Sunday's afternoon practice was the second straight without veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb as EJ Manuel saw all the reps with the first team offense. Kolb was not in attendance at practice as he rests his knee in the hopes that he'll be able to participate in the team's live intra-squad scrimmage Monday night.
"Kevin (Kolb) we're trying to get him back for (Monday night) we just kept him out (Sunday) and off the field because if he's standing on the field it's not something that's going to help him at this point in time," said head coach Doug Marrone. "We're trying to get him back for tomorrow and we think we have an opportunity to do that."
Beyond that the coaching staff won't be revealing much as to who will be lining up where and how much playing time some players might see over others on the roster.
"As far as the participation on who is going to play and who is not we're going to think about it tonight," Marrone said. "We're not going to say anything as a staff. We're going to wait to see where the players are tonight and wait to see where they are tomorrow morning in terms of whether they're going to participate in the scrimmage and who do we want in the scrimmage."
Marrone and his staff know the risks of injury in full contact football, but as a first-year staff he and coaches believe it's more important to get their evaluations on players right. That can be best achieved by seeing their players in a real football setting as much as possible.
"For me I'd rather go out there and play and know what I have and then if God forbid something happens we're going to get someone else ready to go," he said. "That's what I was trying to explain early on in training camp. It's part of the process. People are going to get little nicks and bruises and little bumps and they're going to be out and the next player has to go in. I'd rather know what I have now than wait until we get into the preseason and say, 'Ooh I don't know if we were right on this evaluation.'"
Naturally the players are looking forward to it, knowing it'll be the real thing for coaches to make their assessments.
"We hit every day, we just don't tackle," said C.J. Spiller. "There's going to be tackling. It's football. I guess it will be a big evaluation day for personnel people and seeing where guys are. This is the last time we'll hit until we really hit next weekend."
Red zone productivity
With the offense down to EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel to run things the two rookie signal callers had a lot of opportunities to cash in with scoring plays during red zone segments in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Though the defense won their share of plays, Manuel and Tuel turned in a handful of their own.
Manuel dropped a pass over Fred Jackson's shoulder for a touchdown in 7-on-7 red zone work as he slipped behind his defender.
Tuel tossed a pair of touchdowns in the first couple of 7-on-7 series with one going to DeMarco Sampson and the other to Da'Rick Rogers on a short throw underneath.
The 11-on-11 red zone period has a lot of run plays scripted, but Tuel threw a touchdown pass in the back left corner of the end zone to Brad Smith.
Manuel found Dorin Dickerson on a roll out in the front of the end zone on the right side.
There were some quality defensive plays as well in the red zone periods. Ron Brooks had a pass breakup on the first play from scrimmage on a pass intended for Smith.
Undrafted rookie CB Jumal Rolle made a diving pass breakup to knock away a Tuel throw intended for Sampson.
Torell Troup batted a Tuel pass up in the air and fellow defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert caught it for an interception.
Kiko Alonso picked off Manuel on a pass over the middle as well.
Manuel was also the victim of a couple of other strong defensive plays. Da'Norris Searcy was in the right place at the right time after a Manuel pass caromed off Robert Woods shoulder pads Searcy snared it right out of the air for a pick.
Stephon Gilmore had the most acrobatic defensive play of the day when he out jumped Marcus Easley for the ball deep down the right sideline to pick off another Manuel pass. Though Gilmore was ruled out of bounds it was an eye-popping type play.
Marrone was not troubled by the turnovers by Manuel on Sunday.
"We did a lot of third down so early on and I said we were going to progress him against all the looks," said Marrone. "Obviously now with Kevin (Kolb) not being at practice we're throwing him in there. It's always difficult. The way I watch it is, was it a poorly thrown ball? A tipped ball? A ball that a receiver should win on and I think you go through that process.
"He threw two picks. One was on him and one was probably on something else that happened, linemen or something to that sense. The one good thing about is it was a third down day and he got a lot of work against some tough looks."
Kicking competitionAs we've reported the kicking competition has been largely a dead heat, with both kickers missing on almost the same number of attempts. Rian Lindell and rookie Dustin Hopkins also had the added element of a gusty wind Sunday afternoon.
The stiff breezes were changing direction constantly through the course of practice. On the first set of field goals Lindell went 5-for-7 on attempts ranging from 28 to 51 yards out. His misses came from 46 and 51 yards.
Hopkins went 4-for-7 missing three of his last five attempts from 41, 48 and 49 yards.
On the second set of field goals Lindell was decidedly more accurate. The veteran was 5-for-6 missing only on a 43-yarder. Hopkins meanwhile was just 1-for-4 missing from 32, 40 and 42 yards.
"I think as a coach and you're looking for that day when it's really windy, especially knowing the venue that we play in," said Marrone. "When we get back to Buffalo it's a windy stadium and I thought you saw a little bit of overcompensation for the wind. The kickers are trying to work that placement with the wind and I think it's a great learning experience."
Hopkins, in addition to battling the wind, appears to be having trouble staying consistent with his mechanics on his approach. At times he takes a hop step on his approach to the ball. Other times he's adjusted his follow through. On Sunday he began to kick the ball on a higher trajectory, lofting it higher than he has through the spring and the early stages of camp.
Lindell hasn't missed as much and his mechanics look more consistent at this point as well.
Run game impressionsC.J. Spiller has been the most impressive back in camp to this point, but that was largely expected coming of his 1,200-yard plus rushing season in 2012. Fred Jackson is also believed to be a fixture in the offensive backfield.
Beyond them jobs are up for grabs and the last two days, first-year player Zac Brown has run hard and decisively.
Brown (5'10" 220) has hit holes hard and ran strong in Saturday's goal line drill, with an impressive stiff arm which neutralized LB Nigel Bradham allowing him to reach the end zone for a score.
On Sunday he was the first running back through the rotation after Spiller and Jackson got their team reps.
"Everything's been going good, just trying to get comfortable day by day, just trying to get better every day," said Brown, who spent late last season on Buffalo's practice squad. "The reps have definitely helped me out. I'm just trying to focus on the small things."
Injury updatesHead coach Doug Marrone provided an update on a number of Buffalo's nicked up players. The newest addition was rookie safety Duke Williams, who left Saturday's practice early and did not participate Sunday.
"He showed some concussion-like symptoms yesterday," said Marrone. "We thought he was fine initially coming off the field and then he showed some symptoms. Once we see those symptoms they go through a process with our trainers and doctors until they're able to be released.
"Justin Rogers and Kevin Elliott we feel are doing well and are on track. And Stevie is out as I said yesterday for some time."
Mario Williams participated in team reps for the first time since his sore left foot cropped up at the start of camp practices.
Scott Chandler got a scheduled rest day with plans to have him play in Monday night's live scrimmage.
Mike Caussin is still having his injured hip re-evaluated.
ScheduleThe Bills have an evening practice at 6 pm Monday.