Bills quarterback EJ Manuel and coach Doug Marrone had widely conflicting assessments on how the offence performed on the third day of training camp.
Despite numerous errant throws, Manuel didn’t see much of anything go wrong Tuesday.
“Nah, good day,” he said. “I thought we ran the ball well. I thought we threw the ball well.”
Marrone saw things differently. He agreed when asked if the session was sloppy. And Marrone then provided one-word answers over what he didn’t like.
“Execution,” he said. “Communication.”
Marrone also wasn’t pleased with Manuel’s inability to get the ball off during several 7-on-7 drills, when the quarterback decided to take off and run.
“I’m not fine with that,” Marrone said. “I mean, it’s 7-on-7. We want to throw the football down the field.”
Marrone did credit Manuel for at least not forcing throws and risking interceptions.
Aside from rookie receiver Sammy Watkins making a few more highlight-reel catches, not much else went right for the Bills’ passing game on the first day players wore pads.
“We’re not even close to where we’d like to be,” Marrone said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, as you guys have witnessed today.”
Manuel’s best throw came on his first pass in 7-on-7, when he hit a wide open Watkins in stride up the right sideline. Watkins, drafted fourth overall, also made a leaping grab at the sideline of a very wobbly pass thrown by Manuel.
Those were among the few highlights.
During one four-snap set, Manuel pulled up and ran twice, and then threw two incompletions. And he had a tough time getting in sync with second-year receiver Robert Woods.
On one play, Woods made a quick cut only to have Manuel sail the ball well over his head. On another, Woods went deep, only to have Manuel throw short.
The Bills’ offence, and Manuel in particular, are under plenty of scrutiny this summer after struggling for much of last season. As a rookie starter, Manuel’s development was slowed by three separate knee injuries that limited the first-round pick to 10 games.
Manuel still struggled when he was healthy. He had a 4-6 record with 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 58.8 completion percentage that ranked him 13th among AFC quarterbacks with more than 300 attempts.
The Bills invested plenty this off-season around Manuel. They gave up next year’s first-round draft pick to move up five spots to select Watkins and used three of their remaining six selections on offensive linemen. Buffalo also added size at receiver by acquiring Mike Williams in a trade with Tampa Bay.
General manager Doug Whaley said the moves were made with an eye on helping Manuel progress.
“It’s tough as a rookie,” Whaley said. “But by the time we leave training camp, you should see a guy that’s standing tall in the huddle and quick and decisive with his decision-making.”
So far, Manuel has again looked inconsistent.
He’s had difficulty with his accuracy in completing short passes across the middle. He’s been hesitant in the pocket. And it hasn’t helped that the patchwork offence line — minus left tackle Cordy Glenn (illness) — is having difficulty handling the Bills well-established pass-rushers.
Marrone provided no excuses for the offence’s struggles.
“I want them to perform better, no doubt about it,” he said.
NOTES: DT Marcell Dareus was expected to arrive at camp Tuesday after his flight from Alabama on Monday night was delayed by bad weather. Dareus was excused from camp to attend a court hearing, where he agreed to enter an NFL substance abuse program to have two felony drug charges dismissed. ... The Bills signed free agent LB Xavius Boyd and released LB Darrin Kitchens by designating him waived/injured. Kitchens hurt his left leg in practice Monday. ... DB Brandon Smith (left knee) is out indefinitely after he was also hurt Monday. ... The Bills practice Wednesday morning before getting a day off.