While a lot of the recent attention at Bills training camp has centered around Mario Williams' ailing left foot, the quarterback competition has "quietly" evolved. Wednesday was another day when it appeared that EJ Manuel made a few more plays than Kevin Kolb.
Kolb up until this point has seen more of the exotic looks from Mike Pettine's multiple defense than Manuel, who was being eased into all that the defensive scheme can throw at a quarterback. That changed on Wednesday as Manuel saw more of what Kolb has been dealing with, but it didn't negatively affect Manuel's play in the team periods.
"I think you're seeing what we talked about before," said head coach Doug Marrone. "We're starting to throw more stuff at him. We're seeing some good things and then there are things he has to improve on, but he's coming along nicely."
Manuel at times tucked the ball and ran for yardage when the pressure arrived before he found an open receiving target. Other times he got the ball out in rhythm despite some pressure looks from the defense. In the eyes of the coaching staff however, Manuel is not a polished product.
"He's done a nice job. Quick and decisive at times, there's still some inconsistency there," said Marrone. "He's still a developing quarterback. Today he was able to make a check and made a nice throw. He made a good decision and got the ball (dumped) down. You're seeing good signs about how he's progressing and then we as coaches are striving for a perfect play."
One of Manuel's better throws went to fellow rookie Chris Gragg down the left side of the field for a 25-yard pass play in 11-on-11. He also beat a pressure look from the defense when he hit Marquise Goodwin in stride on a quick slant with the speedy receiver effectively splitting two defenders on the play.
Manuel has worked hard to not only make sure he knows how everything is supposed to unfold, but that his offensive teammates are thinking the same thing.
"Sometimes I ask them what they saw on a play or they'll ask me what I saw," Manuel said. "I think that's pretty much the biggest thing. Just making sure we're both on the same page. Whether it was a good or a bad play we just try to go back and review and make sure we've all got it."
Kolb did convert on a couple of downfield throws on Wednesday, a change from the past couple of days when most of his completions were underneath or in the intermediate areas. His best throw was the deep pass that he dropped over the shoulder of Kevin Elliott for a 40-yard pass play during 11-on-11.
"We're very happy with Kevin," said Marrone. "He's done a nice job. It's the execution. He knows where he wants to go, does a good job. We've just got to make better decisions. Everyone has to improve from the standpoint of him, protection and receivers getting open. He's had a very good background in this style of offense as far as the tempo."
McKelvin moves upLeodis McKelvin spent the first three days of training camp with the second unit on defense lining up at left cornerback. That changed on Wednesday.
The six-year vet lined up with the starting unit in the morning practice and fared well on the day turning in a pair of pass breakups.
"He made a heck of a play today on a comeback and really came out there," said Marrone. "We really see some fine skill and when you're out for that long it takes some time. He's really coming along nicely. We're excited about that."
"It's just like riding a bicycle," McKelvin told Buffalobills.com. "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. As long as I keep doing that and progress every day and take my chances going for the ball to get interceptions I'll be very competitive."
Pass rushing carouselWith Mario Williams not participating in practice the defensive staff has rotated a host of pass rushers through with the first unit. On Wednesday the rotation was as varied as it has been since practices began.
While Jerry Hughes has been a regular on one edge, there have been a host of others opposite him. Wednesday's practice began with Marcus Dowtin, who was replaced a short time later by Jamie Blatnick during team work.
They were then followed by Manny Lawson, who appeared to see fewer snaps with the first unit on Wednesday than he had the previous two days.
It's clear the staff likes what Hughes brings to the edge of their defense, but beyond him they're looking for a viable option if not to start to rotate in for certain packages come the regular season. Blatnick is hoping he can convince the defensive coaches that he's their best option.
"I'm getting a ton of snaps," said Blatnick. "I think the coaches are just getting a lot of guys rolled in there and getting looks for us all and seeing how we all fit. I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunity."
Lineup notesOther lineup changes Wednesday included rookie fourth-round pick Duke Williams seeing some time with the first unit in one of coach Pettine's subpackage looks. He had been working primarily with the second unit at safety.
Torell Troup got some first team reps in practice Wednesday after running primarily with the second team the first few days. Finally healthy after a two-year battle with back problems Marrone sees marked improvement in Troup's play on the defensive interior.
"I see him better now than he was in OTAs and minicamp and doing a better job now and when the physicality comes up that's when more things go inside in terms of what they do up front with the line," said Marrone. "I think he's coming along well. There will be a point where there's a window where the players says he feels good and then we as coaches will look for where the jump (in play) comes, and then we'll look at that jump."
The three punt return candidates that lined up during practice Wednesday were anything but surprising. McKelvin was first through the rotation followed by T.J. Graham and rookie Robert Woods.
Punting competitionThe punting competition saw a couple of kick for kick segments in practice. On the first set of punts in practice Shawn Powell and Brian Stahovich were kicking from their own 29-yard line. Much like the other day hang time did not appear to be as big a priority as it looked like special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was trying to have the punters flip the field.
So in terms of distance Stahovich had the better gross average with an average of 50.4 on his five punts with two longs of 59. His best hang time was an unofficial 4.76 seconds.
Powell had a gross average of 46.4 with a best unofficial hang time of 4.43.
On the second set of kicks it the line of scrimmage ranged anywhere from their own 49-yard line to the opponent's 43. Both Powell and Stahovich showed an ability to kick the Aussie punt, which has become popular to get the ball to die inside the 10 reducing the chances of a ball bouncing into the end zone for a touchback. The ball is held nose down to kick.
Both punters had three of their four punts downed at the 10-yard line or better. One of those was fair caught. So the production was almost dead even. Powell had the best hang time punt during this series with an unofficial 4.5 on his first attempt. Stahovich's best hang time was also on his first kick. An unofficial 4.41.
This is a competition that figures to last a while.
Injury updateJustin Rogers is dealing with a right hamstring problem according to coach Marrone.
"He'll be out for a short period of time," he said. "We'll have (T.J.) Heath and (Crezdon) Butler filling in for him."
Running backs Zac Brown and Tashard Choice are both dealing with ankle injuries.
WR Kevin Elliott made the catch of the day Wednesday, but paid for it. He landed on his right shoulder with Stephon Gilmore's full body weight landing on top of him as well.
Elliott was eventually carted off the field.
ScheduleThe Bills have a day off Thursday before returning to the practice field on Friday.