Buffalo Bills Training Camp Report: 8/1/2015

By Michael J. Thomas

Buffalo Bills Training Camp Gallery – Saturday, August 1, 2015

It was Day 2 of Buffalo Bills at St. John Fisher College. With Rex Ryan as head coach and LeSean McCoy as the starting running back, things are definitely more interesting. There’s a lot of buzz around the area as the fans cheer for Sammy Watkins big catches and watch in awe as McCoy shows off his elusive style. As usual, the team started out with their stretching and then individual work, they also did some special teams drills and 7-on-7s. But for the 11-on-11 drills, Rex Ryan does things a little different than his predecessor. Instead of having all 4 quarterbacks take reps on the same part of the field, he separates them. Two quarterbacks work with the starting unit and the other two work with the backup or 3rd string unit. Today it was EJ Manuel’s turn to share starting reps with Matt Cassel.

Some of the players came out of the tunnel a little early, but by 10:00 AM, all of them were on the field and stretching. The players then separated as the linemen and some other defensive players jogged over to the second grass field, while the special teams unit worked on kickoff returns and coverage. There were 2 kick “returners” that caught the ball from the jugs machine (Marcus Thigpen and Tobias Palmer). Thigpen did a good job catching them, except for one bobble and showed his speed returning them up the field a bit, but Palmer fumbled one of his. Following the special teams drills, the rest of the defense left to head to the second field to work on individual drills. The offense stayed behind and the QBs worked on handing off the ball to the running backs, while the receivers worked on their routes. After a while, the quarterbacks came together with the receivers and had the DBs defending them as they worked 1-on-1.

During the 1-on-1 drills, the plays are coming out very quickly. I noted a few things that caught my eye during the 1-on-1’s. Ronald Darby make a nice pass breakup on a pass from Matt Cassel to Robert Woods. Tyrod Taylor overthrew Marquise Goodwin and he also threw a ball to Chris Hogan that was intercepted by Ross Cockrell. Cassel also threw a beautiful 50 yard pass to Goodwin, but he dropped it. EJ Manuel threw a pretty looking 50-yard touchdown to Robert Woods that was right where it needed to be and got a loud ovation. Manuel also threw a nice pass to Chris Hogan and it looked like he caught it, but the refs ruled it incomplete. Marcus Easley also dropped one of Cassel’s passes.

Following the 1-on-1’s, the team went to work on the 11-on-11 drills. I watched the side of the field with the starters that both Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel ran with. Matt Cassel started it off with a pass to Sammy Watkins, but Ronald Darby was all over him and it would’ve been a penalty. LeSean McCoy then got the ball and exploded up the middle for 9-yards. Cassel then overthrew Percy Harvin and followed that with a screen to Matthew Mulligan for 4-yards. Boobie Dixon got the ball next and ran behind the left tackle for 6-yards. EJ Manuel was next up and overthrew Harvin. He then went back to Harvin, but he dropped the ball. On the next play, EJ threw a bullet to Sammy Watkins, who couldn’t hold on. The ball was thrown way too hard. Manuel then continued his terrible run by overthrowing Chris Hogan. On the final play of the drill, Manuel tried connecting with Marquise Goodwin, but Ronald Darby had great coverage on him.

After the horn sounded, the lines left the one field as other players got to work on the 7-on-7 passing drills. EJ Manuel started it off with a pass to Chris Hogan for 4-yards. He then gunned the ball to Fred Jackson, who couldn’t quite hold on. EJ needed a little bit more touch there. On the next play, EJ threw a terrible pass towards Chris Gragg that was nowhere near him. I don’t know if it was a miscommunication or what. Matt Cassel came onto the field next and immediately connected with Robert Woods for 12-yards. He then threw a 9-yard pass to Gragg. On the next play, Cassel threw it away after he went thru his reads. Cassel finished the drive off by dumping the ball off to Fred Jackson who ran about 5-yards. Manuel came back and connected with Robert Woods for 5-yards. He then overthrew Sammy Watkins. Manuel then found Woods for 8-yards. On the final play of the drive, EJ found Deonte Thompson for 7-yards. Cassel came back in and connected with Percy Harvin for 12-yards. He then found LeSean McCoy who was popped by Preston Brown after a 5-yard gain. On the next play, Cassel hit Woods for 15-yards. He then finished the drive off with a 12-yard pass to Harvin. The horn then sounded and the team went back to work on special teams drills again. This time, Marcus Thigpen was joined by Robert Woods and Fred Jackson as a kickoff catcher.

