By Mark Gaughan
PITTSFORD -- Third-year receiver Chris Hogan had a productive day catching the ball, and place-kicker Dustin Hopkins was perfect on field-goal attempts during Thursday's Buffalo Bills practice at St. John Fisher College.
Hogan, undrafted in 2011 out of Monmouth University, had five catches during the 11-on-11 portions of practice. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound receiver has excellent hands and is making an underdog bid for a roster spot amid tough competition at receiver.
Hogan was dubbed 7-Eleven - because he's always open - by Reggie Bush last summer during Miami's training camp, which was the subject of HBO's "Hard Knocks" series. During Thursday's practice, Hogan got good separation on a back-shoulder throw from Jeff Tuel. He caught two quick passes in the flat. Then he got open over the middle and caught a 20-yard pass from EJ Manuel to beat a big blitz. Safety Da'Norris Searcy came free, but Manuel got the throw off on time and was excited about the play, running downfield to congratulate Hogan. Manuel connected with Hogan again over the middle late in the practice.
Manuel looked good. His throws hit receivers in stride and in easy spots to make the catch. The Bills have a night practice Friday before leaving for Indianapolis Saturday. The exhibition opener is Sunday.
Hopkins, the Bills' sixth-round draft choice from Florida State, made kicks from 30, 33, 38, 44, 45 and 50 yards during the first special-teams period, then hit from 32, 35, 43, 47 and 48 in the second. Bills veteran Rian Lindell went 11 of 14, by unofficial count. He made from 26, 29, 35, 37, 41, 47 and 51 and missed from 43 and 51 during the first round. He made from 28, 31, 40 and 46 but missed from 39 when the special-teams unit was required to hurry up to get off the kick.
Manuel and Jeff Tuel split snaps. They each got 26 plays in team work.
Other offensive highlights included: a 40-yard bomb from Manuel to T.J. Graham (vs. Ron Brooks), a big gainer of 35 yards on a run up the middle by Fred Jackson; a long TD catch by DeMarco Sampson, who handily beat Dan Unamba despite a wobbly Tuel throw; and a sliding sideline catch by Chris Gragg for 15 yards from Tuel. Eric Wood had a good block on Nigel Bradham to spring C.J. Spiller on a run off left guard.
On defense, Mario Williams had an early sack. Safety Jonathan Meeks read a tight end screen to create a 5-yard loss. Jamie Blatnick drew a holding penalty by bursting in off right tackle on Manuel. Crezdon Butler and Aaron Williams combined on good coverage to break up a deep ball for Marquise Goodwin. Alex Carrington and Jerry Hughes crashed the backfield against the second teamers for a sack on the final play of the practice.
Cordy Glenn was back at left tackle after one day of work at left guard. Colin Brown was back in the starting role at left guard. Leodis McKelvin sat out again. Brooks took his spot in the starting lineup. Stephon Gilmore and Brad Smith started practice but rested much of it.
Second team OL, left to right: Thomas Welch, Doug Legursky, David Snow, Antoine Caldwell and Sam Young. Third OL: Zebrie Sanders, Zack Chibane, Ryan Turnley, Caldwell and Tony Hills.
Second front seven: Marcus Dowtin, Alan Branch, Torell Troup, Jay Ross, Jamie Blatnick, Arthur Moats and Bryan Scott.
University at Buffalo athletic director Danny White and basketball coach Bobby Hurley watched practice. The crowd was sparse, about 250, for the session that originally was scheduled to be closed to the public.