7 Bills training camp observations: Day 9

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WKBW) - Through training camp, the Buffalo Bills have seen a day from each one of their quarterbacks that made them think and hope someone would eventually take hold of the starting job. Most recently it was Tyrod Taylor, before that EJ Manuel, and on Monday, it was Matt Cassel.

Clear as day, Cassel went and had his best day of training camp thus far. That, plus six other observations from Monday’s practice:

1) Cassel wins the day by a large margin
- The Buffalo Bills have been waiting for one player at quarterback to show enough consistency and be the best player, day after day. They still don’t have that, but the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race style of Matt Cassel shot ahead on Monday. Cassel’s big day, in addition to the inaccuracy of EJ Manuel, helped the veteran to take the lead in the quarterback competition at the moment. Cassel was sharp all throughout practice, hitting his receivers in stride in routes versus air and then in team drills. Even more impressive, Cassel struck pay dirt quite a bit during the session in team drills. On consecutive plays, the quarterback found Charles Clay, and then Percy Harvin in the end zone for a throw of over 20 yards. He put an exclamation point on the day when he hit Sammy Watkins for a deep, 44-yard touchdown down the left sideline. Cassel ended up 9-for-12 with three touchdowns and three sacks taken on Monday, while Tyrod Taylor went 6-of-7 with two sacks taken, and EJ Manuel completed 3-of-10 passes with one interception (that was the receiver’s fault), while being brought down three times for a sack. Cassel is the safest option of the three, and if he can continue to show he won’t turn the ball over and can just mind the store, he’ll be the clear favorite to start the regular season.

2) Robert Woods vs. Stephon Gilmore
- It took almost nine practices, but the Buffalo Bills had their first temper-flaring fight at training camp on Monday. The adversaries? Wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. On the play, Matt Cassel was flushed out from the pocket and went to scramble, so Woods started to block Gilmore down the field a little ways. One of the two players started going high with their hands into the facemask area, the other one retaliated, and before you knew it Robert Woods’ helmet popped off and the fists started flying. Gilmore took swings at the helmet-less Woods, and Woods took swings at the helmeted Gilmore — both of which were not smart. Woods probably took about six swings before the two were eventually separated. Rex Ryan said after practice that he’d prefer that his guys not fight one another, but also knew it’s a part of training camp. Cooler heads prevailed and the situation was squashed shortly after.

3) Kyle Williams leaves practice early
- It was a scary moment for the Bills. The first-team offense was up against the first-team defense, and it was a simple handoff to rookie running back Karlos Williams. Marcell Dareus met him in the running lane, and whipped him around. Williams couldn’t hold his footing, and Dareus essentially threw the 220-pound runner into Kyle Williams’ lower half, and the defensive tackle went down immediately. He got up slowly and was checked on by the training staff, and then went to the locker room to end his day earlier. Rex Ryan said not to worry, however, and that the injury is merely a bruise on his quad. The head coach expects Williams to be out three-to-four days, which could rule him out of the preseason game on Friday. Wide receiver Caleb Holley (grade 2 hamstring pull) and tight end Chris Manhertz (ribs) seemed to suffer the more significant injuries of the day, while defensive end Alex Carrington (bruised rotator cuff) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (illness) left the practice early with minor ailments.

4) Corbin Bryant steps up… again
- With Kyle Williams sitting out the majority of practice, the Bills used defensive tackle Corbin Bryant on the first-team defense alongside Marcell Dareus. Bryant has more than earned the opportunity during training camp, making flash plays almost on a daily basis. And with that opportunity? To no one’s surprise, Bryant was all over the field and made multiple plays against the offense. Stefan Charles has also been impressive, but Bryant has been one of the best, and most noticeable players at training camp this year.

5) Mario Williams is as good as he wants to be
- One name we haven’t heard much from in training camp is defensive end Mario Williams, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Monday. Williams, against the first-team offensive line, couldn’t be blocked when he put on the full-court press on his assignment. On one series against the first-team offense, Williams torched Seantrel Henderson and John Miller on separate plays to blow the play up in the backfield. It just goes to show, when Mario Williams wants it, he’s damn near unblockable with his blend of size, strength, and speed.

6) Karlos Williams moves ahead of Bryce Brown
- Following the end of last week’s practices, the least surprising thing happened on Monday: Karlos Williams moving ahead of Bryce Brown on the depth chart. Brown lost a fumble in consecutive practices on Friday and Saturday, and then lost his footing with the first-team for the reps behind LeSean McCoy. With both Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon sidelined with an injury, it was a huge opportunity for both Brown and Williams to step forward. Williams has, while Brown has all but blown it. After practice, Rex Ryan told reporters that Brown was disappointing, to put it mildly. If he doesn’t turn it around, Brown could find himself out of a job completely.

7) The man behind Clay? MarQueis Gray, it seems
- Most, including yours truly, expected the race behind Charles Clay at tight end to be rookie Nick O’Leary’s to lose. Now nine practices in, it appears the man just behind Clay on the depth chart is former college quarterback MarQueis Gray, not O’Leary. Gray is an impressive athlete, with good size for the position and solid speed to go along with it. He also offers versatility as an H-back if they choose to go that route on any given play. If he can equal O’Leary as a blocker, he’ll get a hearty amount of playing time in 2015 in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s tight end-friendly system.

Bills MVP: DE Jerry Hughes
- Just like Mario Wililams, we haven’t heard much from Jerry Hughes like in most training camps. That was not the case on Monday, with Hughes beating every offensive lineman he went up against — and easily. It didn’t matter if it was Cordy Glenn or a third-string player, Hughes was constantly in the backfield. Glenn has gotten the better of him for most of training camp, but not Monday.

Bills LVP: QB EJ Manuel
- Manuel had a huge opportunity to gain solid footing in the quarterback competition following the scrimmage, in which Rex Ryan said he was impressed the most by the former first-round pick. Instead, Manuel had one of his worst practices of the summer. Even though the interception wasn’t his fault, the inaccuracy throughout the session was.

Not practicing: HB Fred Jackson, S Aaron Williams, HB Anthony Dixon, CB Ross Cockrell, LB Jimmy Gaines, CB Merrill Noel, DE B.J Larsen, CB Leodis McKelvin, K Dan Carpenter, CB Cam Thomas

Up Next: Day 10 on Tuesday, August 11 from 10 am to 12 pm. Practice is open to the general public, and a ticket is not needed for entry.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

Missed any days? Practice notes from previous sessions:

Friday, July 31 - Day 1

Saturday, August 1 - Day 2

Sunday, August 2 - Day 3

Monday, August 3 - Day 4

Wednesday, August 5 - Day 5

Thursday, August 6 - Day 6

Friday, August 7 - Day 7

Saturday, August 8 - Day 8 (Scrimmage)




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