- Manuel the best QB on the field
We all know he's the locked in starter, and though QB EJ Manuel's night was far from perfect, he turned in a steady performance and showed increasing signs of consistency. Between the first 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 sessions, Manuel completed all eight pass attempts to various receivers and looked sharp in his execution of play action.
As practice wore on, Manuel still had a hiccup here or there, but looked very comfortable throughout practice. During the next set of 11-on-11 drills, Manuel completed seven of his twelve attempted passes despite excellent coverage by linebackers and defensive backs as well as constant pressure from the defensive line.
During the first two minute drill of training camp Manuel had a strong showing leading a more than 60-yard drive over five plays and went three for four in the red zone. Two of those completions went to WR Robert Woods. Thad Lewis' two minute drive came up short of midfield as he completed three of his eight pass attempts.
"It's been great," said C.J. Spiller about Manuel's growing confidence. "You can see the confidence that he has to bounce back if he has a bad day or a bad period and that's the thing that we need. We need our quarterback to be able to bounce back like that because it feeds off to everybody else. Like I said, it's been a joy to see him take command of this offense."
2. D-line tightening up run defense
For most of the evening session defensive linemen were making plays. Every starter on the defensive line was turning in plays. Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes were all turning in plays.
Multiple times throughout the day, two or three defensive linemen were seen charging into the backfield, disrupting pass attempts and stopping ball carriers in their tracks, forcing them to either cut outside or get gobbled up by the defenders who penetrated the pocket. Blitzing defensive backs like Nickell Robey, came in and secured would be sacks. LB Nigel Bradham did a good job of eluding downfield blockers on several snaps to get clean hits on backs.
"We're attacking," said Manny Lawson. "We've got to be more disciplined, more consistent because we can stop the run. We've just got to do it every play, instead of taking off time here and there. But the guys are hungry. We've still got some improvements to make and we're going to get them corrected."
The confidence and determined attitude carried over when off the field.
"Absolutely," said Hughes when asked if he felt sick when he saw that the Bills defense was ranked 28th in the league as far as run defense. "We know we have tremendous talent and we know we can improve on that so we're looking to improve on that."
3. Competition between the offense and defense is heating up
For the past few days, a distinct intensity has taken over live drills between the offense and defense. Every hit seems to pop harder and harder and every successful catch or run is met with even louder chatter from the defenders.
"Well, they can't stop us and they get mad at that," said WR Mike Williams. "So they talk stuff and we talk stuff back."
The same can be said when the defense breaks up a play.
"Every defender likes to talk," said C Eric Wood. "A lot of running backs like to talk. Some O-linemen do too. It's part of the game. It just kind of adds some excitement and enthusiasm to practice and sometimes it makes it a lot more fun."
"It's competitive," said Mike Williams. "We need that. We can't just go out there and not make plays. When people are talking stuff and we're back and forth with each other, that's friendly talk but we try to make plays to shut them up and they try to shut us up so being competitive out there is always good for the team."
Longer tenured Bills players feel the same way.
"You get a lot out of it as long as it's still productive," said Mario Williams. "As long as you still keep your focus, when something happens it happens, and then you're onto the next play. I think as long as we continue to do that we'll be alright."
4. Running backs looking strong
It seemed the running back corps was especially potent Monday. The speed backs were flying around the ends and making cuts all day while the power backs and full backs were initiating contact with defenders left and right.
Spiller along with Fred Jackson and Ronnie Wingo drew several roars from the crowd as they cut through a couple of defenders and even brought in a few catches. The strong open field running came after a successful Sunday goal line segment when players like FB Evan Rodriguez and Anthony Dixon powered over the goal line for scores.
"We've just been preparing," said Spiller. "It started back in April when all reported back and it just translated over and we're just trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that we get."