The much anticipated live scrimmage at Bills training camp Monday night did not disappoint. There were big plays all over the field made by both sides of the ball leaving a fan base headed home with plenty to talk about.
"I was excited. I think we got a lot of work in. I believe over a hundred plays," said head coach Doug Marrone. "I was happy with how we got after each other out there. I think what you saw early on, the one thing you do get concerned about when you don't go live tackling in the practices, even though we did go in the goal line and short yardage period a couple of days ago, I thought in the beginning we didn't tackle as well and then we picked up at the end.
"There were a lot of things out there that I was pleased with, but as I told the players afterwards we still have a lot of work ahead of us." **
Defense strikes first**
After a lengthy individual position drill period and some 7-on-7, the Bills jumped into the live tackling portion of practice. On the fourth play from scrimmage Leodis McKelvin stepped in front of an EJ Manuel pass intended for Robert Woods and went the other way for a touchdown.
"I think it was one of those things where you go back on film and you can kind of see what actually happened, but I thought he was going to cut inside," said Manuel. "He had the option to go either inside or outside and Robert cut outside and I threw the ball expecting him to come in. I've just got to learn from it and learn how to read my receiver a lot better."
On the next series first-year OLB Jamie Blatnick stepped into the gap and kept EJ Manuel from stepping up in the pocket and escaping on a tackle for no gain to force a punt.
Other defensive highlights included a hard hit in the hole by Torell Troup and Blatnick to stop Zac Brown dead in his tracks. Brown left the practice with a rib injury after the play.
Troup also batted a pass in the air that was intercepted by Arthur Moats on a throw by Manuel.
Chris White made a good play in the flat reading a screen quickly to make a tackle for no gain on Kendall Gaskins.
Ron Brooks had a pass breakup that could've been an interception on an EJ Manuel pass that had Dorin Dickerson targeted.
DT Jay Ross had a tackle for loss knifing into the backfield to take down Tashard Choice.
After EJ Manuel's two early interceptions how he responded was what coach Marrone wanted to see.
"The way I viewed it one was on him and the other was on something else that didn't have anything to do with him even though he gets credited for it," said Marrone. "I was really looking to see how he bounced back from that because early on you want to see that and I thought he bounced back well."
One of his bigger bounce back plays came on a 50-yard bomb to T.J. Graham, who was able to out leap Stephon Gilmore for the ball for a touchdown. Manuel also threw a long fade pass to the front left corner of the end zone to undrafted rookie fullback Drew Smith.
Manuel wasn't the only quarterback that experienced some success. Fellow rookie QB Jeff Tuel was airing it out early and often and connecting with his wideouts.
Tuel's first big play came on a 65-yard pass down the right sideline to Marques Goodwin for a touchdown.
"Just a double move and you've got a guy like Marquise and he does a double move you're going to throw it," said Tuel. "So I just let it go and he made a great play on the ball."
Tuel also had a 40-yard pass play to Marcus Easley down the left sideline and a 60-yard touchdown pass to Da'Rick Rogers to cap a drive in just four plays.
"I think what went right was the receivers were making some great plays for me," Tuel said. "It's my job to get it to them, but the O-line picked up some really tough blitzes and did some really good things. My receivers made plays. We're kind of getting a relationship a little bit with the receivers and learning from each other and learning each other where to put the ball with who and such. It's starting to come together."
Goal line reversalTwo days after Buffalo's offense dominated in a live goal line drill where they scored touchdowns on seven of eight plays, the defense had the answers Monday night.
"It was interesting because the offense got after them a little bit on the goal line the other day," said Marrone. "I was looking forward to how the defense would respond and they responded well. As a coach you go in there and say, 'Hey that's the way to respond.' Then on the offensive side of the ball you go in there and say, 'We have to have a mentality every single time we get out there that we're getting in.' Those are the things we can develop in this camp and that's what I continue to talk to the players about."
Tuel led the first offensive series of goal line. Torell Troup and Arthur Moats stuffed Kendall Gaskins on the first rushing attempt. Moats was again in on the tackle on the second goal line run. The offense was stoned on the next two rushing plays.
