The Buffalo Bills' offense was overwhelmed by the Bills' defensive pass rush in Saturday night's practice before another capacity crowd of more than 4,000 at St. John Fisher College.
It was ugly.
During a 17-play stretch of third-down situations, the Bills got eight sacks, and that counted two snaps aborted by penalties.
On the second play of the third-down portion of practice, Jerry Hughes got a sack as the pocket collapsed on quarterback EJ Manuel. Then Pro Bowler Mario Williams beat right tackle Erik Pears on the next two plays for sacks.
Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz threw some creative blitzes at the offense. Back-up QB Jeff Tuel was sacked three times in a six-play stretch. Defensive backs Russ Cockrell and Jonathan Meeks got two sacks on blitzes, then and Manny Lawson got one, coming free up the middle on a stunt.
Then Manuel came on again and got stopped for would-be sacks by Iggy Igbinosun and Stefan Charles.
“We understand if we can block our front four, then we’ll be able to block about anybody,” said center Eric Wood. “For my money I think they’re the best in the league. But that’s no excuse. We gotta do a better job. I think in regular down and distance we’re doing a good job of understanding situations. But when we do all third downs and all third and long, we’re not executing as well right now.”
Another capacity crowd of more than 4,000 at St. John Fisher College saw a few good offensive plays in the regular-down, 11-on-11 session. Mike Williams made a nice sideline catch down the field on a throw from Manuel. But it was all defense on third downs.
“We’re putting a lot in and we have some individual breakdowns right now where we might have 10 guys doing the right thing and one guy not,” Wood said. “Hopefully that’s where this extra week will be beneficial, where next week we won’t be doing that as much.”
After the eighth sack, Manuel finally burned the defense with a screen pass to C.J. Spiller that went for at least 30 yards. Then Thad Lewis came on at QB and bobbled a shotgun snap for an aborted play. At that point the coaches called a break in the action. It was not clear if it was a planned stoppage or not, but it amounted to a "mercy break" for the offense.
The O-line was not real good in one-on-one drills with the D-line. Mario Williams beat Pears to start that segment. Then Marcell Dareus had a good rush on Kraig Urbik. Lawson made rookie tackle Cyrus Kouandjio look bad once, and Igbinosun beat Kouandjio later on. Kouandjio did manage two draws with Igbinosun and Jacques Smith, respectively, but the rookie from Alabama is taking his lumps the first week of camp. Rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson actually showed good technique on a rep against Mario Williams, stopping the Pro Bowler, although he inadvertently got his hands in Williams' facemask.
The Bills had live tackling in the practice for the first time at camp.
Of the first 20 plays, arguable seven were good ones for the offense. Manuel hit Lee Smith for 17 yards on the second play. Marcell Dareus stopped Anthony Dixon on the third. Then Manuel was sacked as Brandon Spikes broke free up the middle on a blitz and ran the QB into fellow linebacker Keith Rivers, who also was blitzing. Running back Ronnie Wingo had a couple fine, hard-charging, 8-yard gainers with the second-team offense.
Manuel's best throw of the night came on 7-on-7 work when he scrambled toward the sideline and hit Chris Hogan deep down the sideline with a throw made on the dead run.
Brian Moorman had an excellent night punting, a bit better than first-year challenge Jake Dombrowski.
After the miserable first third-down series of plays, the offense didn't improve much in the final 11-on-11 sequence, when the team worked on 4-minute situations. Dixon gashed the defense for a 15-yard gain on the first play. But the next four plays run by Manuel went nowhere. Marcus Easley, who had a pretty good night, had a catch on a hitch pattern from Thad Lewis. But the defense mostly prevailed.