It wasn't easy for the offense to link many positive plays together Tuesday in practice at One Bills Drive. The passing game misfired at times. There were a couple of false starts and the defense had the better of the play. EJ Manuel however, pointed out the main reason why the offense isn't hitting on all cylinders just yet.
In a word play volume. Buffalo's offensive coaches have thrown the entire playbook at the offensive unit this week partly in preparation for next week's mandatory minicamp. The large amount of information being installed has compromised execution at times.
"We put in a lot of offense so the communication part has been extremely important for us to make sure everybody is on the same page every single play," said EJ Manuel. "That's something that we've really been working on."
Bills center Eric Wood, an in studio guest of the John Murphy Show Tuesday, said that normally in a game plan practice during the season an offense will run through about 50 to 60 plays. With the remainder of the playbook going in this week it's almost double that amount.
"When we're going through all the 1st-and-10 plays sometimes it's hard for every player to know the different nuances of one play to the next," Wood said. "But it's good for the team because it helps the coaches better determine what we're capable of and what might be worth keeping for the regular season and what we might want to rule out."
Manuel does a very good job at quarterback of staying even keeled. So although he might be frustrated by plays that aren't executed perfectly he doesn't outwardly show it to his teammates.
"It's more so just expecting a lot from our offense," he said. "Yeah we're putting in a lot of plays, but I have a sense of urgency just like the rest of us. So when things aren't going well or how we want things to go in practice it's frustrating, but at the same time we have a practice tomorrow where we can correct it."
Manuel was a respectable 15-24 passing in the practice Tuesday with a touchdown pass in the red zone to Chris Hogan, who was ruled in bounds in the front right corner of the end zone as he dragged his toes near the sideline. He also had two interceptions both of which came on tipped passes.
Robert Woods was his most popular target as he pulled in four receptions in his most extensive team work coming off of ankle surgery. For Woods he has no concerns about where the offense is headed.
"Not at all," said Woods. "It's just reps and continuing the same throws and plays and repetition, get it down and it's all the same concepts, keep doing it and we'll be good."
The two best throws of the day were turned in by Jeff Tuel. Both came during 11-on-11 red zone work and happened on back-to-back plays.
Tuel first found Mike Williams on a slant putting some extra velocity on his pass to fit it in a tight window for a touchdown. On the very next play he found Tony Moeaki on a post for a touchdown as well.
Defense making plays
Even though the majority of OTAs have seen second and third team players lining up with the members of the projected starting unit that's on hand for the voluntary practices, they've turned in quality plays. After a host of pass breakups including three interceptions on Monday, they added three more on Tuesday.
Nickell Robey working mainly in the slot on Tuesday had an early pass breakup in 7-on-7 red zone to force an incompletion. Six plays later he tipped a Manuel pass intended for Robert Woods in the end zone that was pulled in by undrafted rookie safety Kenny Ladler to thwart a scoring chance.
Later a Thad Lewis pass over the middle was tipped at the line and fell right into the arms of Preston Brown for his second interception in as many days during 11-on-11.
The last INT of the day came on another tipped pass. Manuel's throw to the left intended for Chris Hogan was knocked into the air by Ron Brooks and Brandon Spikes, who after filling a gap in the middle of the line to prevent an escape route for Manuel, busted tail to the sideline heading in the direction of the flight of the ball. His hustle put him in position to run under the tipped pass for an interception.
Spikes just seems to know a half second earlier than most of his teammates where the ball is headed and is often first on the scene. Such was the case on the INT.
"For me it's all about production and you want to be on the field and make stuff happen and be a game changer and make plays," said Spikes. "I'm anxious to get in front of the Bills fans it's going to be fun."
Spikes also had a tackle for loss with a good read on a run play.
Gilmore, McKelvin work in team drills
Throughout the course of OTA practices starting cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin have been limited to individual position drills with both coming off of surgeries in the offseason. On Tuesday both cornerbacks got a handful of reps during red zone team work.
Both worked with the starting unit and there was a reason why they were allowed to work during the red zone portion of practice. The coaches and athletic trainers do not yet want Gilmore or McKelvin to run and cover deep routes where they're going full sprint for 40 yards. Working in the red zone left less of a field for the tandem to cover allowing them to just focus on technique and change of direction.
"It's kind of based upon how we feel with me and Stephon," McKelvin told Buffalobills.com. "They let us try it out and try to knock off a little rust. In the red zone you're not opening up too much so you're able change direction real fast. That was our plan from the get go, try to come in and do some red zone so we don't open up and just get ready for training camp."
McKelvin and Gilmore did not factor in on any of the plays on the ball that they were in for as they didn't allow their receivers to come open for any pass attempts. The two figure to be sprinkled in for a few reps here and there the rest of the way this spring.
"We'll pretty much just wait until training camp," McKelvin said. "We'll probably do a lot of the same as what we did (Tuesday) with red zone work and work our way back in there. You never know there may be a couple of reps where we want to try open field, but we'll see how it goes."
In base defense Nigel Bradham got some first team reps alongside Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers. Rivers was stepping in for Kiko Alonso, who did not do any team work Tuesday. Bradham also saw a couple of snaps at middle linebacker with Rivers and Brown flanking him.
The starting safety tandem Tuesday was Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams. Aaron Williams was not doing any team work.
On the offensive line Antoine McClain shifted to left guard with the second unit with Chris Hairston sidelined with an undisclosed issue.
Both Cyrus Kouandjio and Seantrel Henderson are working as bookend tackles with the second and third units. Henderson is at left tackle with Kouandjio on the right.
Back practicing after missing Monday's session were Tony Moeaki, Mike Williams and Anthony Dixon. Dixon had an eight-yard touchdown run on a carry to the left in red zone as he was surprised to find wide open green space in front of him. Williams had three catches on the day including one for a score. Moeaki had a pair of touchdown catches during red zone work.
Among the notables not participating along with Hairston were Marcus Easley and Marquise Goodwin.