PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- All eyes remain on the quarterbacks at Buffalo Bills training camp.
Through three practices, none of the quarterbacks has stood out as leading the competition, although the Bills are giving Matt Cassel more reps with the first team than either Tyrod Taylor or EJ Manuel because of Cassel's age and experience level.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has included two 11-on-11 periods in each of his first three practices. The first period features two simultaneous 11-on-11 drills, while the second period is a single 11-on-11 drill. When the Bills are in the former, their "two spot" drill," I've kept my focus on the first-team group, where Cassel and a rotation of Manuel and Taylor have split reps.
I've kept track of completion rates in each of these drills. It's dangerous to read too much into these numbers, since they can favor a quarterback who checks down to a shorter route or throws a designed screen pass over a quarterback who takes more shots downfield. There are also judgment calls made about sacks, since contact with the quarterback isn't allowed.
Further, the competition is fluid and unpredictable. When the Bills next practice on Monday evening, nothing would surprise me, whether it's Manuel performing well or Cassel performing poorly.
With that disclaimer, here are the first three days' worth of passing stats and some observations about each quarterback from 11-on-11 drills and other parts of practice:
Friday, first 11-on-11 period: 3-for-4, interception
Friday, second 11-on-11 period: 2-for-3
Saturday, first 11-on-11 period: 1-for-3
Saturday, second 11-on-11 period: 3-for-4
Sunday, first 11-on-11 period: no passes, three sacks
Sunday, second 11-on-11 period: 3-for-3, sack
Total: 12-for-17, four sacks, one interception
Observations: Cassel's stats are better than the other two quarterbacks but to my eye, he hasn't stood out above either of them. He'll miss throws in routes against unguarded receivers that you would expect a more experienced quarterback to hit. Most of his completions have come on check downs. Cassel improved Sunday and generally looks better than he did in the spring but that isn't saying much -- he still has been shaky.
Friday, first 11-on-11 period: 1-for-2, touchdown, sack
Friday, second 11-on-11 period: 1-for-3, one receiver drop, two sacks
Saturday, second 11-on-11 period: 2-for-3, two sacks
Sunday, first 11-on-11 period: no passes, one sack, one scramble, one defensive holding penalty
Sunday, second 11-on-11 period: 2-for-2
Total: 6-for-10, six sacks, one touchdown, one scramble, one defensive holding penalty, one receiver drop
Observations: As advertised, Taylor will hold the ball and try to make plays with his feet more than the other two quarterbacks. He'll spin and scramble out of the pocket when his receiver isn't open. Since the defensive line can't hit Taylor in practice, it can be hard to judge when Taylor would have been sacked. He has a strong arm and will loft some deep balls, but it's easy to see him getting in trouble attempting those throws in game action.
Friday, second 11-on-11 period: 0-for-1, two sacks
Saturday, first 11-on-11 period: 0-for-5
Saturday, second 11-on-11 period: 1-for-2, one receiver drop, one scramble
Sunday, second 11-on-11 period: 1-for-2, one sack, one botched snap
Total: 2-for-10, three sacks, one botched snap, one scramble, one receiver drop
Observations: The Bills' rotation between quarterbacks means that Manuel has been with the first group only once in their "two spot" drill, although he will presumably get time with the top group in Monday evening's practice. Since there are simultaneous 11-on-11 drills, I haven't been able to watch Manuel's reps with the second and third teams, so my insight is limited to his action with the first team. It hasn't been pretty. His 0-for-5 sequence Saturday featured three bad misfires and a near interception. He ended June's minicamp on a high note but hasn't been able to recapture that accuracy. Aside from a perfect lofted throw to Robert Woods in a 1-on-1 drill Saturday, he has looked out of sorts so far in training camp.