BILLS CAMP: 5 newsy observations + Mario Williams update

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills’ afternoon practice ended just over an hour ago, and I’ve got to hit the road en route to East Rutherford.

Here, then, just five quick newsy observations from the first two days of Bills camp, with my photos:

BILLS1. QUARTERBACK: What everyone wants to know, right? EJ Manuel had a very good session on Monday afternoon. He made faster decisions to throw most of the time than Kevin Kolb, he again displayed the far stronger arm, and he seems perfectly comfortable in coach Doug Marrone‘s and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett‘s offence. Ah, but then Marrone informed the press an hour ago that the coaches have thrown more complicated defensive schemes and pass rushes at Kolb, compared to more vanilla schemes at Manuel. Adjust Super Bowl predictions accordingly. But, Marrone said, they will accelerate Manuel’s learning curve quickly. The other impressive thing about Manuel is his touch. Even on his perfectly spiraled deep passes he puts enough air under them as to make them easily catchable. Kolb, by contrast, rarely throws accurately deep, and his deep balls almost always wobble — perhaps a sign that just a normal deep ball might be beyond his range.

2. THE ‘OTHER’ CORNERBACK SPOT: It’s completely up for grabs, DC Mike Pettine told me.  Second-year Stephon Gilmore has one spot chiseled in granite. Justin Rogers got scorched repeatedly in 1-on-1 and team drills on Sunday night. Rookie wideout Robert Woods embarrassed second-year corner Ron Brooks on a precisely run post-corner on Monday. Woods’ second cut was so precise and sudden, he sold Brooks on the post and burned him badly. Leodis McKelvin will be in that mix too. Perhaps undrafted rookie Nickell Robey will get a longer look. He repeatedly made plays in the spring, and Pettine told me he’s continuing to do so at St. John Fisher College. He’s just so short — 5-foot-8. If he’d been taller, Pettine said he’d have been a high draft pick — his cover talent is that good. Aaron Williams is not an option because, as Pettine told me Monday, “he’s not moving back” from safety.

BILLS3. SPEAKING OF ROBERT WOODS, HE’S A BALLER: He’s simply outstanding. The rookie wideout is a lock to start, and whoever winds up being the quarterback will thank the heavens for his presence. I spoke briefly with Manuel after practice today, and he got animated when I mentioned Woods’ dazzling abilities. “Baller. Oh, he’s a baller, man,” Manuel said. “Woods is one of the most impressive receivers I’ve ever been around … I feel like we’re brothers now. Woody’s done a great job and I’m really happy for him.” Kolb, at his news conference, told me Woods is a “stud. A legitimate stud. I’ve bragged on him a lot in the last two days … I’ve been with some really good rookie receivers, and I’m really impressed — not just with his talent. The kid can run better than anyone gives him credit for, and his approach to the game, for a rookie and a high draft pick … he’s really got an open mind and wants to learn. He’s my bad type of guy, which is the kind you want out there playing for you.”

4. HURRYING UP: The Bills run off plays rapidly in 11-on-11 drills. Near the end of Monday’s practice I decided to time the intervals, and twice it appeared Manuel changed the play at the line and still got the snap off in 19 and 24 seconds. Kolb then got the last three plays off after intervals of 19, 19 and 13 seconds. That’s FAST.

BILLS5. QUICK KIKO: Rookie inside linebacker Kiko Alonso is a helluvan athlete. He’s 6-foot-3, 238 pounds and can run sideline to sideline amazingly quickly. Oh, and he can get around the edge on a blitz probably like few inside linebackers in the game. Pettine told me “we had a pretty good feel for him from college tape, but it would be an understatement to say he’s been a very pleasant surprise for us.” What can he do as a rookie? “It’s hard to tell at this point,” Pettine said. “He’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing, taking care of himself. Time will tell. But it’s certainly ‘arrow up.’”

 

 

 

 


 

MARIO WILLIAMS UPDATE, POST-PRACTICE MONDAY:

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Uh-oh. Whereas Mario Williams watched as his teammates knocked helmets for the first time Sunday night at Buffalo Bills training camp, he wasn’t even present on Monday.

BILLSThe $100-million elite pass-rusher hurt a foot before training-camp practices began Sunday.

Head coach Doug Marrone on Sunday night said Williams informed the Bills’ “athletic training staff that he had a sore foot. We decided to hold him out of practice, and let our medical staff evaluate him.”

On Monday, Williams did not attend either the team’s morning walk-through at St. John Fisher College, nor the afternoon practice.

Williams dressed as his teammates did on Sunday, in helmet and soft pads, and was on the field with his position group, the defensive linemen. It did not appear to be a serious injury. (My photo from Sunday, right)

But after Monday’s practice, Marrone said Williams was “off campus being evaluated and I have not heard anything or any report back.”

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