stuff down, and that’s made this week easier because we pretty much know all the plays already, and we’ve run them all a bunch of times, so there’s not going to be any new stuff to learn.”
Manuel said he’s always been allowed to audible under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, “but a lot of times I just haven’t needed to.”
“I know in the running game, coach has us checking in and out of plays, run to pass, pass to run,” Manuel said, referring to Hackett. “All of these things have come with my maturity within the offense.”
The rapport between player and coach has also led Manuel to make suggestions to Hackett.
“Sometimes there’s going to be plays that I don’t like, and I’ll tell him. I know there are a few plays that we came into this week in minicamp, I wanted them to be clean, I wanted to have sharp reads, and I told him, ‘hey, I don’t like that play,’ and he took them out,” Manuel said.
On a humid day reminiscent of the type the team will practice in at training camp, Manuel and the offense had more miscues than bright spots Tuesday. Manuel botched two snaps and threw an interception to Deon Broomfield on a ball intended for Sammy Watkins.
“You can definitely feel it turning up a lot more,” Manuel said of the practice intensity. “As far as a defensive push is concerned, it’s really picking up. … They’ve got a lot of good leaders over on the defensive side and they’re giving us a great look each and every day.”
Defensive linemen Alan Branch and Manny Lawson reported to minicamp Tuesday after skipping all of the team’s voluntary organized team activities.
“The season is long. When you have some years under your belt, you don’t want it to be repetitive. You don’t want it to seem like you’re going though the motions — same thing over and over again,” Lawson said. “So it’s good to step away, spend time with the family. Relax — still work out in my time off — but step away and come back to it, and it’s all new and fun again.”
Tight end Scott Chandler was excused from practice Tuesday for a family matter, while offensive tackle Cordy Glenn sat out with an illness. Veteran Tony Moeaki got increased reps with the starters at tight end in Chandler’s absence, while rookie second-round draft pick Cyrus Kouandjio started at left tackle in Glenn’s absence.
Usual tackle Chris Hairston rotated in with the starting unit at right guard in place of Kraig Urbik.
Rookie offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson also did not practice because of what the team called travel-related issues.
The Bills’ fieldhouse and administration has a new name – the ADPRO Sports Training Center.
The naming rights were included in an elevated partnership deal the team struck with Buffalo-based company ADPRO Sports.
As part of the renovations being done at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the training center will include a new locker room and weight room for players, as well as a dining room for players, coaches and staff.
“ADPRO Sports consistently demonstrates strong community advocacy and involvement throughout Western New York,” Bruce Popko, the Bills’ chief revenue officer, said in a statement.
Popko indicated the training center will continue to be available as a resource for youth and high school athletes “across the region for many years to come.”
The Bills have three players in minicamp this week on a tryout basis — South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley, Florida International cornerback Sam Miller and Newberry cornerback Kamaal McIlwain.