PITTSFORD — EJ Manuel threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his first pass Monday night but bounced back with two touchdown passes during the Buffalo Bills’ intrasquad scrimmage.
A sold-out crowd of about 6,000 at St. John Fisher College watched the most extended scrimmage – 107 plays with tackling to the ground – that a Bills team has conducted since the coaching regime of Mike Mularkey in 2005.
Manuel completed 9-of-17 passes for 113 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, by unofficial count. He also ran for a touchdown during a goal-line situation.
His first throw was a short over-the-middle pass for rookie Robert Woods. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin stepped in front of it and returned it 45 yards for a score.
Manuel’s second interception was batted at the line and caught by linebacker Arthur Moats.
“Obviously we had the two interceptions,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “The way I viewed it, one was on him, one was on something else that didn’t have anything to do with him.”
“I was really looking to see how he bounced back from that, because early on you want to see that. I thought he bounced back well. He ended on a good note, took the two-minute drive and went down there for a touchdown.”
Manuel’s TD passes came on red-zone drives, when the offense started at the opposing 30-yard line.
The first was a pretty strike down the left sideline to T.J. Graham for 28 yards. It beat a blitz. The second was a 10-yard strike in the left corner of the end zone to running back Drew Smith.
On the two-minute drill, Manuel drove the offense 75 yards in seven plays. The big plays were a 20-yard bullet pass down the right sideline to Robert Woods and a 25-yard run up the middle by Fred Jackson.
“I feel like I didn’t start out how I wanted to, obviously,” Manuel said. “You can’t turn the ball over. But there were some good things we did as an offense. The defense played great. There’s definitely some things we can go back and watch and learn from.”
On the first interception, Manuel said: “It’s one of those things where you go back on the film and kind of see what actually happened. I thought Robert was going to cut inside. He had the option to go either inside or outside. I threw the ball expecting him to come in. I have to learn from it and just read my receiver a lot better.”
• The first-team defense looked pretty good. Defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington and Jay Ross (subbing for Kyle Williams) all made plays along the line of scrimmage.
• Pass rusher Jerry Hughes continues to impress with his speed off the edge.
• Starting tackles Erik Pears and Cordy Glenn had shaky moments. Pears got beat for a sack by Hughes and was called for a holding penalty. Glenn got beat for a sack by Jamie Blatnick.
• Third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel had a good night, especially early. He completed 10-of-20 passes for 160 yards.
• The depth at receiver looked better than the depth at cornerback. The third- and fourth-string corners had difficulty against the Bills’ speed.
• Backup running backs Kendall Gaskins and Tashard Choice both ran hard. Gaskins could push Choice for the third running back job if he plays like Monday night in the preseason games.
Tuel, who was undrafted out of Washington State, completed 8 of his first 11 passes. He hit a 45-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin, a 45-yarder to Da’Rick Rogers and a 36-yarder to Marcus Easley. Goodwin beat T.J. Heath. Rogers beat Jumal Rolle. Easley made a nice, contested catch against Rolle.
“I’ve always liked him,” Marrone said of Tuel. “I liked him when he was in college. We were fortunate to get him in free agency after the draft. I think you’ve seen it, he’s played well.”
Overall, Marrone seemed pleased with the night’s practice.
“We got a lot of work in,” Marrone said. “I thought in the beginning we didn’t tackle as well and then we really picked up at the end.”