Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins enjoyed another dominant day of training camp. The rookie wide receiver looks like a rookie of the year candidate if he can play this well in the regular season. Quarterback E.J. Manuel and right end Mario Williams performed at a high level as well. As long as these three guys continue to play at a high level, the Bills' have a chance of going 8-8 in 2014.
Quarterbacks Starting quarterback E.J. Manuel continues to be phenomenal throughout the 2014 NFL off-season. He excelled at the NFL OTA's, and threw the ball to Sammy Watkins at the NFL rookie minicamps. He also made progress with other receivers at the manditory NFL minicamps He continued to shine at the Bills training camp which opened on July 19th. Manuel made the right throws even when his offensive tackles missed assignments in pass protection.
His backup Thaddeus Lewis did an excellent job throwing the football with the second team today. Lewis went 2-0 against Ryan Tannehill after receiving limited action as a backup when Manuel was injured.
Third string quarterback Jeff Tuel nearly started on opening day last season, but Manuel was cleared to play at the last minute. Tuel has regressed a bit since his rookie season, and the Bills brought in Dennis Dixon to challenge him for the third string job. Tuel has done well enough to hold off Dixon for now.
Running Backs Starting running back C.J. Spiller was phenomenal. He did well at the Bills mandatory minicamp and continues to improve. I think it is due to having such an outstanding run blocking offensive line. The only guy that could stop Spiller was middle linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Second team running back Fred Jackson who splits carries with Spiller didn't do as well. I don't know if that is due to playing with second string offensive lineman, but something has to concern you about his performance today.
Buffalo also has Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon as third string and fourth string rushers. Both players will receive minimal roles in this offense with Spiller and Jackson carrying the running game.
Wide Receivers Starting wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods look phenomenal. These guys displayed outstanding chemistry with E.J. Manuel. Watkins had his eye poked and his teammates were worried about him being injured. After resting for a few minutes, Watkins came back into the game to dominate.
T.J. Graham is the top receiver on the Bills second team. Graham looks like a better receiver this season, and he made Thaddeus Lewis look like a borderline starter with some quality catches in Bills training camp. Mike Williams struggled, if he continues to struggle, Marquise Goodwin may get his job.
Marquise Goodwin is the main reason Jeff Tuel remains the third stringer. Practicing with Goodwin is helping the third string quarterback grow.
Tight Ends Scott Chandler is the one player that has struggled with E.J. Manuel in the passing game during Bills' training camp. Buffalo took a lot of criticism for not drafting a tight end, but brought in Tony Moaeki to compete with Chandler for the starting job.
Tony Moeaki looked good on the Bills' second team offense. You saw Thaddeus Lewis connect with Moeaki. Moeaki could end up starting over Chandler if he does well enough in the pre-season. He didn't get a chance to live up to his potential in Kansas City because he was always injured earlier in his career.
Offensive Line Buffalo's starting offensive line features Cordy Glenn at left tackle, Chris Williams at left guard, Eric Wood at center, Kraig Urbik at right guard, and Cyrus Kouandjio at right tackle. This offensive line struggled in pass protection. There were plays where the offensive tackles missed the assignment and there were other plays where Chris Williams showed why he struggles as a pass protector. Center Eric Wood was the Bills best pass blocker. This offensive line was a phenomenal run blocking unit. C.J. Spiller had so much time running through these running lanes. The Bills defensive lineman and outside linebackers had trouble stopping Spiller thanks to the run blocking up front.
The Bills' second team offensive line was much better. Second string left tackle Chris Hairston and second string right tackle Erik Pears gave Lewis tons of time in the pocket. Same could be said for second string left guard Doug Legursky. Hard to believe that Fred Jackson struggled with this offensive line today.
The Bills' third team offensive tackles left tackle Edawn Coughman and right tackle Seantrel Henderson were great pass blockers today, but the Bills lack depth on defense.. Henderson did better as a run blocker.
Defensive Line Right end Mario Williams won some one on one battles against Cordy Glenn. He looks like the Pro Bowl right end he was with the Houston Texans before the Texans switched to the 4-3 defense. This could be Mario's best season. It will need to be with the rest of the defensive line having questions.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams looked great against Chris Williams in pass blocking, but struggled against him in run blocking just like Mario Williams. Williams other defensive tackle Marcel Dareus failed a team physical and showed up at camp overweight. That's not good, because Dareus was your top draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He looked overweight near the end of the season last year, and came into camp overweight. Alan Branch a defensive tackle with the size of a nose tackle is playing left end. Branch got by Kouandjio on some pass plays, but E.J. Manuel already knew who he wanted to throw to by the time Branch got a chance to pressure the quarterback.
Second string right end Jerry Hughes leads the second team for the Bills defense. Hughes started 1 game, but had 10 sacks as a backup right end for the Bills when coming in as a rotational defensive end. Today Hughes had problems against Chris Hairston and Erik Pears. Hughes has to step up tomorrow. One second string defensive lineman that did well was defensive tackle Corbin Bryant. The backup of Marcel Dareus looked like a season veteran and stopped Fred Jackson 6 times today. He even got some first team reps against Spiller even though he is more suited for the second team.
Linebackers With Kiko Alanso out, Nigel Bradham will start at right outside linebacker with Manny Lawson playing left outside linebacker. These outside linebackers have to step up in the coming days. These guys looked lost as run stoppers, but saved face with zone coverage by covering lanes to limit the routes the receivers could run. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes saved face. He always stopped Spiller every time he ran up the middle. He spied on Manuel constantly throughout the day forcing Manuel to remain in the pocket and make the throws in the pocket rather than throwing on the run which is one of Manuel's strengths. One more awesome thing Spikes did was to play zone coverage. The zone coverage by Spikes allowed him to break up some passes that were intended for Scott Chandler. The other outside linebackers were able to limit Chandler by playing impressive zone coverage as well.
Another phenomenal player today was 2014 third round pick Preston Brown. Brown registered 11 tackles against Fred Jackson today. If Brandon Spikes gets injured again, then Preston Brown will get some action.
Secondary Starting cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore looked suspect against these wide receivers. Watkins and Woods had there way with these first team cornerbacks. Free safety Da Norris Searcy and strong safety Aaron Williams were able to limit Scott Chandler from making things happen in the deep passing game. Williams struggled on one assignment where Watkins caught a touchdown in double coverage against McKelvin and Williams. Having a first team secondary like this allows you to make some adjustments. On another play Williams and McKelvin were able to double team Watkins so that his eye would get poked following a passing play.
Nickel cornerback Corey Williams was the only cornerback that did well on the second team. He started sluggish against T.J. Graham, but stopped him on two of his last three plays covering Graham. I think Williams will do better as he gets more action with this second team.
Cornerback Nickell Roby led the Bills' third team secondary. He struggled when facing Marquise Goodwin, but kept the 6-2 217 lb Marcus Easley in check. Right now Roby is listed as a quarter corner and the #5 corner on the depth chart. Roby will start on defensive plays where the Bills call a quarter package with five corners on the field. Otherwise he will lead the third team for the Bills' secondary during training camp.
How do you think the Bills will do as training camp progresses. Comment below in our comments page to give your two cents on the Bills this season.
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