Buffalo's first week of OTA practices began Tuesday this week, but the first open practice was Wednesday. Here are top seven observations from the field.
1 – QB RotationThe quarterbacks are rotating on a daily basis between the first and second units. On Wednesday EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor were the two signal callers working with the first unit, while Matt Cassel and Jeff Tuel ran with the second and third units.
"It felt really good," said Manuel. "We are having fun. I think that is kind of the environment Rex (Ryan) wants us to have. But for me personally, I felt very good about the last two practices."
With the defense now out there to go against every snap the quarterbacks are keeping their goals simple at the outset.
"It's easy going against air, so I think right now they want to see how we move against the defense," said Taylor. "Getting the offense to the right checks and moving the ball up the field. It's a daily process. All of us are working. New offense for us. Just trying to keep grinding and continue to get better and learn each other and build this team the way we want to build it."
2 – Double repsAs head coach Rex Ryan stated earlier this offseason, when the team breaks into team periods they will run two offensive units against two defensive units simultaneously. Such was the case on Wednesday.
Manuel and Taylor ran their offensive unit at the east end of the team's grass field, while Cassel and Tuel ran the other unit toward the west end zone.
"I think it's great for all of us because we get more reps," said Cassel. "Sometimes when you just have one group you sit there a lot of times and you're watching and you've got to get the mental reps, but this time of year it's been great. You get all those reps, the more repetition we can get this time of year the better for all of us."
The pace of practice is also increased with two sets of plays being run at the same time just 30 yards away from each other.
Ryan admits it's tough for one set of eyes to catch everything on the field as it's happening live, but in the film room there's more to evaluate on all the players for the coaching staff, particularly the quarterbacks.
"You get all the film work to really look at and talk about with your guys," Ryan said. "I would rather have it that way than just all eyes on the one group and it's so slowed down. And I get it, sometimes there may be a need for it through injury, lack of players. Obviously, in a regular season, you only have 53-players. But right now, for us to get a legitimate shot, I kind of like the way we're doing it."
3 – McCoy, Watkins watchingTwo of Buffalo's top playmakers on offense were forced to watch much of Wednesday's practice. Watkins did participate during individual position drills as he's still recovering from an offseason procedure. LeSean McCoy, however was completely sidelined.
"He's got a little thing in his neck or something like that, but it's not serious," said Ryan of McCoy. "It's one of those things where we don't need him out there."
Taking first team reps in place of McCoy in the offensive backfield was veteran Fred Jackson on Wednesday.
Robert Woods and Percy Harvin were the two receivers split wide most often in the absence of Watkins.
4 – PBUsDuring team periods there were a good number of defensive plays made on the ball. Defenders were effective getting their hands in passing lanes at times. Rookie second-round pick Ronald Darby had the first such play when he slipped in front of Robert Woods on a deep ball to the end zone to make a leaping interception.
Ron Brooks was the beneficiary when receiver Marcus Thigpen fell down on a route allowing Brooks to make the uncontested INT.
LB Jimmy Gaines, CB Nickell Robey and S Kenny Ladler were among the others who had pass breakups during the team periods Wednesday.
"The rookie made his first interception today, Darby had a pick," said Ryan. "Guys are working hard. We've got a lot of things in and we're able to move around some on defense, we're not just standing around, we're stemming our fronts all the time and that kind of makes it difficult. But that's what happens when they snap the thing for real. It's good. We get a lot of pre-snap shifts, motions from the offense, and I think that's challenging. It's challenging for the defense, challenging for the offense. I think it makes for almost like real football out there."
5 – DB ShuffleWith starting defensive backs Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams all still rehabbing from offseason procedures, it's allowed for other cornerbacks to step in and play. There was a three-man rotation at cornerback on the first unit with Ron Brooks, Ross Cockrell and Ronald Darby. Nickell Robey was the primary nickel corner.
At safety Duke Williams and Bacarri Rambo were the first two safeties on the field with Corey Graham and Jonathan Meeks rotating in. Kenny Ladler also got some snaps here and there.
Ryan said Graham will be working almost exclusively at safety during the OTA practices and Graham is good with that.
"We've been talking about all offseason so it's nothing new," said Graham. "We pretty much made a decision that I was going to focus on it a little bit. So I'm preparing myself for training camp so I'll be ready. So I've got three weeks to get ready for it. I'll learn as much as I possibly can and we'll see how it goes."
6 – Offensive line looksBuffalo's first offensive line is far from being set in stone, but on Wednesday the first unit left to right was as follows. Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller and Cyrus Kouandjio. For a couple of series second-year guard Cyril Richardson rotated in at left guard for Incognito.
Seantrel Henderson lined up at left tackle with the second unit and Kraig Urbik was the second team center. The team's fourth tackle right now is undrafted rookie Tyson Chandler, who played on the right side with the second group.
Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer has mentioned more than once that there will be widespread experimentation in an effort to find the best five. We'll know more at next week's open OTA practice to see how much, if anything, has changed up front from one week to the next.
7 – Eye catchersIt was no easy task trying to keep watch of the two simultaneous team periods, but here's who caught our eye during Wednesday's OTA practice session.
Jerry Hughes looked fast off the edge as usual. Hughes had a monster training camp last summer and it carried into the regular season with a 10-sack campaign.
All three Florida State draft choices made plays on Wednesday. Darby made the aforementioned INT. Nick O'Leary had a few receptions including a nice grab along the near sideline during team work. Karlos Williams showed some elusiveness bobbing and weaving through the hole on more than one occasion.
Third-round pick John Miller demonstrated his ability to get out to the second level on a handful of offensive plays. He is deceptive in how quickly he can cover ground and get out to the linebackers.
Robert Woods looked sharp in his route running and his best catch was a high reaching grab over the middle.
Undrafted rookie TE Clay Burton got himself noticed with a few catches as he did a good job of gaining separation on some short routes.