Tuesday was the first day the Buffalo Bills players were in pads. So some contact was to be expected. The fans that were actually there got to hear quite a few pops from the players hitting each other and it felt even more like real football. It's going to be interesting to see what happens to the attendance this year though. Morning sessions are usually never that busy and today was no exception. The bleachers were about half full. But the fans that were there got to enjoy a spirited practice.
Now, I'll be honest, due to my job I showed up a little late. I missed the passing drills and probably one 11-on-11 series. But I have learned that the first half hour is usually all the individual drills, so I don't think I missed much. Either way, if you are thinking about heading to one of the morning practices, you can easily arrive at 9am and still get to catch a lot of action. Once I arrived, the team was finishing up some 11-on-11 drills, so I used the time to get set up and take some photos. The team then took about 10 minutes or so to work on special teams. They worked on field goals and also kickoffs. Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins was booming all his kickoffs and sent quite a few of them thru the back of the end zone. The returners that I saw were Leodis McKelvin, TJ Graham and Marquise Goodwin. It's a little early to judge special teams, but I thought Hopkins easily beat Lindell in this round for kickoffs. As for the field goals, they were both pretty close. Both kickers tried field goals from 35-55 yards. Rian Lindell was 4-6, missing two of the longest ones (both from 50+ yards). On the other hand, Hopkins was 4-7, but his missed field goals were in the 40-45 yard range.
Following the special teams work, the team worked on 7-on-7 passing drills. Kevin Kolb started it off with a 5-yard pass to Lee Smith. However on the next play, Kolb overthrew TJ Graham. He then connected with Stevie Johnson for 6-yards. EJ Manuel came in next and hit Brad Smith, who dropped the ball. He then went right back to him and Smith caught an 8-yard pass. On the last play of the series, Manuel decided to tuck the ball and run and gained about 5-yards. Jeff Tuel came onto the field next and had no one open, so he ran with it, gaining a few yards. He then threw a short pass to Da'Rick Rogers who showed nice speed, gaining about 20-yards of RAC. Kevin Kolb then returned and hit CJ Spiller for 3-yards. He then found Chris Hogan for a short gain, after TJ Heath popped him. On the final play of the series, Kolb overthrew Hogan. EJ Manuel then came back in and worked with the starters. He first found Robert Woods for 7-yards. Then he followed it with 2 straight completions to Stevie Johnson, one for 8-yards and the second for about 12-yards. Jeff Tuel then came back onto the field for a final time and was almost intercepted by Jumal Rolle, but he couldn't quite get his hands on the ball. On the final play of the drill, Tuel connected with Brandon Kaufman for 18-yards.
The horn sounded and then the linemen joined the field for some 11-on-11 work. Kevin Kolb was immediately pressured by Nigel Bradham and ended up throwing it away. He then threw a 6-yard pass to Robert Woods. CJ Spiller got the ball next and ran around the left tackle for 5-yards. On the next play, Kevin Kolb threw a screen to Spiller, who showed his wheels as he took it down the field for a nice 23-yard gain. He most likely would have broken that run for a big touchdown if it was a real game. Kolb then threw a screen to Fred Jackson who gained 4-yards. The backups then joined the field and Tashard Choice ran up the middle for 3-yards. EJ Manuel then threw a screen to Marquise Goodwin for 7-yards. On the next play, Manuel found Lee Smith for 5-yards. Zach Brown then got his chance to carry the ball and ran up the middle for 2-yards. Manuel then dumped the ball off to Lee Smith again, this time for 3-yards. On the next play, Brown got another chance to carry the ball and showed nice burst as he broke through the middle for a 14-yard run. However on the next play, Brown was stuffed by Arthur Moats. Tashard Choice the next handoff and was hit hard at the line by Aaron Williams. Kevin Kolb then found Chris Hogan for 7-yards. On the next play, Jerry Hughes was whistled offsides so Kolb had a free play. But he threw a horrible pass right into Stephon Gilmore’s hands. On the final play of the drill, Kolb chose to run with it and gained 4-yards.
Following the 11-on-11 drill, the Quarterbacks left the field to do some work on Growney Stadium while the rest of the team focused on special teams. They practiced field goals and kickoffs again. This time, both Rian Lindell and Dustin Hopkins were a perfect 5-5 on all their field goals attempted. They ranged from 30-yards to 48-yards. Hopkins looked a little better this time around and was hitting the field goals right up the middle. As for the kickoffs, Lindell did a decent job with those. But you could see a big difference between his and Hopkins. Although, there was one play where Hopkins tried to pin the kick returner in the end zone, but the ball went out of bounds at the 1-yard line.
