If Tuesday’s first day of minicamp was a small step forward for the Buffalo Bills’ quarterbacks, Wednesday’s practice was two big leaps back.
The four quarterbacks on the roster dropped back to pass 22 times during practice. On those plays, the unofficial stats looked like this: 4 for 11, 22 yards, one interception, eight sacks, one defensive penalty and two offensive penalties.
“A few drops here, a few protection issues,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said when asked why the offense struggled so much to throw the ball. “There were some good plays, some bad plays. Very similar to yesterday. We didn’t throw the ball downfield that much today as we did yesterday, though.”
The Bills rotated all three quarterbacks vying for the starting job with the starting offensive line and receivers. In the first set of 11-on-11 drills, in which Tyrod Taylor took the first reps, there were no completed passes.
Receiver Marquise Goodwin didn’t help Matt Cassel when he dropped a good deep throw, while EJ Manuel stared down receiver Caleb Holley on an out route, allowing cornerback Mario Butler to step in front of the throw and make an interception.
The second set of 11-on-11 drills didn’t go much better for the trio, although the throws had more of an emphasis on short-yardage situations. There was a dump-off completion from Taylor to running back LeSean McCoy, while Manuel completed screens to running back Fred Jackson and receiver Robert Woods that would have produced minimal yardage.
Fourth-string quarterback Matt Simms completed the longest pass of the day when he connected with receiver Deonte Thompson for a gain of about 15 yards up the left seam. Simms had been sacked on his three previous dropbacks, twice by Stefan Charles and once by Corbin Bryant.
The Bills’ offense has one final chance to take some positive momentum into their summer break in Thursday’s final minicamp practice.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do, but the number one goal was to get everybody to learn the offense and really get them prepared for training camp,” Roman said. “I think the guys have done a great job of coming in and being consistent, working hard, and so we’ll take a little break after tomorrow and I think the guys will be ready to go.”
Chemistry between a wide receiver and quarterback is paramount to the success of an NFL offense.
But it’s good to have the running back on the same page with his team’s passer, too.
That will be one of the challenges the Bills face when they report to training camp in late July. With Taylor, Manuel and Cassel competing for the starting job, there will be fewer opportunities for each of them to develop chemistry with their playmakers than their would if one player got the starting reps.
That’s not an entirely new scenario for running back LeSean McCoy, though.
During McCoy’s six seasons in Philadelphia, he played with six different starting quarterbacks.
“I’m used to it,” he said. “We had a lot of different quarterbacks coming in and going out. I’m kind of used to that. The biggest thing here is, all the quarterbacks are getting reps with the first team. It’s not like I’m not getting reps with none of the quarterbacks. They’re all rotating out with the ones. Each day they have their day with the ones. They get a lot of work with the first team.
“I don’t know how it is for the other players, but for myself, I’ve been in this position a couple times, so I’m kind of used to it. You just wait it out. Let the guys compete. You encourage them. You support them each play, each drive. Let them handle the offense. … That’s all you can do.”
No matter who wins the job, handing the ball to McCoy will be a big part of the job description.
Seantrel Henderson’s travel issues were cleared up and he was on the field for minicamp Wednesday.
However, the Buffalo Bills’ right tackle found himself lining up with the third team in his return to practice.
“You’re not here for a day, you miss a day, so you’re a day behind. It’s that simple,” said Roman, who largely brushed off any questions about Henderson. “I just think that’s what we did today based on where we’re at.”
The team did not make Henderson available to the media following the practice.
Henderson is thought to be in the mix for one of the two starting tackle spots this season along with Cordy Glenn and Cyrus Kouandjio, so being bumped down to the third team could be punishment for missing Tuesday’s practice, or an indicator of the coaching staff’s evaluation of his performance to this point.
While Henderson was back at practice, the following players did not participate Wednesday: safeties Aaron Williams and Wes Miller, cornerback Cam Thomas, linebacker Tony Steward and guards Chris Williams and Alex Kupper.
Steward and Miller were seen at practice on the sideline, while coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday that Chris Williams was at the team facility. It’s not known whether Aaron Williams is attending the mandatory minicamp as he has yet to be seen. Kupper, meanwhile, practiced Tuesday.