The first day in pads naturally brought about a good deal more contact in practice Tuesday at Bills training camp. That's exactly what head coach Doug Marrone wanted as he knows football in pads is what separates players.
"I was very happy with what we got accomplished here today. It was good competition," Marrone said. "You saw the level pick up a little bit which is what you would expect. Give credit to the players for doing that. There are just a couple of things that we've just got to clean up in the thud period with exactly what we want. We want to make sure that we're thudding and keeping people off the ground.
"I thought for the most part that we did keep people off the ground. I thought there was some good physical contact. I think you see the drills start to change a little bit."
The biggest hit was actually turned in by undrafted rookie safety Jordan Dangerfield, who caught fellow rookie Drew Smith at the tail end of a run play. Dangerfield lowered his shoulder into Smith catching him broad side knocking him out of bounds.
There were some nice holes opened up by the offensive line on a handful of plays. C.J. Spiller, Zac Brown and Tashard Choice were the main beneficiaries as they got through sizable holes and into the secondary during team periods.
Marrone feels his linemen still have plenty of work ahead of them, but sees them coming along.
"It's one of those things when you talk about fundamentals and techniques and things like that you have to work on it quite a bit," he said. "So you're not going to see a quick change automatically and that's one of the things that I tell the players. If we keep working on it we'll start to see that carry over onto the field. I feel good about that."
First scrumThe extra contact led to tempers boiling over in one instance at practice Tuesday. Robert Woods and cornerback Crezdon Butler wrestled each other to the ground at the tail end of a pass play that did not involve either of them.
Butler ripped off Woods helmet after they went to the ground, but other players soon arrived to break them up.
"Just doing my job, just blocking," Woods told Buffalobills.com in describing his altercation with Butler. "I like to compete and do whatever it takes and I'm out there blocking and trying to be physical with the defender. The offense is usually the ones that take the blows, so I'm out there doing my job blocking and he retaliated."
Kicking competitionThe competition for the place kicker job between Rian Lindell and Dustin Hopkins began in earnest at Tuesday's practice. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman had his kickers go through two sets of attempts during special teams periods.
The first time through Lindell went 4-6 on his attempts missing wide right on a 50 and 53-yarder. Hopkins was 4-7 missing from 40, 44 and 50. The kicks were attempted from a range of 34 to 53 yards.
"I was feeling good in warm-ups and then that first set I didn't close my hips enough on a couple balls so I had three that I wish I could have taken back," Hopkins told Buffalobills.com. "I didn't play the wind enough, things like that. Just simple mistakes. Easily fixable, but disappointing nonetheless."
On the second set of field goals both kickers were perfect with each going 5-5 on their attempts which ranged from 29 to 46 yards away.
"I think it's a good competition," said Marrone. "You look at the first period today we had misses from each, you look at the second period they were both 100 percent. It's much tougher to kick on the grass than it is on the turf. So I talked to coach Crossman to make sure we got work from both sides and then as we go getting more live situations for them."
Crossman has made a point of flipping back and forth between kicks from the right hash and the left hash.
Quarterback updateFor the second straight day rookie EJ Manuel appeared to make more plays in the passing game than Kevin Kolb. Marrone has admitted that Manuel is not seeing the complex defensive looks from Buffalo's defense to the degree that Kolb has through the first three days of camp.
Kolb has appeared to be under more pressure than Manuel and as a result has had to throw more passes away to avoid sacks.
Two of Manuel's better passes went to undrafted rookie Da'Rick Rogers, who worked the right sideline pretty effectively with two receptions that each covered more than 20 yards.
Manuel also had a well-timed pass over the middle to Marquise Goodwin that went for a 20-yard pickup as well. He explains how he's worked to develop better timing with his wideouts.
"When we're doing routes on air (no defenders), you just want to take that time to really try to have game speed to see how those guys will run a go or a comeback or run a dagger, things like that," he said. "Try to take that time, those drills where you're not going against the defense and try to make them as game-like as possible."
For the two pass plays to Rogers and other highlights watch our daily Bills Roundup report on Tuesday's practice.
Nothing new with MarioMario Williams was not in attendance for another day of practice. Marrone explained that the evaluations of Williams' sore foot were ongoing.
"I am aware of what's going on. It's still in the process," said Marrone. "He's still being evaluated. I have no (new) information from yesterday. I have not had any notice from the doctors or above me on the situation. The minute we do we'll let it out."
Lineup notesT.J. Heath was a practice squad player for the Bills last year at cornerback, but on Tuesday he was getting first team reps at right cornerback. Heath was stepping in for Justin Rogers, who had been manning that spot in the early stages of training camp presumably while Leodis McKelvin gets back up to speed after his long layoff.
No word on any injury for Rogers, but he did not participate in any team work. DE/OLB Jamie Blatnick, who was on the side working with the strength and conditioning staff, did not do any team work either.
Colin Brown continued to get the bulk of the work at the starting left guard spot with the first unit. However, Doug Legursky was rotated in for two reps during on series of 11-on-11 before Brown was sent back in.
Legursky saw most of his work at second team left guard, but also slid in to center late in practice as he swapped spots with David Snow for a series.
Recent signees Antoine Caldwell and Tony Hills finally got a taste of team work as they lined up next to one another at right guard and right tackle with the second unit for a series. Before the series was over the second team regulars Keith Williams and Sam Young subbed in for them.
Head coach Doug Marrone laid out what Caldwell and Hills must do to get more snaps in practice.
"It relies on them picking up an offense that they're learning for the first time. I don't think it's any more difficult than that," Marrone said. "We brought two players in, we're working to catch up with time to teach them the offense. The faster that they feel comfortable, because you have to put someone in there that at least has a good feel of what they're doing so you don't get anyone else injured."
Alan Branch was rotated in with the first team defense at defensive tackle for a series, but spent most of his day with the second unit. Jay Ross continues to get first team reps alongside Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington and Manny Lawson up front.
Ross saw time with the first team in the spring, so there's clearly something the staff likes in him.
Leodis looking healthyHe missed team work all spring coming off groin surgery, but through three days of practice Leodis McKelvin has looked his old self. Agile, nimble, sudden and quick, McKelvin has made some plays on the ball and doesn't appear to have any movement problems.
McKelvin attributes his success to the hard work he put in during the offseason with his rehab, but there are some parts .
"When I was back at home I was doing a lot of footwork," McKelvin told Buffalobills.com. "As far as getting in my press and guarding receivers I hadn't done that until Sunday. I felt pretty good and so it's just progress every day to get better and better."
McKelvin had a good pass breakup during 11-on-11 in practice Tuesday knocking a pass away from intended receiver Brad Smith along the near sideline. The sixth-year cornerback believes he'll get his whole game back quickly.
"It's just like riding a bicycle," he said. "You're not going to forget how to ride a bicycle since you were a little kid. So it's just all about going out there and working on your craft and getting better and better every day you go out there."
ScheduleThe Bills are back on the practice field Wednesday at 8 am.