The rookies were told as their weekend minicamp came to a close to be prepared for the speed to pick up at practice when the veterans rolled in for the beginning of voluntary OTAs. As prepared as Buffalo's newest class of talent was for practices this week, it's hard to believe they were ready for the whirlwind of activity that ensued Monday morning.
If the thought their rookie minicamp moved at a brisk pace, the voluntary OTA session moved that much quicker.
"With the veterans out here it was a lot faster," said rookie receiver Da'Rick Rogers. "I know we want to go fast, that's our identity. So that's what we do."
When the team went into 11-on-11 work the pace was ratcheted up considerably. The offense was snapping the ball after just 12 to 14 seconds came off the 40-second play clock. Even though the players have been participating heavily in the offseason conditioning program there was still some huffing and puffing at times.
"When we started out about a month and a half ago, we revved up pretty good," said Kraig Urbik. "It was really good conditioning. Obviously, now, with the practice, we can't condition as well and this is our conditioning. We've got to continue to do it up until camp, because we're going to be doing this. We ran three sets of no huddle in camp and in games, we're running four-five-six sets of that. So we have to be in really good shape."
The pace wasn't lightning quick the entire practice session. There were ebbs and flows to the tempo at which plays were run.
"We're going to try to mix it up on defenses," said Eric Wood. "If you go at the same speed the whole game, even if it's really fast, then the defense gets used to that. Anything we can do to kind of mix it up on them, put the ball in our court, we're going to try to do that this year. It's something that we're excited about."
QB rotationBills head coach Doug Marrone said from the outset that the quarterback rotation would likely change daily until one signal caller began to take hold of the job. On Monday Tarvaris Jackson was the first quarterback through the rotation during the team period.
He was followed by Kevin Kolb and then EJ Manuel was third in terms of the snaps on offense.
All three had some quality throws during the practice session. Kolb had a pair of deep touchdown passes covering 70 and 65 yards on bombs to Marcus Easley and the rookie Rogers.
Rogers, who also had an 80-yard touchdown play on a throw from Manuel simply beat his coverage on both occasions.
"They're calling the plays, I had a deep post on a couple of plays and I just got behind the coverage," said Rogers. "I used my speed and size."
Kolb also had a well-timed play along the far sideline to Brad Smith, who made a difficult grab before stepping out of bounds. He hit T.J. Graham for a big gainer in the deep middle too.
Manuel, in addition to the bomb to Rogers, also threw a dart over the middle to T.J. Graham for a 20-yard pass play.
Rogers steps it upIt was hard not to notice Rogers exploits in the passing game. His two deep touchdown plays drew some reaction from the teammates not on the field at the time.
"The weekend was good, being out here with the rookies, and watching their film," said Rogers. "And then being in here and getting out with the veterans—you don't want to not impress them, so you go that much harder. But it was good getting acclimated before we got in with the veterans."
Rogers did benefit from the fact that fellow rookie receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were not in attendance. Undrafted rookie receiver Brandon Kaufman, who had a strong weekend at rookie minicamp, was also not in attendance as he had to return to Eastern Washington to finish up his final semester. Undrafted rookie Kevin Norrell was also absent.
Punter competitionIt looks like there could be a legitimate battle brewing for the punting job. Incumbent Shawn Powell hung some high punts in practice, but first-year player Brian Stahovich also displayed some impressive hang time, with one punt clocking an unofficial hang time of 5.1 seconds. Stahovich also had an unofficial 4.9 hang time on another kick.
Powell, to his credit, was in the 4.8 to 4.9 range most of the session. But it seems clear that special teams coordinator Danny Crossman is going to be witness to a hard fought battle for the job.