After the special teams drills was over with, the team went right back to work on 11-on-11 drills. Kevin Kolb again led off and found Frank Summers, but he couldn’t hang onto the ball. CJ Spiller then got the ball and exploded through the middle for 15-yards. On the next play, Kolb threw a pass to TJ Graham, but Stephon Gilmore was right there waiting for him. Tashard Choice then got his chance, but was stuffed at the line. Kolb then threw an ugly pass that was almost intercepted by Gilmore, but it was just out of his reach. On the next play, Choice ran around the left tackle for 4-yards. EJ Manuel then came in and rolled out, hitting Chris Gragg for a 9-yard gain. He then tried to connect with Marquise Goodwin, but he couldn't quite get the ball. Kendall Gaskins then came onto the field and was immediately stuffed at the line. He got another chance right after that and squeezed his way up the middle for 4-yards. Manuel then found Da'Rick Rogers for 16-yards. On the next play, Gaskins got the ball and this time he ran around the right tackle for 10-yards.
The starters came back onto the field and Kevin Kolb immediately felt pressure and most likely would have been sacked by Jerry Hughes. Fred Jackson then got his chance and ran up the middle for 3-yards. He followed that with a typical Freddie run where he churned his legs and pounded his way up the middle for 5-yards. On the final play of the series, Kolb threw a 7-yard pass to Chris Hogan. The third team came onto the field next and Zach Brown ran up the middle for 5-yards. Jeff Tuel then had a QB keeper for 11-yards. On the next play, Kendall Gaskins was stuffed right at the line. Tuel then finished the series off with a 9-yard pass to Drew Smith, who was hit hard and pushed out of bounds by Jordan Dangerfield. Kevin Kolb returned with the starters and tried to connect with TJ Graham, but he dropped it. CJ Spiller then ran up the middle for 3-yards. On the next play, Manny Lawson was chasing Kevin Kolb out of the pocket and would have had the sack. Kolb then found Stevie Johnson for a long pass, but Ron Brooks broke it up. Stevie most likely would have been flagged for pass interference as he never turned his head. On the next play, Fred Jackson was stuffed at the line. He tried again right after that, but this time Jerry Hughes was waiting for him behind the line. Kendall Gaskins then entered the field with the backups and was stuffed right away. However on his second try, Gaskins broke thru the middle for 12-yards. On the next play, Gaskins got his third straight carry and this time he was stuffed at the line by multiple guys. EJ Manuel then connect with Drew Smith for 13-yards. He followed that with a pass to Brad Smith who was hit hard by Leodis McKelvin. Tashard Choice then got a chance to carry the ball, but he was stuffed at the line. On the next play, Kolb threw the ball at Mike Caussin's feet. He then felt a ton of pressure and threw the ball away. On the final play of the day, Kolb connected with Chris Hogan for 17-yards. Hogan made a really nice catch that drew cheers from the crowd and it was the perfect way to end the day for Kolb.
1. The first thing on everyone's mind is, how did the Quarterbacks look? Well, to be honest, I'm not that impressed. Kevin Kolb reminds me of a poor man's Ryan Fitzpatrick. His deep ball is not that good and his accuracy wasn't that great today. He made a bunch of bad decisions. Although, to be fair, Pettine is throwing the house at Kolb. I've seen a lot of pressure and quite a bit of blitzing when Kolb is out there. It looks like they are taking it easy on EJ Manuel for now. Manuel had some good plays, but nothing that wowed me.
2. The real competition to watch is at kicker. I'm going to say it right now. Rian Lindell will not be in Buffalo for the regular season. The team drafted Dustin Hopkins for a reason and it's because of his leg. His kickoffs are impressive and if he can fix his accuracy on field goals, I see him easily winning the kicker job.
3. As for Wide Receivers, I was impressed by Da'Rick Rogers today. He made several plays and showed some good speed. But I have a name to watch. Keep an eye out for Chris Hogan. I mentioned him many times in my report. He's doing a nice job getting open and has become a popular target for the Quarterbacks when he is out there.
4. On the defensive side, I'm loving what I see from Stephon Gilmore. He's doing a great job covering his receiver and I have noticed him and Stevie fighting hard for the ball several times. I think he's going to breakout this year. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him as camp continues.
5. If you get a chance to go to one of the morning practices, I advise it. The atmosphere is much different from the night practice. It's less rowdy, but it's the way Training Camp used to be. Sitting in the sun with a nice cool breeze, while the players are practicing on the grass field. Plus it's easier to move around and get a good seat for the action. The other positive is that you don't have to wait in long lines inside the merchandise tent.
Overall, it was a great day for practice. The weather was perfect and any practice where the players are wearing pads is a lot closer to real football than when they aren't. It was nice hearing the pop of the pads as the players went through their different drills. I was a little disappointed with the crowd size though. I’m curious if all these morning practices will hurt their overall attendance this year. Something tells me that it will. After all, this was their first early morning practice since 2009.
Edited by Mike32282, 30 July 2013 - 04:26 PM.