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Rex Ryan gives QBs a break by holding D-line out of practice

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan held his first-team defensive line out of full-team drills Thursday, the final day of minicamp.

When asked if the move was designed to help out his quarterbacks, who struggled in Wednesday's practice, Ryan responded, with a grin, "Oh I wouldn't say that," but then added, "You guys posted every [quarterback] stat known to man [in reporters' stories this week] and I'm like, ‘All right, that's enough, big boys ain't in there today.'

"So it's a little easier to function when that front four ain't in there today. So we did that a little bit. But when you combine talent with scheme, it's gonna be pretty spectacular over on the other side, I believe. We'll see."

Swapping out a first-team group that includes Jerry Hughes and three Pro Bowlers -- Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams -- for a second-team unit that consisted of Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant, Alex Carrington and Jarius Wynn partly allowed EJ Manuel to have his best practice that reporters have seen this spring.

"Kind of looked a little watered down over there on defense," Ryan said, smiling. "But it was good, and it was great to see. But yeah, he looked pretty good. He had some nice plays today."

Manuel went 5-for-5 in the first and only 11-on-11 period, hitting tight end Charles Clay and receiver Sammy Watkins in stride on crossing patterns and lofting a touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin, who made a one-handed catch after beating cornerback Ron Brooks down the sideline.

Veteran Matt Cassel split first-team reps with Manuel and wasn't as sharp, overthrowing Percy Harvin on what would have been a sack by linebacker Ty Powell and later missing Robert Woods on a comeback pattern.

Manuel was the only quarterback to complete the two-minute drill with a touchdown, hitting Marcus Easley in stride at the pylon over cornerback Ronald Darby. Manuel had faced a fourth down earlier in the sequence but fired a bullet to receiver Justin Brown over safety Corey Graham to extend the series.

Cassel was intercepted by Ross Cockrell on a fourth-down slant pattern in the two-minute drill, while Taylor's attempt ended on a third-down interception by cornerback Mario Butler on a deep pass.

Cassel and Tyrod Taylor split first-team reps in a 7-on-7 red zone drill. Cassel completed two check-downs to running backs Fred Jackson and LeSean McCoy and overthrew Caleb Holley in the end zone on his final pass. Taylor found tight end Chris Gragg short of the goal line on a scramble and overthrew receiver Andre Davis on his second rep.