By Mark Gaughan
PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills worked a lot on the running game, and Kevin Kolb got the majority of the snaps at quarterback during the team's first training camp practice in pads today.
There was no tackling to the ground, but defensive players hit the ball-carriers with a "thud" of the shoulder pads.
At one point the blocking got overheated. Cornerback Crezdon Butler took exception to the way he was being blocked by rookie receiver Robert Woods and the two went tumbling to the ground in a fight. Butler got in a few blows. Woods lost his helmet.
"We were able to really put our hands on guys when we blocked," Woods said. "Just doing my assignment. I'm just doing my job, that's it."
By unofficial count, Kolb took 38 snaps, EJ Manuel 22 and Jeff Tuel eight during the 11-on-11 session. (We may have missed a play or two while writing to keep up with the Bills' no-huddle offense.)
Manuel arguably threw the ball better than Kolb, although the veteran probably saw more blitzes than the rookie. Kolb underthrew an open Stevie Johnson on a deep ball, got a pass intercepted by Stephon Gilmore on a throw-away down the sideline and had near pickoffs by Gilmore and T.J. Heath. He also beat the blitz with a good quick throw to C.J. Spiller.
By unofficial count, Kolb was 7 of 16 during 11-on-11 work, while Manuel was 7 of 9. A note of caution on training camp completion figures, which we try not to emphasize. It's easy to have dump-off completions, and the defensive tactics and offensive casts differ with each QB. Nevertheless, Kolb's accuracy wasn't great, and Manuel was solid. Manuel got fired up and was exhorting Marquise Goodwin after the rookie made a good grab of a bullet from the QB on a slant route. Manuel hit Da'Rick Rogers for 18 yards on an intermediate crossing pattern. He hit Brad Smith on time on a short slant. The Woods-Butler fight came on a play in which Manuel ran the ball off right end for a good gainer.
Coach Doug Marrone on the first day of "real" practice in pads:
"It was good competition. We saw the level pick up a little bit, which is what you expect. I give credit to the players in doing that. And I think a couple things we need to clean up when we’re in our thud period, exactly what we want. That’s what I told them afterwards. We want to make sure we’re putting in that type of practice and keep people off the ground. I thought for the most part we did keep people off the ground. I thought that there was some good physical contact.
"The mornings are really a great asset to us. Probably the best way to teach the offense, defense and special teams because we get in, we wake up in the morning and get our work done. We have the rest of the day to make corrections, walk-through. Then when we sleep at night. Both players and coaches feel a lot more comfortable feeling prepared for the next day."
A hearty crowd of about 250 was there to watch the practice, which started at 8 a.m.
Place-kicking: Rian Lindell made 13 of 18 field-goal tries, while Dustin Hopkins made 14 of 17, by unofficial count.
First-team front-seven on defense, with Mario Williams (absent) and Kyle Williams (watching) out: Alex Carrington, Jay Ross and Marcell Dareus on the defensive line; Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes at outside linebacker; Kiko Alonso and Nigel Bradham at inside linebacker. Torell Troup got some snaps with the starters in place of Ross at times.
Second-team front seven on defense: Alan Branch, Jarron Gilbert and Corbin Bryant on the defensive line; Kourtnei Brown and Marcus Dowtin at outside linebacker; Arthur Moats and Bryan Scott at inside backer.
Justin Rogers sat out at cornerback, and T.J. Heath worked with the starters in his place. Leodis McKelvin stayed with the second team. Marrone said it's simply because McKelvin missed all of spring practices while coming back from offseason groin surgery and they're working him back into action slowly.
Colin Brown got all the snaps with the starters at left guard. Second-team O-Line: Sam Young, Doug Legursky, David Snow, Keith Williams and Thomas Welch. Third-team O-line much of the time: Zebrie Sanders, Zack Chibane, Ryan Turnley, Antoine Caldwell and Hutch Eckerson (or Tony Hills).