With two OTA practices remaining this spring for the Bills, Doug Marrone and his coaching staff are close to completing their installation of the playbook with the players.
"We're putting a lot in schematically," said Marrone. "We have a lot in now, a large percentage of it, close to the end and you can see that sometimes we've become saturated with that and we've made some mistakes out there. But the players are working to get better. By the end of this week we'll be done installation-wise."
"We've got a lot of stuff in now and guys are just trying to find their way and get in the right places and try to move the tempo being that it is a tempo offense," said Tarvaris Jackson. "A couple of guys heads are spinning. Most of the guys are fitting up the run. I think it's good for right now so when we actually game plan and when the playbook gets a little smaller guys will be able to be more detailed with what they're doing."
Both the offensive and defensive coaches have been challenging the players mentally to see just how much they can absorb, process and then execute on the practice field.
"We're towards the end of the install though so we're kind of getting into some of our specialized coverages and some of the things that we don't do as often," said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. "But we're still in the mode of assessing how smart this team is. We're going to throw a lot at them and see what they can handle and that's really being tested. Coming off a long weekend we had some more install and called some things we haven't called in a while and most of the guys handled it pretty well.
"But again we want to maximize the amount of stuff we can have in and don't want to be limited to a certain number of calls. If we can handle it we'll run it."
Maintaining a standardThroughout the spring coach Marrone has been clear about what the expectations are with the players. It's to consistently make progress and deliver results every day on the practice field. Quarterback Kevin Kolb believes it has to be a message that's supported by the veteran players.
"We all know that consistency in this league wins so we've got to make sure we're really consistent," Kolb said. "Our intensity and tempo is there, the system is there and the players. So we have to make sure we're consistent with our mental preparation. That's something we'll continue to address with the team and keep getting better at."
"What I told the players was we need to do a better job when we come back from a long weekend," said Marrone. "I wouldn't use the word disappointed because I'm not disappointed, but we have to do a better job of being able to come back and attack it. Meaning go after it, meaning with the competition physically being in shape and being ready to go mentally."
Quarterback updateThe first quarterback through the rotation in team reps shifted back and forth between Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson for the entire practice Wednesday. Kolb opened the first series of nine versus nine followed by Jackson. The second series it was flipped and then Kolb led things off with 11-on-11 work. In the final 11-on-11 segment Jackson was the first signal caller through followed by Kolb before Jackson got in the final few reps of the practice.
For Kolb the competition isn't something he focuses on all that much, especially with all the installation going on as well as a defense that's showing an awful lot of unorthodox pre-snap looks.
"Me personally I'm not even concerned with it. I haven't even thought about it really and that's the honest truth because I have so much to address personally as a player coming into a new system," said Kolb. "I approach the competition like I'm competing against the playbook, I'm competing against that defense, I'm not competing against the other guys in the red jersey."
Cross trainingThere will be a host of players on defense that will be worked at more than one position before preparations for the 2013 season are done. Versatility is the strength of Mike Pettine's defense. On offense there isn't quite as much cross training at more than one position.
The receivers do line up in all of the different spots within the scope of their offense, but the ones that cross train the most on that side of the ball are the guards and centers on the offensive line.
Thomas Welch was the latest example in practice Wednesday. After working the entire spring at offensive tackle primarily on the left side, Welch was plugged in at left guard with the first unit. For the past two weeks it had been largely Colin Brown at the starting left guard spot.
"What cross training does is it allows you to play the best players available and when you have injuries obviously you can plug people in rather than plug in the backup," said Marrone. "And the backup might not be better than a player at another position that you can move around."
The move looks as though it has some significance due in part to the fact that the Bills are short at offensive tackle due to injury. Chris Hairston has been sidelined for a week with an undisclosed injury and Erik Pears is still limited in the team portions of practice coming back from a long rehab.
Despite having just three healthy offensive tackles for practice, the offensive staff still made a point of seeing how Welch fared with the first unit at left guard. It appears they're looking to see what other competition might exist on the roster for that starting job.
Welch however, did leave practice early and headed to the training room.
Starter reps for SilvaCertain players have been moved up with the starting unit the past couple of weeks as the coaching staff looks to evaluate how young players will fare when thrust into a first-string lineup. Such was the case Wednesday for safety Mana Silva.
Silva ran at one of the safety spots alongside Aaron Williams with the starting defensive unit during team work. He had been working with the second unit through most of the OTA practices, but on Wednesday he stepped in for Da'Norris Searcy.
"It's a fresh opportunity with the new coaches," Silva told Buffalobills.com. "I just go out there and seize the opportunity and try to make plays. Coach Pettine has an aggressive defense and I like my playing style with that kind of defense."
Silva was trying to get on the same page with Williams through the course of team work in practice as he had a new partner in the defensive backfield.
"When you go out there in groups, the guys in the higher groups have a better understanding of the defense so you can feed off each other communication-wise and just help each other out when you're out there," said Silva.
Another player that was sprinkled in for some starter reps was Jamie Blatnick a first-year player from Oklahoma State. Blatnick (6'3" 253) has been used as an edge pass rusher and he rotated in for Jerry Hughes with the first unit Wednesday.
Blatnick has turned in some good play the past week or so often reading the play or locating the ball carrier quickly, and the coaches are noticing.
TE Smith out until campLee Smith, the team's most experienced blocking tight end, has been sidelined since late last week with an undisclosed lower right leg injury. He was seen on the sidelines Wednesday with his right leg in an immobilizer boot. Head coach Doug Marrone said Smith is unlikely to return to the field before late July.
"We had an injury in the weight room and he'll be available for training camp," said Marrone.
With Smith down and Scott Chandler not yet cleared to do team work in practice, Chris Gragg and Mike Caussin have been the beneficiaries. Caussin had one of his better days in the passing game Wednesday making a handful of catches, a couple with a good degree of difficulty.
ScheduleThe Bills have another OTA practice Thursday beginning at 10:30 am.