Consistent pass pressure
Buffalo's defense was out in front of the offense in the first week of training camp. Their pass pressure was constant and they were foiling a lot of pass plays not long after the snap. In week two of camp the offense bounced back, but on Wednesday the defense re-asserted their imposing pass rush.
The Bills returned to the grass field for a sunny afternoon practice, the last before they hit the road for their game at Carolina.
The defense logged eight sacks during the team portions of practice based on the plays that were blown dead prematurely by the officials on hand. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz appeared to be installing some new blitz packages, and it took some time for the offensive unit to adjust.
DE Jerry Hughes led the effort with three of the eight sacks. Other defensive players who tapped out quarterbacks before the ball was thrown included DT Landon Cohen, S Deon Broomfield, DE Jacquies Smith, DT Corbin Bryant and Marcell Dareus and Jarius Wynn split the other.
Near the end of practice the Bills ran a live goal line series. It lasted just four plays. On the first snap Fred Jackson plowed into the end zone behind left guard Chris Williams for a touchdown. On the second play Booby Dixon was met at the line of scrimmage by Duke Williams with Brandon Spikes second on the scene to keep Dixon from reaching the goal line on a carry over the right guard.
"The play on the goal line was really Mario [Williams]. Mario really set that play up," said head coach Doug Marrone. "He went inside, opened up the hole, free Duke up and Duke went in there and made a nice tackle. That period was live. Duke's had a very good camp."
EJ Manuel handed off to FB Evan Rodriguez on the third goal line play, but he too was stopped short on a carry up the middle. Jeff Tuel then came on, but his play action pass fell incomplete.
"With the guys that we have up front, they're big, strong, quick and fast," said Lawson. "They make things happen especially for the linebackers behind us. We pride ourselves on stopping the run and goal line is an extension of that."
Robert Woods was a standout performer in the Hall of Fame game last Sunday leading the team in both receptions and receiving yards. He also had the team's only touchdown. The second-year receiver has carried that play into the practice week.
After a solid outing Tuesday night, Woods followed it up with a consistent performance Wednesday afternoon. Though he only caught three passes he had one of the best of the day. Coming across the field left to right EJ Manuel led him toward the sideline with a pass that Woods stretched and snared with his left hand for a 25-yard play.
"Robert has been doing a great job," said Manuel. "In the game on Sunday he played hungry. He was a man who wanted the ball and wanted to be fed and that's what Jeff did when he was in. I'm extremely excited for Robert."
Head coach Doug Marrone revealed that he had a discussion with Woods on the practice field Wednesday.
"We know Robert can play three positions for us," said Marrone. "We're just trying to figure out what's the best combination that we have out there. When Robert first came to camp he didn't do that. Not to say he was complacent, but I told him that when he plays with that little chip on his shoulder, he's a darn good football player. I said, 'We need to see you play more with a chip on your shoulder every single day.' And I think you'll see that same result that you were able to see from the game and practice."
Lewis hoping to be the two
QB Thad Lewis for the first time in a while was the second quarterback in behind EJ Manuel for team reps in practice Wednesday. However, toward the tail end of practice it flipped back to Jeff Tuel getting the second team snaps after Manuel would exit. It leaves the competition a bit difficult to assess heading into the second preseason game.
Lewis is hoping to get a shot with the second unit Friday night after Jeff Tuel ran with the twos last Sunday.
"I don't know yet. I'm assuming that I'll have that role, but whenever your number is called that's when you have to be ready," Lewis said. "Last year I never had a chance to play in the preseason. But every time I get I'll take it. I'm not going to complain."
On a short week coming off the last game, Lewis chose to use his off day to review his game tape on his own this past Monday. Lewis was 10-16 passing for 87 yards, but had the costly interception in the end zone on a throw intended for Marcus Easley.
"You have that one window of opportunity on that day off and you have to coach yourself up and critique yourself and that's being a pro," he said. "You can make changes on the fly and see some of the things you did and work on them in practice."
Marrone said the coaching staff would make a decision on who would serve as the number two quarterback in Friday's game some time Wednesday evening.