Buffalo Bills: What We've Learned Through Week 3 of Training Camp
EJ Manuel looked much better in his second preseason outing, completing nine of his 13 passes for 96 yards. Manuel consistently got the ball out quickly and made some good throws throughout the night, with passes to Chris Hogan and Mike Williams standing out.
Of course, there's still a long way to go for Manuel; he could stand to look off a receiver here and there. But he's only played 10 professional games, so any progress should be promising.
Manuel's performance wasn't the only item of note after this week's practices, however. New information came out about the sale process, a key player returned to the field, and new players are starting to stand out. Let's recap all of the latest and look at what we've learned through the Bills' third week of camp.
The Bills Trust Is Struggling Through Sale Process
A lot has changed regarding the sale of the Bills since we last discussed it.
It was originally believed that Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula was the favorite to become the next Bills boss and that he was ready to pay well over $1 billion for the team. However, a report by Mike Ozanian of Forbes sheds new light on the sale process.
Ozanian said Donald Trump's initial offer was around $800 million, while Pegula and a group led by Jon Bon Jovi bid "well under $1 billion."
Ozanian went on to say that Morgan Stanley, the bank hired to oversee the sale of the team, has "butchered" the sale and is "now clearly in panic mode." The bank received over 60 non-disclosure agreements from potential suitors, but only three submitted bids by the July 29 deadline, per Ozanian. Because of the lack of generated interest, Morgan Stanley extended the deadline.
In addition, Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reported former Sabres owner Tom Golisano threw his hat in the ring and made an offer for the Bills. Graham also said Jim Kelly "is involved with one of the undisclosed bidders." One potential Kelly partner is Jeffrey Gundlach, who, according to Graham, "approached Kelly about joining forces."
Despite all of the talk about who is or isn't bidding, the sale process is moving along. Graham said the Bills trust has presentations scheduled with bidders over the next few weeks. Graham said Trump was first up, with Terry Pegula and Team Bon Jovi to follow.
There's still a long way to go, but Graham said a new owner could still be approved by the NFL owners at the league's meetings on October 7 and 8.
New Wideouts Should Help Manuel
Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams are making Doug Whaley look smarter by the day.
It's hard to remember the last time the Bills had a legitimate throw-it-up-and-I'll-go-get-it receiving target. But through the first few weeks of camp, it looks like there could be two such options on the roster. Watkins and Williams have been continually making eye-popping catches throughout the preseason.
Watkins had been stealing the show in practices, but it was Williams who turned heads in a game setting. In the preseason win against the Panthers, Williams high-pointed the ball on a pass over the middle from EJ Manuel and outjumped the defender for the catch.
As Joe Buscaglia of WGR noted, Manuel is starting to rely on Williams more and more because of the wideout's ability to make tough catches. Buscaglia said Williams' prowess in the red zone could make his role "even bigger than originally thought" when the offense is on the doorstep.
Not to be outdone, Watkins continued his practice habit of hauling in passes in the most outrageous ways. Watkins' latest circus snag came Sunday when he reached back, left-handed no less, and pulled in a one-handed grab while going over the middle (h/t to Jonah Javad for the Vine).
That play is still unbelievable, even after watching it no less than (an estimated) 100 times. It was like he was playing with one of those Velcro throw-and-catch toys from back in the day.
With two receivers who can bring in anything thrown their way, the Bills offense should have an easier time moving the ball downfield. And it will also make Manuel's job easier, which is just as important at this stage in his career.
Coaches Continuing to Shuffle Offensive Line
It had to have been music to Bills fans' ears.
After having Cordy Glenn on the non-football illness list for all of training camp, the Bills activated the third-year left tackle Saturday, per Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com. Fairburn said Doug Marrone was quick to temper the excitement, though, saying the team is "going to take it very, very slowly" getting Glenn up to speed.
Glenn's impending return will shake up an offensive line that has already been changing fluidly. Rookie Seantrel Henderson has been getting all of the first-team reps at left tackle, per Fairburn, and his role could be up in the air as Glenn works his way back.
Fairburn noted that Henderson said no one has mentioned anything about competing for time at right tackle, but that is an obvious potential next step. Henderson was impressive in his first two preseason outings, and it's safe to assume he would be at least as good as Erik Pears or Cyrus Kouandjio, who have been vying for time at right tackle so far.
There have been other shakeups along the offensive line as well. As ESPN's Mike Rodak reported, Kraig Urbik, Doug Legursky and Antoine McClain cycled through at left guard while Chris Williams sat out with a back injury. Rodak also said Urbik and Cyril Richardson got most of the reps at right guard.
Adding in Chris Hairston with all of the other players getting reps up front, it's hard to predict what the offensive line will look like come September 7.
2-Headed Monster? Try 4
In a healthy C.J. Spiller and a newly extended Fred Jackson, the Bills already had a formidable one-two punch at running back. But based on early preseason looks, the Bills could have a full-fledged running back hydra after the additions of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.
Both of the newcomers had impressive showings in Friday's win over Carolina. Brown racked up 64 yards on 11 carries and showed some solid burst on a few runs. Per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com, Doug Marrone said Brown "has the potential to start in the NFL." It's unlikely Brown will start over Spiller or Jackson, but having a starting-caliber player as your third running back is a nice luxury to have.
Dixon didn't gain yards in chunks like Brown did, but his contribution was just as important against the Panthers. Dixon punched in a one-yard touchdown to cap off a drive that started inside the Panthers' 30-yard line after a Manny Lawson fumble recovery.
It's starting to look like the coaches are going to turn to Dixon for goal-line carries throughout the season. Joe Buscaglia at WGR said Dixon has "a general disregard" on those short-yardage carries and is adept at winding up in the end zone.
In 2013, the Bills were one of the NFL's top rushing teams while leaning on Jackson and a hobbled Spiller. With two more talented backs in tow this year, the Bills should again be a threat on the ground.
Da'Norris Searcy Taking Hold of Position Battle
The starting safety spot next to Aaron Williams was a position that was up for grabs heading into camp. ESPN's Mike Rodak said it's been "Searcy's job to lose since the spring." Barring anything catastrophic, it doesn't look like Searcy is going to lose.
Rodak said Searcy and Williams have almost exclusively been the team's top pairing at safety. Even though, per Rodak, Williams lined up with the second team during Sunday's practice, Doug Marrone said it is nothing to read into concerning Williams' status.
After the night he had against the Panthers, Searcy found himself on a list Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com made up of "playmakers to know." Brown said Searcy had a tackle for loss that led to the fumble recovery on the next play. Searcy also had an interception toward the end of the first half. The Bills turned both turnovers into points.
If Searcy continues to make plays, he will tighten his grip on the starting job. And having yet another playmaker on defense would make the unit that much more scary.
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