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Minicamp Notes: Day 3


Here were the headlines from the last session:

Manuel builds momentum

The Bills' three-man quarterback competition is now on hiatus for about six weeks with Buffalo's mandatory minicamp reaching a close. While Rex Ryan and his staff aren't giving the edge to anyone at this point, the quarterback who heads into the break with the most momentum is EJ Manuel.

Manuel put together one of his better practices Thursday and has improved in a couple of specific areas with respect to his personal game. He's much less hesitant in his decision making and his accuracy is more consistent. Perhaps the area of his game that has seen the greatest jump is his footwork in the pocket and leading up to the throw.

His drops are much tighter. When he slides in the pocket his steps are efficient and he keeps his feet underneath his frame. That has kept his upper body properly balanced to deliver the ball more accurately.

Manuel demonstrated good timing on a couple of crossing routes, but it's his accuracy on touch throws has been noticeably better. Each of the three days of minicamp Manuel has dropped passes over cornerbacks into the arms of his receiving targets. Two went for touchdowns on Thursday, including a fourth down conversion to Marcus Easley that capped his two-minute drive.

Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor were unable to convert their two minute drives into points. Both of their drives finished with turnovers on interceptions by Ross Cockrell and Mario Butler.

None of Buffalo's quarterbacks faced the Bills starting defensive line in team work on Thursday. Ryan stated that was by design so the offensive units could move the ball a bit more effectively. Still, he liked what he saw from Manuel in the final minicamp practice.

"He has had some moments," said Ryan. "I thought EJ did well, he threw the touchdown pass in the two minute. Kind of looked a little watered down there on defense, but it was good. It was great to see. He looked pretty good and he had some nice plays."

Kouandjio making most of opportunity

Bills second-year offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio has put together a consistent spring. After a rigorous offseason of training the former second-round pick has been a mainstay at the starting right tackle position for the majority of OTAs and all of minicamp.

Head coach Rex Ryan confirmed that Kouandjio is ahead of Seantrel Henderson in the competition for the right tackle job, but he cautioned that the pads aren't on yet and true evaluation can't happen until training camp.

"I think the work that Cyrus has done overall in the offseason probably puts him ahead right now," said Ryan. "But the race isn't over by a long shot, so we'll see, Seantrel has got to show that he can handle it, mentally, physically all of it and then get out here. Obviously he's a guy that started 16 games last year so I think competition is going to be good, and you know, Kouandjio has got to show that when the pads come on that he can handle the physical aspect of the game."

Mario Williams, who has faced Kouandjio for much of the spring practices, sees the tackle's game coming together.

"He's a big guy, but he also can move, and his arm length is very (long). Compared to other tackles in the league he can definitely get out there and reach, so as far as pass blocking and run blocking he has the extension and the advantage in that situation."

Kouandjio feels the biggest advancement in his personal game has come with his base and anchor.

"I've felt a huge improvement in my balance," said Kouandjio. "Being able to do what you want at a certain speed it takes a lot of balance, which requires a lot of core strength. It helps your game a lot. There are a lot of little things that I see in my game that I can fix. I still have a few things I can pinpoint that I need to work on during the break. It's a process."

Goodwin caps strong spring

Much like Kouandjio, Marquise Goodwin has put together a strong spring. With Sammy Watkins held out of the majority of team work and Percy Harvin missing some of the voluntary OTA practices the last couple of weeks, Goodwin has proven to be the biggest beneficiary.

Making several plays deep downfield Goodwin was routinely getting behind defenders in the practice setting. On Thursday Goodwin had the catch of the day pulling in a pass over his shoulder one-handed from EJ Manuel for a touchdown during 11-on-11.

"First off he's an explosive athlete, he's got that 4.2 speed," said Ryan. "But he's also a route runner. If he gets open, that's the guy who should get the ball thrown to him. He's got some of that ability. I've been impressed with him."

Goodwin will have to carry that game breaking play into training camp when the pads go on and cornerbacks can collision him at the line of scrimmage a lot more than they have in the spring practices.

Darby sees return work

He has no stats that indicate he did so in college at Florida State, but rookie Ronald Darby was part of the rotation to return kicks Thursday. Joining the likes of Percy Harvin, Marcus Thigpen, Robert Woods and Fred Jackson, Darby returned a few kickoffs.

The last time Darby returned kicks was in high school where he was very successful returning kicks and punts at Potomac high school in Maryland.

Taking a look at Darby in that role makes sense. The cornerback doubled as a track star at Florida State and ran a 4.37 40-time at the NFL combine. Darby could merit some consideration there in games where perhaps Percy Harvin has a heavy workload on offense.

Players to-do list

Buffalo's players now have about six weeks off until training camp, but all of them have been told by the coaching staff to be smart and stay sharp with their playbook assignments. Most players are taking a week or two away from football before making final preparations for the training camp grind.

"You have to get away from football for a while because when you get into the season it's 24-7 and you'll be dreaming about football," said Kouandjio. "That's when you know it's bad."

"You want to get away from it," said Ryan. "I told the players detox away from football. Get away from it, maintain some conditioning but get away from it. Hoping you are jogging on the beach or doing something like that. But now is not the time to think about football. Now is the time to get away from it, spend time with your families, have a little life outside of the game.

"Then when it gets close start dialing it in and can't wait to get back out here. We know what is in front of us. They can be half as enthused as I am about this season and that would be good."

The Bills report to training camp at the end of July.

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