July 23, 2014

NFL Story
By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: June 12, 2014 05:17:51 PM


Bills struggle through Manuel labor pains

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills spent much of their OTA sessions getting their offensive playbook installed and it was all a bit much for quarterback EJ Manuel.
He tried to absorb the material at the same time that he was familiarizing himself with new players, primarily rookie first-round draft pick Sammy Watkins. During this week, the offense looked sloppy, but coach Doug Marrone put a positive spin on it.
"I'm excited," he said. "I think what happened is that a lot of times even players, a lot of times you're looking for the end product and for end results. For us, we're looking for those steps for where he's going or what he's taking.
"Really, when you look at the volume that we have in, which is really full scale everything right now, he's made a great amount of improvement of things that he didn't do as well last year."
Marrone pointed to Manuel's footwork, which is still a work in progress in his second year.
"I'm really happy about where it is," Marrone said. "I'm happy about the ability that we have in our matchup potential now with what we're doing and the ability where we can put different players. There are things now that we can do that we couldn't do last year. From that standpoint, I'm happy."
Marrone cancelled the Bills' scheduled OTA workout on Wednesday and arranged for the squad to be bused to a Buffalo suburb for a team building activity that turned out to be a game of Airsoft. The team returned to practice Thursday for its final OTA, and will reconvene Tuesday for the start of a three-day mandatory minicamp. Marrone shared his thoughts on the impromptu excursion.
"Sometimes I think team-building is running 10 110's (110 yards 10 times) and looking to the guy next to you and the guy next to you is pushing you to get it done," he said. "I think that's team-building. I think just being competitive and a different atmosphere."
One area that will be interesting to watch when training camp begins is the safety position. After losing star Jairus Byrd in free agency to the New Orleans Saints, the Bills have a gaping hole at free safety, and no one has really stood out yet in the OTA sessions.
Byrd was one of Buffalo's best playmakers, with 22 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his four years with the team.
"Certainly, there's a big void to be filled with Byrd gone," second-year player Duke Williams said.
He is bidding to fill that void along with Da'Norris Searcy, who played in all 16 games last season, splitting his time at free and strong safety.
--The offensive line did a little experimenting this week on the left side.
Free agent acquisition Chris Williams, who will likely be listed as the starting left guard when training camp begins, was absent one day and in some 11-on-11 drills, left tackle Cordy Glenn slid inside to play left guard and Chris Hairston lined up at left tackle.
Glenn and Hairston then switched positions and Hairston went inside, a spot that he has never played. Hairston also saw a little time at right guard, sharing reps with starter Kraig Urbik.
"It was just something to start cross training depending on injury and who we have available," Hairston said. "The more you can do in this league, that's what it's about."
Hairston missed all of last season because of an injury. Antoine McClain, who has played primarily at tackle, took a few reps at guard as well.
NOTES: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was held back throughout the OTA sessions to give his ailing hip time to rest, but he said he hopes to be more active when the minicamp starts next week. "Maybe minicamp I'll be in for more," Gilmore said. "I can go out there and practice, but I'm being smart about it. I'm competitive, but when I get out there I want to go 100 percent every snap, so that's why I'm being smart about it." Gilmore actually saw more advanced action in Thursday's final OTA workout, as did LB Kiko Alonso. Both participated in 11-on-11 drills


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