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Practice Report: Watkins fun to watch, Manuel middling, run game gets work

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PITTSFORD -- Rookie receiver Sammy Watkins shined again, quarterback EJ Manuel was better than Tuesday but only average, and the Buffalo Bills got some good work on the running game in today's fourth training camp practice at St. John Fisher College.

It's easier for receivers to stand out to observers at camp, and Watkins continues to do so. The Clemson product had a nifty catch in pass-route drills - with no defense - early in the practice. He stumbled out of his break on a short post pattern, almost fell, then regained his balance enough to reach up and make a one-handed catch in the middle of the end zone.

In 11-on-11 drills, he had a leaping end-zone grab of a pass of about 25 yards from Manuel. He went up over safety Aaron Williams and cornerback Leodis McKelvin to make the catch. ... However, the play probably would have been aborted by a Jerry Hughes sack. Hughes blew around left tackle Seantrel Henderson on the play.

After a poor outing Tuesday, the offense was a little better but still not great in the passing game. The four quarterbacks combined to go just 7 of 15 in a 7-on-7 drill early in the practice. (Manuel was 4 of 6 in that portion.)

Manuel had some good moments. He hit C.J. Spiller in good stride on a pass up the left sideline for a touchdown in 7 on 7. On the next play, he hit Watkins in perfect stride on a short slant but the receiver dropped it - the first one we've seen by the rookie. Manuel hit Robert Woods on a pretty TD up the right sideline for a 25-yard play.

But shortly after he had two red zone plays in which his first read wasn't open, he did not react quickly, and took sacks. One was by Stefan Charles. Later in 11-on-11 work, safety Kenny Ladler broke free into Manuel's face, there was pressure up the middle, and the ball somehow popped into the hands of Xavius Boyd for what would have been a defensive TD.

Coach Doug Marrone on the offense:

"Well, I’m not going to get into a daily performance, whether it was good or bad, but obviously there’s some things execution wise we did better today, but at the same time, we still have a long way to go."

Other plays of note: The Bills practiced in pads for a second straight day, and running backs C.J. Spiller, Anthony Dixon and Ronnie Wingo all ran pretty hard. The team got a lot of work in on the run game. Chris Hogan had a rare drop of a deep post ball from Thad Lewis.  Jeff Tuel, who rotated with Lewis at No. 2 QB, did a good job scanning across the field and finding Hogan on a red-zone completion. Lewis scored on a keeper near the goal line.

Lineup items: Erik Pears continues to get all the work with the starters at right tackle. He held of Jerry Hughes in one-on-one drills. Rookie Cyrus Kouandjio is running with the second team. Left tackle Cordy Glenn was on the field watching most of the practice after doing conditioning work on the side. Henderson took all the snaps at left tackle. Kraig Urbik and Chris Hairston continued to share snaps with the starters at right guard. ... The second OL, left to right, was: Edawn Coughman, Antoine McClain, Doug Legursky, Hairston/Urbik, and Kouandjio. The third OL: Coughman, Cyril Richardson, Macky MacPherson, J.J. 'Unga and Mark Asper.

 

  • Ralph Wiggum

    4-12 this season.

  • mariob195

    E.J. will be the weak link.

    • Polish Prince

      Agreed. Manuel seems like a nice kid, but I suspect that he is as good as he is going to be.
      Experience won't help an NFL QB hit a 15 yard out pattern with a blitz in his face. Either you can make the throw or you can't. Manuel could not make most NFL throws last year.
      I hope I am wrong.

      • Bringing back Buffalo

        Unfortunatley I think both of you are right. He has the confidence and moxy you like from a QB, but upstairs he just doesn't have it. This guys probably been playing organized ball since he was 8 and if he can't hit a crossing pattern by now, it's never going to happen.

        • WHAT?

          Except he did it fairly well at the college level. The question is if he can adjust to the speed and tighter coverages of the NFL. His accuracy was just good enough in college. That can improve, but it's not easy.

      • Buffalo Fan

        I'm afraid I disagree. Quarterbacks can still improve beyond age 23. I would even say that the things that would be most improvable would be the ability to adjust under pressure. But that's just my (and the BB coaching staff's) opinion.

  • Pat Leary

    If the Bills had the number one draft choice every year it would still be a .500 team. Clusterpuck choices..

    • Buffalo Fan

      move away or something..or just keep quiet please.

      • Gigs

        I'm pretty sure he already has. Probably doesn't ever follow the team, but checks the hometown newspaper once in a while...sees the article and decides to skip to the comments and be cynical. Most ex-pats are like that....

        He should go back to his chain restaurant dinner in Phoenix/Ft. Lauderdale...

  • Paul Bruhns

    EJ seems to be an average passer and that scares me. In the highlight reels, his passes aren't tight (spirals) they aren't "zippy" although distance doesn't seem to be an issue. His arm is strong and I know he wants this! But, I don't see elite talent there. I just hope he's better than Fitz, who was better than JP and Trent, or we're going looking again next year.

  • LT

    I agree - I don't think we have the QB we need. uggggggg !!!!

  • Lou Hoebel

    There have been a good number of NFL All-Star QBs that did not throw classic tight spirals but did get the job done. Some even for the Buffalo Bills. Does anyone remember that?

    It is just sports ...try and enjoy it !! even those of you at chain restaurants in some humid sun-baked cultural desert.

  • Tyrone Taj James

    lol I love how all of these ex HOF QB's, commenting here, know exactly what it takes to be a great QB. You guys have even built a time machine because you can tell us a sophomore QB has no chance at working to get better!

  • Troy Berkely

    Being from Buffalo, Cynicism and pessimism is synonymous with the culture, especially when it relates to sports. Here is mud in your eye! Go Bills!

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.