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4 things to take from Thursday’s practice

Posted Aug 14, 2014

The two days in Latrobe against the Steelers provided some encouraging signs for Buffalo’s offense.

Here now are the takeaways from Thursday’s work at St. Vincent College:

EJ takes a step

In Wednesday’s practice EJ Manuel effectively worked the middle of the field against Pittsburgh and was listed as one of our top three playmakers for the session. On Thursday Manuel stacked another solid performance on top of it with perhaps one of his more accurate throwing days.

Manuel connected on 60 percent of his throws on Wednesday, but was even better Thursday completing 13 of his first 16 pass attempts during team work.

“I told EJ, to be honest my exact words were this is the best I’ve ever seen him. I don’t think he threw an incomplete pass,” said Mike Williams, who was on the receiving end of four passes. “Everything was on time, we got everything we wanted. It was perfect. Coming out of our breaks and the ball is right there. It’s just the best I’ve seen him. If he keeps going like this, we’re going to be something to play with.”

The Bills quarterback looked clear headed with most of his decision making, and though his ball accuracy wasn’t perfect, there were several well-timed pass plays that went for first down yardage and more.

“I thought I was consistent. That is something I want to continue to build on,” said Manuel. “Don’t let it be a one, a two, a three day streak. Make it a everyday thing. It is a process. I am still going to continue to buy into the process. Continue to listen to Coach Downing. He has been helping us out tremendously as a quarterback group together so I am very excited about the steps that we are taking. I think that we are right on time for where we want to be as an offense. Continue to develop within this preseason.”

Spreading the wealth

In addition to a high completion percentage and making plays in rhythm, Manuel also made use of a handful of receiving targets. Sammy Watkins (6), Mike Williams (4) and Scott Chandler (3) were some of Manuel’s more frequent targets, but he also connected with Chris Hogan, C.J. Spiller, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg and Fred Jackson.

Manuel said he doesn’t make a conscious effort to get everyone involved in the pass game, he just goes to the open target.

“I think it just happens. When certain guys are in a read, certain personnel at different spots on the field, you just give them an opportunity to go out and make a catch,” he said. “I feel like all of our receivers can go out, make plays and get open against any d-back in the league. As we continue to build that trust with each other it is going to be a beautiful thing with our offense.”

Regardless of how it unfolded Mike Williams believes the passing game turned a corner Thursday.

“With him progressing every day, I think it’s because of him,” said Williams of Manuel. “We’ve been catching passes and he’s been hitting us. With him progressing, it looked good.”

Communication demands

There were many benefits to Buffalo’s two days of practice work with Pittsburgh, but perhaps the most important was the demand it put on players lining up on both offense and defense to communicate with teammates pre-snap.

“When you see the offense over and over (in training camp) you kind of expect what’s going to happen,” said Aaron Williams. “With a new team we don’t, so you have to communicate. It’s a great way to practice our communication because in the game when it’s loud and you can’t really hear you’ve got to work on hand signals and being much louder. It helps the rookies and vets out in terms of the chemistry and what the feel is for each other.”

Bills LB Brandon Spikes wasn’t thrilled with their communication pre-snap on Wednesday, but felt it was better Thursday.

“When you see different stuff and how they’re attacking with the motions and moving guys around we’ve got to stay on top of that,” he said.

On offense the communication up front was critical for what on the whole was pretty good protection for the quarterbacks over the two practices.

“Whenever you’re playing a defense like this you all want to be on the same page,” said Kraig Urbik. “A few days before we got here we definitely focused on what we need to do with them, front-wise. We’ve had good communication.”

“I think our communication overall has really helped us out,” said Manuel. “Communicating to the o-line as far as picking up their blitzes and the schemes that they do down on the fronts.”

O-line shuffle

The offensive line continued to shuffle here in Latrobe. With Chris Williams unable to participate due to a back injury suffered in the Carolina preseason game, Kraig Urbik was flipped to left guard from his normal right guard position. Rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson has stepped in for Urbik at right guard with the first unit.

“He said he definitely feels more comfortable on the right side so that’s why we’re keeping him there right now,” said Urbik of Richardson.

With Cordy Glenn still limited in the practice setting and left guard in a bit of flux which has prompted other shuffling, one might think the men up front would be a bit concerned about their cohesiveness. But the veterans of the group aren’t worried about it at this point.

“Not really (worried),” said Urbik. “Obviously Cordy when he comes back will need a little bit to get adjusted to the game, but I think we’ve all been around long enough to work for a few days and be comfortable with each other again.”