PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- As is usually the case early in any training camp, the Buffalo Bills defense is ahead of the offense at St. John Fisher College.
The problem, though, is just more than one week into practice, the defense seems to be light years ahead of the offense as second-year quarterback EJ Manuel and his band of fellow inexperienced backup quarterbacks are really struggling to get things going.
Manuel has refused to acknowledge the obvious struggles, falling back on the same refrain, that the offense is making progress and doing good things, even though the results don't look good.
"I think so. There's a lot of progress, even when we've had 'not-so-good' days," he said. "I think we've still had areas where we got better. We can do some things passing the ball. Like I've said before, each day we just want to continue to grow as an offense. Our run game is always going to be a pick-up for us, but we want to be able to throw the ball downfield as well."
Coach Doug Marrone wasn't quite as upbeat and he was clearly irritated early in the week when the defense had a dominating night, particularly during a 17-play third-and-long drill when they had eight would-be sacks. Marrone said the offense has to be much better.
Naturally, much of the focus is on Manuel, the 2013 first-round pick who has been inaccurate, and seemingly indecisive in his reads, even in 7-on-7 drills when there's no pass rush.
"It's just the process of growing," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "He's 10 games old. He's just going on his first year in the NFL versus a very good defense we're facing in practice. I think it's great. We can't ask for any better competition for him. He's just got to keep working to get better and better."
The struggles have not been all the fault of the quarterbacks. The offensive line is a jumbled mess at this point. Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been unable to practice because of an undisclosed medical condition, so the Bills have been trying various players in his spot, including rookie seventh-round draft pick Seantrel Henderson.
Henderson is considered the potential steal of the draft, a player with gobs of talent if he can stay out of off-field trouble, but thus far, he has looked lost. Also, second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio, pegged as a player who would come in immediately and start at right tackle, can't leapfrog past incumbent starter Erik Pears, who is considered the weak link up front.
With a Buffalo defense that includes Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson rushing the passer, the line has been overwhelmed.
"We understand that if we can block our front four, then we'll be able to block about anybody," center Eric Wood said. "For my money, I think they're the best in the league. But that's no excuse. We have to be able to do our jobs and we have to do a better job. I think in regular down and distance, we're doing a good job of understanding situations, but when we do all third downs and they're all third and long, we're not executing as well right now."
Marrone, an old offensive lineman, spends more time with the line than any other position, so it really bothers him when they struggle.
"I always have a high level of frustration, I do, it's the way I'm built," he said. "I want it to be perfect and a lot of times I feel like I can do a better job and why what I'm saying isn't getting across and how I can say it better. When it comes down to the line, I take a lot of pride in how I communicate with them. When they don't get it or don't seem to understand it, I get upset."
There have been signs of improvement, particularly Wednesday when the Bills were sharp in red-zone work, and as they get ready to open the preseason on Sunday against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame game, it will be interesting to see how the offense performs.
"I think that going into any preseason game you want to be able to see the guys that can compete when it's real live football, see the guys that really want to get after it, understand the system and that you can depend on," Hackett said.
"I think the biggest thing throughout the whole preseason from an evaluation standpoint with all of the guys is do they know their job, how do they communicate with the other guys, and how do they make plays afterwards? That's what you look for across all of the preseason and it's a great opportunity for us to see all of the players and what they can do.
By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: July 30, 2014 07:02:00 PM
Marrone not pleased with early play of Bills offense
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