PITTSFORD - Veteran guard Kraig Urbik found himself in a tight-end position as the Buffalo Bills lined up for a live goal-line play in Sunday’s practice. The offense was short on healthy tight ends, and Urbik was pressed into unfamiliar duty.
“They told me to run a corner route,” Urbik said. “I didn’t know what that was, but I was wide open. They didn’t see it coming.”
The 328-pound Urbik made a sure-handed catch in the end zone on a pass from EJ Manuel and then delightedly executed a spike of the football.
The spike left a little to be desired, but the play punctuated a successful a good session for the offense. The Bills scored touchdowns on 5 of 8 full-tackling plays run from the 1- or 2-yard lines. The Bills were not good enough on goal-to-go situations last season, ranking 29th in the NFL in touchdown percentage. Sunday’s practice was the first chance to set a new tone for this season.
On Sunday the Bills scored on their first play, as Manuel threw a play-action TD pass to tight end Jermaine Lewis. On the second play, Summers plunged over the goal line. On the third, linebacker Brandon Spikes filled a hole, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams burst through the line to take down Anthony Dixon for a 2-yard loss.
Manuel had no chance on the fourth snap, getting swarmed in the backfield by defensive end Jarius Wynn before he could even begin a bootleg maneuver. But then Urbik had his TD catch, and Dixon plunged into the end zone on the final two snaps of the session.
The offense was a little better Sunday, rebounding from its miserable showing on third-down situations on Saturday night.
Another big crowd of more than 2,000 at St. John Fisher College watched the Bills work for two hours and 50 minutes on the grass field.
-Manuel got off to a better start in 11-on-11 work, hitting Chris Hogan on a perfect skinny post for 18 yards, then coming back to Hogan over the middle for a 15-yarder. Hogan is having a solid camp. Manuel had an overthrow on a slant for Sammy Watkins that Stephon Gilmore picked off.
-Buffalo native Mike Williams is having a good camp. He made a great catch down the right sideline on a throw from Manuel, going up over cornerback Michael Carter for a 30-yard gain.
-Dan Carpenter went 5 of 7 on field-goal tries, easily booming his last from 46 yards. His misses were from 37 and 44.
-Tight end Scott Chandler walked off midway through the practice with a sore groin. Receiver Kevin Elliott left with concussion-like symptoms after taking a big hit in the end zone from Jonathan Meeks. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin sat out team drills for a third straight day. He had offseason hip surgery and the Bills simply are being careful not to overwork him. . . . Running back Fred Jackson was back after sitting out a day with a sore ankle.
-Marcell Dareus looked good again. He went 2-0 in 1-on-1 pass rush drills and was a force in 11 on 11 too. Ditto Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes.
-Nigel Bradham made a great read of a short slant pass by Manuel and nearly picked it off. His defensive mates whooped and hollered, and he did some pushups as punishment.
-Watkins made a great catch down the left sideline, leaping over Ron Brooks for a gain of about 30 yards. He made it look easy. Just throw it up anywhere and he'll get it.
-In red zone work, Manuel hit Robert Woods on a sharp slant for a 19-yard TD. Then in tight red zone work, he hit Hogan over the middle for a score. Jeff Tuel threw one up for Mike Williams on the side of the end zone, and the WR stayed in bounds for a TD.