NFL Team Report - Buffalo Bills - INSIDE SLANT
The Bills' quarterback competition has become a two-man race between veteran free agent Kevin Kolb and first-round draft pick EJ Manuel.
After the release of Tarvaris Jackson a day earlier, Kolb and Manuel saw their practice repetitions logically increase over what they were during organized team activities when the Bills kicked off a three-day mandatory mini-camp on Tuesday.
Kolb, Manuel and rookie free agent Jeff Tuel are the quarterbacks left on the roster. Even though he'll get more repetitions, too, Tuel is a project player and not a factor.
The Bills re-signed Jackson, the former Vikings and Seahawks starter, early in the offseason as part of a shakeup at quarterback that also saw them release Ryan Fitzpatrick. It became clear during OTAs how difficult it is, however, for the coaches to get a good look at three players competing for one job and Jackson quickly became the odd man out.
Jackson's release means Manuel's development can be accelerated heading into training camp in July.
"I think in all of the quarterbacks, including Kevin who is a veteran, you never start where you left off," coach Doug Marrone said. "Even for the better QBs I've been around you start from the beginning and grow a foundation. With EJ, we just want to make sure he's taking a natural progression. He's not seeing the same things Kevin is now and we're working on building him up."
Manuel said he knows how important it is to take advantage of his increased practice time. He said he could definitely feel more into the flow of things not having to wait around as much.
"I'd say the only difference is that your body stays warm, you get some continuity with the offense and you get in a groove unlike taking three plays and resting," he said. "It's a lot different (that way)."
Manuel said that even though there is one less person to beat out for the starting job, he can't ease up, not with Kolb in his way.
"It's not anything I have to remind myself of," he said. "I'm just trying to get a feel and earn the respect of my teammates. The best way to do that is to keep producing. You are only as good as your last snap."
Manuel had good things to say about Jackson, who in their brief time together helped him get acclimated to the NFL.
"Someone great in the room, a great teammate and I looked up to him because he's a veteran who has been a long time in this league," Manuel said. "I heard the news and it's tough, but it's part of this league."
Jackson, 30, was obtained in a trade with Seattle last August for a seventh-round pick. He never saw action in a game last season and was unable to even unseat Tyler Thigpen as Fitzpatrick's backup.
Jackson was due to earn a $1.25 million base salary had he made the 2013 roster. He was given virtually the same amount of snaps as Kolb during the course of 10 OTAs, all at the expense of Manuel, who the team would like starting sooner or later. Manuel was the 16th overall pick in the draft and is viewed as the Bills' quarterback of the future.
Jackson has a .500 record (17-17) as an NFL starter.
"I've been in this league going on eight years now," he said. "Hopefully, I'll make it eight. But I know how it goes. Like I said, I just come out here and do my best. In certain situations, your best might not be good enough. They invested a lot in a player in the first round."
Meanwhile, the first day of minicamp saw tight end Scott Chandler practicing on a limited basis. He's just five months removed from major ACL surgery, so his progress is very encouraging to the Bills.
All players under contract were in attendance. Safety Jairus Byrd, who was given the club's franchise tag but has yet to sign his tender, was not in attendance. He and the team remain locked in contract talks. Since he's unsigned, Byrd is not subject to being fined.
Marrone is taking Byrd's absence in stride.
"You have rights and he has the right not to be here and I respect him for that," Marrone said. "I'm not going to worry about things out of my control and I'll concentrate on the players here. I have great admiration for Jairus -- but I've never met him. I look forward to meeting him in the future."
NFL Team Report - Buffalo Bills - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Bills wrapped up their offseason with a three-day mandatory minicamp that concluded June 13. They won't convene as a full team again until July 28 at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. First-year coach Doug Marrone said "phase one" of his plan involved earning the trust of the team.
"Really, building a relationship, making sure that we're all part of one team was important, that there wasn't any separation," he said. "I think we were able to do that. I'm very pleased with the amount of work that we've gotten done. We've reached our goal as far as what we wanted to get in. We've reached our goal as far as teaching the players what our tempo is, how we want to practice. They've responded in a professional way, which is greatly appreciated by myself and the staff. We're excited and that's how it should be. We're leaving here knowing that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but it's also hard work that we're looking forward to."
--Veteran wide receiver Stevie Johnson said Buffalo's new up-tempo offense will be easier to operate in games because practices under new coordinator Nate Hackett are so intense.
"Even in meetings, he's super fast when he's speaking," Johnson said."On the field, we're getting plays off (in) six, seven, eight seconds. Practices are usually harder than games and it's getting us ready for that."
