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Bills' quarterbacks, offense sluggish in Saturday scrimmage

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan had billed Saturday night's intrasquad scrimmage as an opportunity for a quarterback to step up in the Buffalo Bills' ongoing competition -- or for the cream to rise to the top, as he put it.

Instead, an uneven evening from Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor offered few answers and left Ryan a bit underwhelmed.

"I was hoping to see something else pop through there or whatever, but it didn't," he said afterward when asked if he thought the three-way battle had yielded the results he had hoped to this point.

Ryan had been touting the scrimmage, which featured 17 periods of live 11-on-11 action, as "just as important as a preseason game." He didn't want fans or reporters to read too much into the first week of training camp practices, but the scrimmage was supposed to up the ante.

Yet his three top quarterbacks went a combined 15-for-30 for 208 yards -- managing one touchdown and two field goals despite starting drives either from their own 30- or 35-yard line -- and so Ryan had to pump the brakes on any knee-jerk evaluations about the offense after the scrimmage.

"I'm used to having a great defense and I think sometimes the defense at this stage of the game is way ahead of the offense," Ryan said. "I don't anticipate any points, [the defense] never gives up any points in these things, going back to my Baltimore days as a coordinator.

"So it doesn't happen a whole lot when you have to drive 70 yards like that against a good defense. So I'm not surprised by that at all. Again guys, we're putting in plays. Our fans aren't the only ones watching these things. So again, that's something of note as well. We know there's other teams here, and so we played pretty vanilla."

Despite the strength of the Bills' defense and the Bills' fears of showing too much to the wrong people in front of a capacity crowd at St. John Fisher College's Growney Stadium, the offense had opportunities to perform better Saturday night and it didn't.

Matt Cassel went 2-of-6 passing for 27 yards, hitting Chris Hogan for a 17-yard gain against the third-team defense but missing Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods on a couple of his other throws.

EJ Manuel, who drew praise from Ryan after the game, had the best night of the three quarterbacks. His first throw of the night went for a 25-yard gain to Percy Harvin, he found Hogan for a 43-yard gain against the second-team defense and he tossed the scrimmage's only touchdown on an 18-yard, toe-tapping grab by Bryce Brown at the pylon.

Yet Manuel still finished 5-for-11 by underthrowing, overthrowing and otherwise missing receivers in the same way that he has for most of training camp.

Taylor had gained momentum with several quality practices this week but slipped slightly Saturday, finishing 8-for-13 for 77 yards. He notably missed an open Andre Davis in the end zone for a would-be touchdown, a play that Ryan said had him "slightly disappointed" in Taylor's night.

In three carries before being sidelined with hamstring tightness, star running back LeSean McCoy managed just two yards. Brown averaged 3.1 yards on 11 carries and fumbled on his third run of the night, the third time that Brown has lost the ball in training camp.

Fifth-round rookie Karlos Williams also had an uneven night, finishing with 53 yards on 15 carries. Williams' highlight was a 15-yard run against the third-team defense, but his offensive line did him no favors when he was stopped from third-and-1 and again from fourth-and-1 later in the scrimmage.