Following the special teams drills, the team came together for more 11-on-11. This time, the team didn’t split up on two sides of the field and Tyrod Taylor worked with the starters. LeSean McCoy started it off with a 8-yard run behind the left tackle. Tyrod Taylor then underthrew Marquise Goodwin. On the next play, McCoy ran up the middle for 6-yards. Taylor finished the drive off with a pass to Marcus Easley for 4-yards. Matt Cassel was next and connected with Robert Woods for 13-yards. Jerome Felton then took a screen from Cassel and gained 7-yards. Bryce Brown then ran behind the left guard for 3-yards. On the next play, Cassel thought he had Marquise Goodwin open, but Rob Sweeting most likely would have been flagged. He had his back to the play. EJ Manuel came in and found Chris Gragg, but Kenny Ladler fell on him and broke it up. Manuel then connected with Karlos Williams for 5-yards. He then hit Deonte Thompson for 6-yards. On the next play, LeSean McCoy ran around the left tackle for 11-yards, making a nice juke to get around Corey Graham. Matt Simms then came in and overthrew Thompson. Boobie Dixon then burst up the middle for 9-yards. On the final play of the drive, Simms hit Fred Jackson for 5-yards. Tyrod Taylor came in and threw a screen to Bryce Brown, who made a nice run to gain 14-yards. On the next play, Taylor hit Harvin for 20-yards. On the final play of the series, Taylor showed off his feet and scrambled for 8-yards. Matt Cassel was next and connected with Percy Harvin for 13-yards and then followed that with a 15-yard pass to Harvin. LeSean McCoy then took a screen from EJ Manuel and gained 8-yards. On the next play, Manuel tucked the ball and ran for 10-yards. Matt Simms came back and thought he had Karlos Williams, but he dropped it. On the final play of the day, Simms underthrew Deonte Thompson.

Extra Points:

1. I know it’s only the 2nd practice, but this quarterback competition is not exciting at all. It’s actually terrifying. There’s a lot of mediocre play out there. EJ Manuel looked horrible for most of the day and his first 11-on-11 drills, he was 0-5. He recovered a little bit later on, but his throws were still pretty awful. He’s lacking touch on the shorter passes and keeps gunning them at his receivers for some reason. I love his deep ball and feel he might be the best QB with that. But his short passes need work badly.

2. As for Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor, I’m not impressed with them either. Cassel gets the ball out pretty quick, but he was off target a bunch of times. I hate his deep ball. It kinda reminds me of Fitzpatrick. And Tyrod Taylor had some JP Losman in him….he’ll sling it out there sometimes, but other times he just likes to run around in the pocket and makes bad throws.

3. On the positive side, LeSean McCoy is a beast! I’ve always liked him when he was on the Eagles, but it’s going to fun to watch him make those highlight reel runs for my team for a change. He has such an explosive second gear and showed off some nifty footwork several times, juking the defensive players, including one where he made a cut and Corey Graham lost him.

4. I’m sure many people have been reporting it, but Ronald Darby may be the steal of the draft. He’s holding his own against Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins and has been making several pass breakups. I could see him making it easier to release Leodis McKelvin. I would not be surprised at all if he starts.

5. The offensive line is interesting to me. They have been doing a very good job run blocking and making some holes for the running backs, but the pass blocking looks pretty bad right now. I’m hoping it’s just because they are going against one of the top defensive lines in the league, but I will definitely be keeping an eye on it.

6. For the second day in a row, both Terry and Kim Pegula were at St John Fisher. They look like they are enjoying being on the sidelines and watching their newest investment and see how it develops and grows. Both of them have been interacting with fans and Kim has been regularly chatting with them and even taking selfies with some lucky fans. It’s nice to see how down to Earth they are. Ralph would be proud.

Overall, it was a good day at St. John Fisher College. The weather was gorgeous, as most summers are in Western NY and there was even a nice breeze to go with the hot sun. The action on the field was enjoyable to watch and the crowd seemed to have a good time. It’s great to have football back. But I’ll be honest, I’m mainly looking forward to next week when the pads come on. That’s when the real fun begins.