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Day 14: Defense gets better of offense in night practice

Bills defense
Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley (81)) tries to get pass a defender during practice at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford on Wednesday. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

By Mark Gaughan

PITTSFORD -- Marquise Goodwin did not catch a long bomb and the offense ran into some protection problems during Wednesday night's practice before a sold-out crowd of more than 5,000 at St. John Fisher College.

The Bills' defense did not give up any deep balls. Kevin Kolb, who was named the starter for Friday's exhibition, went long for Goodwin on the first play of team drills. Rookie cornerback Nickell Robey had good coverage and knocked away the 50-yard pass. The pass was pretty good. Maybe if Kolb threw it a bit farther it would have been a completion.

Linebacker Jamie Blatnick had two sacks on the night and burst into the backfield to "tag" Fred Jackson for a 5-yard loss. A couple of blocking mix-ups by the offensive line were to blame. The defense's blitzes were effective. Arthur Moats, subbing with the first team with Kiko Alonso resting, had a sack on a blitz early. A Duke Williams blitz caused C.J. Spiller to be stuffed in the backfield.

During Kolb's second run-through in team drills, a pass on an intermediate crossing route was tipped by cornerback Dan Unamba and intercepted by safety Jordan Dangerfield. Later, safety Aaron Williams anticipated a Jeff Tuel pass down the seam and easily stepped in front of it. The ball fluttered. Tuel threw a second interception to Stephon Gilmore along the left sideline. It appeared receiver DeMarco Sampson didn't cut his route the way Tuel expected.

Kolb took the first snaps with the starting unit. The QB snaps in 11-on-11 work were:

Kolb 20, EJ Manuel 22 and Tuel 14.

The best offensive play came when Manuel stepped up in the pocket to avoid a rush and hit Goodwin in stride on a crossing pattern for a gain of at least 20 yards. Receiver Da'Rick Rogers reacted quickly to catch a rebound of a Manuel pass over the middle that got batted at the line.

Place-kickers Rian Lindell and Dustin Hopkins continued their competition. Lindell went 11 for 12, missing only from 45 yards. He had long makes from 47, 48 and 51. Hopkins missed from 35 and 47 yards. The 47-yarder was an ugly mishit that barely cleared the linemen.

Middle linebacker Kiko Alonso was held out of practice, although he was cleared to work and did a lot of sprinting. Alonso has seen a ton of snaps and done a huge amount of running in camp. Coach Doug Marrone said he will hold Alonso out of Friday's game. Receivers Stevie Johnson and Brad Smith, nursing sore hamstrings, both returned to individual drills but stayed out of 11-on-11 work. Marrone said he would hold Johnson out Friday. Cornerback Justin Rogers (hamstring) did some limited work. T.J. Graham was held out and is not expected to play Friday. Crezdon Butler sat out most of the session with his leg wrapped. Robey saw most of the action with the first team.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |