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OTA 2: EJ Manuel working on reads

Posted May 29, 2014

Day two of OTA practices saw EJ Manuel working to move through his reads quickly and accurately.

He got the lion’s share of the work on Wednesday, but on Thursday his reps appeared to increase even more as Buffalo’s offensive staff makes a concerted effort to have EJ Manuel as ready as possible to make a sizable jump in on field performance in his second NFL season.

Manuel made a handful of good looking passes downfield including throws to Mike Williams and Chris Hogan (below), but also made use of his check down options underneath and in the flat in practice Thursday. Additionally there were some plays where he chose to pull it down and run after not finding any viable options downfield.

Buffalo’s starting quarterback has made quick and accurate coverage recognition a top priority this offseason.

“Obviously being a young guy sometimes you would look past somebody in a progression when you could’ve just held on a half second longer and he may have come open,” said Manuel. “So just going through my own film study this offseason is something I noticed.”

Manuel doesn’t believe he’s there yet, but senses progress in that area of his game.

“I think I’m getting over that hump now, truly just taking your time,” he said. “It’s so hard because the game happens so fast, but as a quarterback you don’t want to rush. You want to be quick, but you don’t want to be too fast where you’re just overlooking guys. It’s simply going through the reads.”

Dixon fixing to be a RB

Standing at 6-foot-1 with a thickly-built, 233-pound frame, some might look at Anthony “Boobie” Dixon and think fullback. While the five-year vet is certainly capable of handling the fullback position he was a primary ball carrier in college at Mississippi State and wouldn’t mind getting back to that kind of action now that he’s in Buffalo.

“I think I’m an all-around football player, running back, fullback, I can catch it and I can play special teams,” said Dixon. “I feel like I could play defense if they need me to. I can do whatever they need me to do. Unfortunately in San Francisco I didn’t get to play running back a whole lot, but I played some. I’m just trying to get in the rotation here now. That’s part of the reason I came here for a little bit more opportunity.”

Dixon has been getting that opportunity through the first two days of OTAs. With the offensive staff wholly familiar with the abilities of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller the coaches have been giving most of the work to the newcomers Dixon and Bryce Brown.

For a 233-pound back, Dixon is a bit more nimble than some might think. He’s not going to shake and bake a defender and gain extra yardage, but he looked smooth catching out of the backfield and was decisive on most of his runs through the first two days. That appealed to head coach Doug Marrone.

“He’s been telling me for the first two days that he likes some of the stuff I’ve been doing,” said Dixon. “I know he wants me to go out there and bring the pain. He doesn’t want a lot of pitter patter out of me. He wants me to get it and go and that’s what I’m working on. So far, so good.”

Buffalo finished 29th in goal-to-go touchdown efficiency in 2013, and that’s a role Dixon has already proven he can fill after serving in that capacity with the 49ers.

“That’s one of the things I did in San Francisco and the last few years I was perfect on it,” said Dixon. “I had a goal line touchdown in the NFC Championship game last year. I feel like I’ve got that down pat. If he wants me to do that then I’m definitely capable of fixing that problem, short yardage and goal line. Whatever coach wants me to do I’m down for it. He knows I’m a football player first and I can’t wait to get started.”

Mike Williams getting adjusted

It took until day two of OTAs, but Manuel finally hooked up with new receiver Mike Williams late during an 11-on-11 team segment. It came on a crossing pattern that went for an 18-yard gain. Williams got high five from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on his way off the field upon being subbed out.

“It definitely felt good, running the route perfect. He saw it and it’s fun just going out there and catching balls from EJ and being back out here and running full speed again,” said Williams.

And full speed and high tempo are among the differences he’s experiencing in Buffalo’s practice setting as opposed to what he was used to during his time in Tampa Bay.

“These are real extreme,” said Williams of Buffalo’s practices. “These are extreme workouts. We work out, practice, we work hard, we’re going twice. In Tampa sometimes it was just one time, but it’s like two times a day here, so it’s real different from being in Tampa.”

With all the reps that Buffalo runs in practice Williams feels it equates to what would’ve been two full practices for the Bucs.

Regulars working back in

Some of Buffalo’s starters were working back into the team portions of practice Thursday. Kiko Alonso and Mario Williams were both rotated in for work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team work, but neither of them would go for more than two snaps at a time. Both are coming off hip procedures this offseason.

On offense Chris Hairston and Robert Woods were worked in a bit more in the team setting. Woods had ankle surgery in the offseason. Woods only saw reps in 7-on-7.

Still held out of team work Thursday due to recovery from offseason procedures were Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, T.J. Graham, Aaron Williams and Scott Chandler.

Cornerback pairings

With Buffalo’s top two corners out of the lineup for team work Ron Brooks has been given a big opportunity to nail down a role on the roster. Brooks has been part of the first cornerback pairing each of the first two days working mainly with Corey Graham. When the defense goes to a nickel package Brooks has been kicking inside with rookie Ross Cockrell stepping onto the field to play on the boundary.

A couple of the other cornerback pairings were Cockrell and Michael Carter and Nickell Robey and Mario Butler and Brandon Smith and Darius Robinson. Robinson suffered an injury defending a pass deep down the sideline and left practice early.

Graham and Robey also saw work in the slot along with Brooks.

Schedule

The Bills close out their first week of OTAs on Friday with a 10:30 practice.