PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
Sunday's practice was long and physical. Up until this point in camp, we've seen the Bills hone their passing game in 7-on-7 drills, even in full pads. Sunday saw a heavy dose of 11-on-11 work, including one stint at the goal line with live tackling. The 2 hour, 52 minute-practice was the longest of training camp to this point. They've gone five straight practices in full pads and will practice again Monday before a day off. Some teams have just started camp, but the Bills are deep into theirs.
What we're seeing emerge is two different "versions" of the Bills' offense. One is an up-tempo, shotgun-style offense with option elements and a lot of speed. This is when we'll see C.J. Spiller, Marquise Goodwin, and Chris Hogan on the field. But there's another side of the offense that saw plenty of action Sunday. That's a "heavier" set with EJ Manuel under center, Lee Smith at tight end, Anthony Dixon and Frank Summers in the backfield, and Mike Williams at receiver. It's not just a goal line package; it's a physical unit that the Bills have used in a variety of situations. It has a similar physical makeup to the Steelers' teams of the mid-2000s when Doug Whaley was coming up through the ranks as a scout.
The Bills offensive line had a better day in protection than their nightmare Saturday night. "We don’t necessarily game plan for our own defense, obviously it’s still practice, but they got the best of us yesterday with some different looks and things like that," Manuel said after Sunday's practice. "We went back and worked on the protection aspect of things so we could protect the pocket a little better and each one of those guys did a better job today." The Bills focused more on first and second downs and the running game Sunday, which gave the defense less opportunity for sacks. Still, the blocking was better. We counted only two sacks in 11-on-11 work.
Sammy Watkins continues to put on a show. His latest act was a catch down the left sideline when he stopped on his route and reached over the cornerback to haul in the pass. He made it look smooth. I might compare it to a basketball player who is a natural finisher under the rim, finding the right bounce or angle to get the ball in the hoop. Watkins has excellent concentration and can adjust his body and pluck the ball out of the air.
Doug Marrone confirmed Sunday that the Bills' offense has made the red zone a point of emphasis and are holding an extra red zone period after practice, as we noted Saturday night. Sunday's results were better than what we saw last week. Manuel found Williams three times for touchdowns while Robert Woods and Chris Hogan also snagged passes for scores. It was a considerable improvement.
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin hasn't participated in 11-on-11 team drills for the last three practices. He's coming off hip surgery and the Bills still want to ease him back in. Corey Graham has been taking first-team reps in his place.