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Bills Stock Watch #2
Training camp has been in full swing for over a week now at St. John Fisher College, and the Bills just completed a full-contact scrimmage on Monday evening. This seems like enough of a reason to bring back THE WOWTCH (formally known as Bills Stock Watch #2).
Alex Carrington – Head Coach Doug Marrone rarely gets too excited when talking about specific players in his press conferences. Although he didn’t go full double rainbow, he seemed quite pleased to be asked about Carrington in his Monday post-semi-formal-scrimmage press conference. Marrone said that he has had an outstanding camp and has displayed the best pad level of the players there, something that the coaches have stressed. Carrington was rewarded early in the day when he was listed as a starting defensive end on the BIlls’ first official depth chart. Clearly, a depth chart at the beginning of week two of practice isn’t a definitive source on the season to come. And there probably won’t be a more useless Bills’ defense to create a depth chart for, considering the multitude of fronts and formations that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is sure to utilize. But it did show that Carrington was in the coaching staff’s good graces. That faith seems to be well-guided as Carrington performed well in the scrimmage, capped by two consecutive “sacks” (I’ve appreciated media’s use of the phrase ‘tap sack’ throughout camp) during the two-minute drill portion at the end of practice. If the Bills get a 6’5, 300-pound defensive end who gets under opposing tackles and sacks the quarterback during the regular season, a ‘potentially great’ defensive line will almost certainly be ‘actually great’.
Kendall Gaskins – One of the most important and difficult things about making an NFL roster is being ready when your number is called, even if those opportunities are few and far between. With C.J. Spiller sitting out the scrimmage and Fred Jackson being used infrequently, there was an opportunity for some of the lesser-used running backs to get the ball against both the first and second defenses. Then Tashard Choice got a little banged up (although he came back to practice and had varied success in the goal line drills). Then another running back, Zach Brown, got hurt. This left the team quite thin at running back, which gave Gaskins an opportunity to get a lot of work. And he certainly got plenty of work during the scrimmage. Gaskins performed well with those extra touches, which Head Coach Doug Marrone noted during his press conference. HCDM was quick to note, though, that Gaskins looked better in that scrimmage than he had at practices, and that he had to continue this upward trajectory throughout the upcoming weeks.
Jeff Tuel – It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Bills signed Tuel as an undrafted free agent after visiting with the team in the pre-draft process. But at the beginning of the team’s practices, Tuel was the team’s fourth quarterback and barely sniffed reps. However, following Tarvaris Jackson’s release and Kevin Kolb’s injury (and unfortunate family emergency), Tuel found himself as the second quarterback on the team’s most important day of practice thus far. Considering his quick ascension to this prominence, it was realistic to expect him to struggle during the team’s first full scrimmage. However, Tuel stayed composed and was all-in-all fairly impressive. He completed three long pass plays, including two touchdowns to Marquise Goodwin and Da’Rick Rogers, and another bomb to Marcus Easley. At the start of training camp, I was pretty positive that the Bills would be keeping two quarterbacks and put Tuel on the practice squad. If Tuel performs well enough in the preseason, the practice squad may not be an option for him anymore, because the Bills won’t want to expose him to the league’s 31 other teams. I really believe that the decision to keep a third quarterback won’t come down to an organizational view on whether they need a third quarterback or not. It’s simply going to come down to whether or not the coaching staff believes that Jeff Tuel is an NFL quarterback.
The Buffalo Bills – The Bills ran over 120 plays during this scrimmage, which usually would mean that both the offense and defense had a significant amount of opportunities to impress the coaches. This was completely the case, as both units shined at certain times. I don’t think anything can be definitively stated about any unit or position group from this scrimmage, as almost every portion of the team had their moments. So why are the Buffalo Bills trending up? Because they stayed relatively healthy. In the end, that is going to continue to be the most important thing to come out of every practice, every scrimmage, and every preseason game.
Kevin Kolb – I’m not going to overreact to what seems like a minor injury for Kolb. I don’t think missing a few days of practice is going to turn the tables and put E.J. Manuel in prime position to become the Bills’ starting quarterback. But unfortunately for Kolb, every rep that he isn’t available for is a rep that his competition gets. Missing the scrimmage and the practices surrounding it won’t lower his stock, but it gives Manuel more opportunities to raise his.
Nick Provo – Marrone’s former tight end at Syracuse finds himself in an interesting situation after signing with the Bills on Sunday. He is most likely a little more prepared than your average training camp signing, as he is familiar with Marrone’s offenses, and spent time in several NFL training camps last season. He also immediately found himself getting reps as the team remains cautious with Scott Chandler, and with the injury to Mike Caussin. Provo saw the ball several times during the practice on Sunday and continued to receive looks his way in the scrimmage on Monday.
I’m giving the team a break this week in this category. Full disclosure: I’ve found it somewhat difficult to say players are trending down at this point; maybe it’s because I want to be optimistic, maybe it’s because I don’t want to be a jerk, maybe because I’m scared that everyone has Twitter now and a player is gonna be like “Hey you’re a jerk and wrong and your writing is bad”. So the way I’m going to do this is to trust my instincts. If I see something on the field that needs mentioning in this section, I’m not going to ignore it. But I’m not going to give anybody flak about a scrimmage that I only heard on the radio. Although I was able to see practice on Sunday, I was not able to make it to the scrimmage on Monday. Next edition of THE WOWTCH though, I suspect you’re going to see a few players in the red. Until next time…
Follow @BuddyNixon on Twitter if you want Jeff Tuel to make the team just so he can have a section at The Ralph called the ‘Tuel Shed’. Or if you just like the Bills.