--Buffalo's defense also preached an aggressive style in minicamp. During one stretch of team drills, the defense blitzed on four consecutive occasions.
"The biggest thing is just showing what our mentality is and what we'll be doing," defensive end Mario Williams said. "We won't be sitting back and waiting, we're going to make the offense play off us."
--The crowded competition for the starting left guard spot vacated by Andy Levitre appears to be narrowed down to two players, Colin Brown and newcomer Doug Legursky. Brown received the bulk of the first-team reps during minicamp, but Legursky is clearly in the mix, Marrone said.
--With Pro-Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd, the team's franchise player who is unsigned, skipping minicamp, Aaron Williams was the beneficiary of more playing time. Williams, who is shifting from corner to safety, recorded three interceptions in three days of minicamp drills. He appears to be a suitable Plan B if the Bills fail to get a deal done with Byrd.
--The New England Patriots' signing of polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow was a big source of conversation at Bills minicamp. Tebow, the former Denver starter, languished with the New York Jets in the AFC East last season. Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was with the Jets in 2012 and told reporters he thinks Tebow can start in the NFL, and yes, at quarterback.
"He's a unique athlete. He's not the most orthodox NFL quarterback, but he finds a way to get it done," Pettine said. "And I think those guys that are change-up types are the ones that can give you some trouble."
Does he think Tebow can start?
"I always did," Pettine said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The biggest thing from last year to this year is that there are a lot of moving parts to this defense and it can be pretty complex. There was a lot to take in in a short period of time. But once you know say a third of it, a particular play, you can piece it together. If you know key words and our hand signals, even if you don't have the best grasp, you can get the hang of it. I think going against our offense, it seems difficult for them to figure out." - DE Mario Williams on coordinator Mike Pettine's new defensive scheme at the conclusion of a three-day mandatory mini-camp.
NFL Team Report - Buffalo Bills - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: S Jairus Byrd (tendered at $6.916 million).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--DE Spencer Johnson (not tendered as UFA).
--WR Ruvell Martin (not tendered as UFA).
--FB Corey McIntyre (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Kirk Morrison (not tendered as UFA).
--QB Tyler Thigpen (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--QB EJ Manuel (1/16): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Robert Woods (2/41): $4,866,769/4 yrs, $1,919,468 SB/$2,900,685 guaranteed.
--LB Kiko Alonso (2/46): $4,300,401/4 yrs, $1,507,564 SB/$2,463,037 guaranteed.
--WR Marquise Goodwin (3/78): $2,853,876/4 yrs, $598,876 SB.
--S Duke Williams (4/105): $2,630,252/4 yrs, $470,252 SB.
--S Jonathan Meeks (5/143): $2,358,000/4 yrs, $198,000 SB.
--K Dustin Hopkins (6/177); $2,272,000/4 yrs, $112,000 SB.
--TE Chris Grass (7/222): $2,219,172/4 yrs, $59,172 SB.
--C Colin Brown: Potential RFA; $1.445M/2 yrs, $25,000 SB.
--RB Tashard Choice: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE Dorin Dickerson: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Tarvaris Jackson: Potential UFA; $2.25M/1 yr, $500,000 SB.
--CB/KR Leodis McKelvin: Potential UFA; $20M/4 yrs.
--LB Bryan Scott: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--DT Alan Branch: UFA Seahawks; $3M/1 yr.
--LB Jerry Hughes (trade Colts).
--QB Kevin Kolb: FA Cardinals; $6.1M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$1.25M RBs.
--LB Manny Lawson: UFA Bengals; $12M/4 yrs, $3M SB/$4.6M guaranteed.
--C/G Doug Legursky: Not tendered as UFA by Steelers; terms unknown.
--LB Nick Barnett (released/failed physical).
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (released/post-June 1 designation).
--QB Tarvaris Jackson (released).
--DE Chris Kelsay (retired).
--WR Donald Jones: Not tendered as RFA/Patriots; $4.155M/3 yrs, no SB/$435,000 report/RB each year.
--G Andy Levitre: UFA Titans; $46.8M/6 yrs, $10.5M SB.
--CB Terrence McGee (released/failed physical).
--LB Shawne Merriman: UFA; retired.
--DE Kyle Moore: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR David Nelson: Not tendered as RFA/Browns; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T/G Chad Rinehart: UFA Chargers; terms unknown.
--LB Kelvin Sheppard (traded Colts).
--S George Wilson (released).