The first team offense then came on the field to try their hand at goal line work. Chris White and Nigel Bradham were the first to stop Tashard Choice on the first play.
Jerry Hughes held the edge and kept Choice out on a run outside.
It took the seventh play of goal line before Choice scored stretching his arms with the ball to break the plane of the goal line.
A third series of goal line was ordered up and again Choice scored on a sweep out to the left as he got to the front left corner of the end zone before the defense.
On the next four plays that went in between the tackles the defense put up a wall. Choice was stopped on the last four plays. Two of the last four saw Chris White attacking the line of scrimmage as he was in on the stops.
On the last play White almost singlehandedly made the tackle as he was quick to the line stuffed the back and shouted and pumped his arms knowing it was the final play of the series.
Nigel Bradham said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine made it clear he didn't want the defense embarrassed like they were two days prior.
"It was him and it was among ourselves as a defense," said Bradham. "We came out the other day and had a horrible day on goal line. In order for us to be a great defense we have to be a great red zone and goal line defense, and be able to get off the field on third down. That's the only thing we can do go be a great defense and that's our goal. The only thing about goal line is you've got to be physical and attack, play with toughness."
All told the defense had 10 stops on 12 goal line plays.
Two minute drillThe practice closed with a pair of two-minute drill drives between the offense and defense. EJ Manuel, who ran all the plays with the first team, first hit Brad Smith on the right side allowing the receiver to get out of bounds and stop the clock.
Following a short Fred Jackson run, Manuel threw a ball a bit outside of Robert Woods body frame. Woods laid out for it, but couldn't hold onto the ball. Woods began clapping his hands as he lined up for the next play as if to signal to Manuel to go to him again.
Manuel did hitting Woods along the right side for a first down on a fourth down play.
"He's not always going to be perfect and I'm not always going to be perfect either. You have to keep trying to make plays. The defense was showing a big blitz and we just picked it up," said Manuel. "The O-line did a great job communicating. I got a call down to those guys and picked it up and it gave me time to throw the ball down to Robert." After Jackson made a catch coming out of the backfield to set up a second and long at the defense's 27-yard line, Jackson went to work on the ensuing hand-off bobbing and weaving his way to the two-yard line on a 25-yard run. The veteran back had the wind knocked out of him as two defenders took him to the turf and had to exit for the next play.
Tashard Choice stepped in for Jackson to cap the drive with a two-yard touchdown run for a seven-play, 70-yard drive.
"I think it was very important, not just for myself, but for the team, the whole offense to go down there and have a good drive against a great defense to finish the scrimmage strong," Manuel said.
The second unit came out with Jeff Tuel and quickly they were facing a fourth down situation after two straight incompletions. But Tuel again went to Marques Goodwin, who made an improbable leaping and twisting catch as he out jumped Leodis McKelvin to make the play and keep the drive alive.
Four plays later facing another fourth down Tashard Choice converted on a quick run play. Tuel then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 16 seconds left.
From there Alex Carrington took over. Coming off the left side, Carrington got around right guard Keith Williams and tapped out Tuel for a sack on third down.
On fourth down the 305-pound Carrington put a brand new spin move on display and was in the backfield in a heartbeat for another sack to end the scrimmage.
"He's had an outstanding camp he really has," said Marrone of Carrington. "The one thing you have to work on during camp is pad level quite a bit. We talked to the coaches about that. I think Alex Carrington has had the best pad level throughout the camp on both sides of the ball and I think he's playing extremely well for us right now."
Kolb might have playedBills QB Kevin Kolb had to leave camp to attend a funeral for a death in his family Monday night removing him from consideration for the live scrimmage. Marrone thought he had a chance to play.
"He saw me this morning and told me about the personal issue and had a death in the family," Marrone said. "He looked like he was walking around much better than in past days. I asked him his thought process going into today's practice and he said, 'Hey coach I was going to go if the doctor let me.'"
The Bills are off Tuesday, but return to practice Wednesday at 8 am.