Bills Monday Night Practice: 5 Things of Note

1. Sammy Watkins is not a one-day wonder at camp

Watkins’ first practice was very  impressive, but he managed to take that great performance to a dominant level today.

Watkins caught two deep ball touchdowns from quarterback E.J. Manuel, and escaped with only a poked eye after going up and catching a tipped ball between three defenders. Head coach Doug Marrone said that Watkins was brought in to be a deep threat, and “he’s done a really good job” of performing that role.

“He’s made plays in this camp,” said Marrone. “You guys have seen it. We just need to make sure that we continue developing him. He’s going against good players. He’s working with the first team, so he’s going against our corners and all of our guys. He’s a good football player and I think it’s one that, you sit there and the guy is making plays. I think a lot of people are excited.”

For more on his day and how he is handling expectations, read my Sammy Watkins piece.

E.J. Manuel (3) looking over the defense. Photo by Robin Lalisse

2. Manuel and Watkins continue to develop connection

There were concerns about Watkins and Manuel being able to have the chemistry needed for the duo to be on the same page after Watkins talked about the quarterback-wide receiver combo in late June to NFL Network (via’s Josh Alper):

“It’s not fully there. I mean, we’ve been connecting at minicamp, and OTAs,” Watkins said. “But at the same time, I could be wide open, and if he don’t feel it, or if I run it a different type of way, he won’t throw the ball. So it really just got to come with him believing in me. I believe in him. He can throw just about any ball. So it just comes down to … we just need a lot of reps.”

One play that showed a new level of trust between the two was a deep ball in which Manuel floated a pass right as Watkins was neck and neck with Leodis McKelvin, and Watkins ran underneath the pass to catch it in stride for the score.

While Manuel has found Watkins for some big plays in camp, Marrone said it’s “going to be a time situation” before it’s constant between the two players.

“I think there’s a lot of football to be played, a lot of preseason games and things like that,” said Marrone. “I think, over time, that’s what you like to see on a consistent basis. To have that chemistry, not just with one receiver, but with all the receivers that are out there on the field. That’s what you look to build up to and when you have a bunch of young guys on the field it takes a little longer, but that’s why I’m excited about us being in camp early.”

If the pair can consistently create plays similar to those in the first two days of camp, both could make a lot of noise this season.

Mario Williams leads a talented Bills defensive line. Photo by Robin Lalsise
Mario Williams leads a talented Bills defensive line. Photo by Robin Lalsise

3. Marcell Dareus will be at camp tomorrow, but still not ready to play

Marrone said after the practice that Dareus would be at camp Monday night, but there is no specific date as to when he will be fully participating in practice. Marrone stated that Dareus would not perform a conditioning test until the weight coaches are sure the Pro Bowl defensive tackle is ready to do the test.

“At the present time, I’ve excused Marcell,” said Marrone. “He’s taking care of some personal stuff, but he’ll be like everyone else you’ve seen before, on the side training and getting ready to pass the physical.”

The front four has had some impressive moments sans Dareus thus far, with Mario Williams looking “energetic”, injury-free, and “happiest I’ve seen him”, according to Marrone. Still, for the Bills to repeat the dominant defensive line performance that it had last season, Dareus has to be a major factor.

When he is ready to practice, how he prepares for and performs in practice could be a key indicator of whether a repeat performance for the defensive front line should be expected.

Bills receiver Robert Woods. Photo by Robin Lalisse

4. Robert Woods and Da’Norris Searcy get physical

Woods and Searcy got into a bit of a scuffle after a play, resulting in both throwing a punch at each other’s helmets and wrestling each other to the ground, according to Chris Brown of

The inconsistencies of the passing game may have frustrated Woods as the practice wore on because late in the session the receiver blew his stack in a dust up with Da’Norris Searcy.

Both claim words were not exchanged, but there was a stare down before the two started throwing windmill punches at each other. Both connected with the other’s helmet, which was audible from the sidelines. The pair eventually wrestled each other to the ground and teammates eventually separated them.

“You saw it,” said Woods. “I’ve got no comment about it really. Nobody said anything. Me and Da’Norris are cool. It’s just something extra outside the play.”

“From what I heard he was a little mad today,” said Searcy. “Tempers flare out there. I don’t like fighting with our guys. I’d rather fight with our guys than against our guys. But like Robert said we’re good and we squashed it. What’s out on the field is left out on the field so there’s no beef going into the building. It’s just like it’s a family, and brothers sometimes fight. It just happens sometimes, but we leave it out there on the field and go back to work. That’s all that matters.”

The Messenger Post’s Jack Haley was able to get photos of the first camp fight.

With the expectations of the team to make the postseason, and a lot of depth on Buffalo’s roster for the first time in a while, competition is as hot and heavy as the weather. However, the head coach wants to make sure competitiveness doesn’t turn into combativeness.

“They shouldn’t do that,” Marrone said of the tustle. “That’s not what’re we’re looking for.”

Both Woods and Searcy said after practice that they’ve put the incident behind them. The combativeness is something that may be necessary for the Bills when they play guys with the opposite color jerseys, but not for right now.

Nigel Bradham (53) walks with linebackers Jimmy Gaines (45), Ty Powell (57), and Keith Rivers (56). Photo by Robin Lalisse
Nigel Bradham (53) walks with linebackers Jimmy Gaines (45), Ty Powell (57), and Keith Rivers (56). Photo by Robin Lalisse

5. Nigel Bradham playing very well at new spot in new scheme

Bradham had his struggles last season in the 3-4 defense under Mike Pettine, but Marrone said today that he has seen “more of a commitment” from Bradham this off-season, very good news considering the state of the linebacker core following the Kiko Alonso injury.

“He came back and really had solid OTAs and really played well,” said Marrone. “I think that when the situation happened with Kiko [Alonso], in talking with (defensive coordinator) Jim [Schwartz], we’d been talking to Nigel for a while and how pleased we were with his play. We said, ‘Hey, you know what? We’ve got a guy here that’s been playing really well that’s a heck of an athlete that’s played and done some good things.’ I’m excited about him having that opportunity.”

Bradham performing at a great level is big for a defense shifting to Schwartz’s 4-3, as his size and speed combination potentially makes him a great fit as a weakside linebacker. That being said, there is still a lot of camp left, and Keith Rivers, Ty Powell, and Preston Brown won’t just let Bradham be guaranteed a starting spot.

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