Making sense of Bills' first OTA

May, 28, 2014
May 28
6:45
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The biggest news of the Buffalo Bills' first organized team activity Wednesday was the players that didn't take part in the practice.

In tight end Scott Chandler (knee surgery) and wide receivers Robert Woods (ankle surgery), T.J. Graham (hip surgery), and Marcus Easley (knee surgery), the Bills were without offensive players who started a combined 27 games last season.

On defense, the Bills were without defensive ends Mario Williams (hip surgery) and Jerry Hughes (undisclosed), linebacker Kiko Alonso (hip surgery), cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (hip surgery) and Leodis McKelvin (hip surgery), and safety Aaron Williams (shoulder surgery). There were 69 starts between them last season.

That's a sizable chunk of the starting lineup that wasn't participating in team drills Wednesday. The result was several younger players and newcomers getting a chance to see extended practice time.

Since this was the first of 10 OTAs, I took most of the session to get a feel for personnel rather than individual performances. Which players were lining up where and what patterns had formed?

Here's some of my notes from the session, position by position:

Quarterback: Nothing unexpected here. EJ Manuel got the first reps, followed by Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. That's the same as last season.

Running back: Fred Jackson took fewer snaps than his teammates, which is to be expected from the 33-year-old team captain at this point in the offseason. C.J. Spiller saw some action, while Bryce Brown and Ronnie Wingo took most of the snaps. Wingo was injured but it isn't considered serious.

Fullback: Frank Summers and Evan Rodriguez were the duo here, as expected.

Wide receiver: With Woods and Graham out, the top two receivers were Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams. Beyond that, Marquise Goodwin and Kevin Elliott got the bulk of the work. With Cordell Roberson working off to the side with trainers -- he was on the rookie minicamp roster earlier this month but did not take part -- the depth chart here was rounded out by Chris Hogan and Ramses Barden.

Tight end: With Chandler out, Lee Smith and Tony Moeaki were the first two tight ends on the field. Mike Caussin and Chris Gragg rounded out the position.

Offensive tackle: Veteran Erik Pears and rookie Cyrus Kouandjio split first-team reps at right tackle opposite Cordy Glenn. Chris Hairston, who spent last season on the non-football illness list, worked with the second team. Antoine McClain and rookie Seantrel Henderson rounded out the position.

Guard/center: The first-line interior was as expected: Chris Williams, Eric Wood, and Kraig Urbik. I was a little surprised to see Edawn Coughman, who was listed as a tackle on the practice squad last season, running with the second team. That pushed J.J. Unga, McClain, and Mark Asper -- who all ended the season on the 53-man roster last season -- down to the next unit. Legursky and Cyril Richardson rounded out the second group, with local product Randy Colling on the third line.

Defensive end: This position looked thin, with Mario Williams and Hughes sidelined and Lawson absent. It was a mish-mashed rotation of Jarius Wynn, Jacquies Smith, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, and rookie Bryan Johnson.

Defensive tackle: Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus both saw limited reps in team drills. Much of the practice time went to their backups last season -- Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles -- and then a pair of rookies, Colby Way and Damien Jacobs.

Linebacker: Nigel Bradham replaced Alonso alongside newcomers Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers. Beyond that, the Bills gave Ty Powell a crack at the 'Mike' alongside Nathan Williams and Jimmy Gaines, and then Preston Brown the last 'Mike' spot next to Randell Johnson and Darrin Kichens.

Cornerback: With McKelvin and Gilmore out, Corey Graham and Ron Brooks were the top group, although Brooks suffered an undisclosed injury. After that, there were different combinations used, but Brandon Smith and Ross Cockrell were often paired together. Nickell Robey, Mario Butler, Darius Robinson, and Michael Carter also worked in. Brooks and Robey saw time in the slot in sub packages later in practice.

Safety: With Aaron Williams out, the top group was Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams. The position was rounded out with Jonathan Meeks, Kenny Ladler, Derek Brim, and Deon Broomfield.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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