By Mark Gaughan
PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills did their first live tackling at practice Saturday, and the offense won the battle with the defense in goal-line drills.
The offense scored touchdowns on 6 of 8 plays from the 3-yard line or closer during the session. Running back Fred Jackson set the tone by making a power run off left tackle and driving into the end zone for a score from the 3. Then second-year back Zack Brown, out of the University of Pittsburgh, showed hard running up the middle for a score.
On the third play the offense tricked the defense with a play-action fake and a pass from EJ Manuel to backup tackle Thomas Welch, who made a fine catch in the back of the end zone. Strong-side linebacker Manny Lawson stuffed the next play at the line, and then the offense was offside. Then tackle Sam Young got wide open in the end zone and caught a pass from Jeff Tuel. Like Welch, Young made an emphatic spike of the ball to celebrate. Fullback Kendall Gaskins scored on the seventh play, and Brown stiff-armed linebacker Nigel Bradham on a run around end to score on the eighth.
"The offense had the better of the day on the goal line, the defense pretty much stopped them in the 4-minute drill," said coach Doug Marrone.
In the four-minute drill, the offense tries to run out the clock while protecting a lead.
The Bills huddled during both sessions and a short-yardage period. It was the first huddles of camp for the offense.With Kevin Kolb out due to his freak knee injury suffered at the start of practice, Manuel took 31 snaps in the 11-on-11 drills and got all the work with the starters. Jeff Tuel had 27 snaps.
Manuel was sharp, hitting his slants and underneath throws on the numbers of the receivers. He hit Marcus Easley on a deep ball down the left side of the field for a touchdown. Easley beat Crezdon Butler. Manuel also had a perfect, 50-yard pass for Da'Rick Rogers that the rookie dropped after getting open beyond the secondary. Manuel had a 30-yard gain around left end on a read-option running play.
Defensive lineman Alex Carrington had another strong day, getting penetration in the backfield on at least three plays. He had a would-be sack of Manuel on the third snap of the game, blowing up a bootleg play. The Bills' backup offensive line had problems during the second 11-on-11 period, with assignment mix-ups leading to two sacks by Corbin Bryant in a three-play stretch. Then the starters had a mixup to allow a Jarron Gilbert sack. Jamie Blatnick stuffed an off-tackle run by Brown.
Robert Woods showed great hands on one of the rare off-target underneath throws by Manuel, reaching across his body to snare a 10-yard throw.
In the 4-minute session, Alan Branch, Torell Troup, Blatnick and Marcell Dareus had stuffs in the final six-play stretch.
Punters Shawn Powell and Brian Stahovich fared about evenly. Powell had the longer boots on this day, Stahovich had a bit better hang time.
A crowd of roughly 1,500 came out.