Joe B: 5 Bills practice notes from September 8

Joe B: 5 Bills practice notes from September 8
Posted at 5:56 PM, Sep 08, 2015

The Buffalo Bills took to the practice field for the first time since getting down to their final 53 for the roster — and they did so with a roster move to show off.

The Bills welcomed back a familiar face as they started to prepare for the Indianapolis Colts. Here are five notes from today’s practice:

1) He’s baaaack: Cassel rejoins Bills, to backup Taylor
- It was only a three day stay for former first-round pick EJ Manuel as the primary backup for the Buffalo Bills. Following his release on Saturday, the team reached back out and re-signed veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to the roster, and immediately named him the backup to Tyrod Taylor at this point in time. The move adds up for a few different reasons. The coaching staff really like Cassel for the team, as evidenced by just how close he came to winning the starting job. The front office, however, didn’t like the idea of a backup quarterback counting $4.75 million against the salary cap. So, the Bills took the calculated risk of releasing Cassel to sign him back at a reduced rate, and were rewarded. Now, it’s as though nothing ever changed for the Bills. Taylor won the job outright, his main competitor Cassel will be his direct backup, and the Bills will continue to try and bring Manuel along.

2) EJ shoots down trade talk
- Now that the Bills have three quarterbacks on the roster again, the next question is what direction they have for the former first-round pick EJ Manuel. Cassel is the backup, which means Manuel is now relegated to scout team duty and may not even dress on game days. The natural progression for a former first-round quarterback that hasn’t yet secured his hold on a job is the trade market. Manuel told reporters that he hasn’t requested a trade, and that he felt good with where he was at.

"The league works in mysterious ways sometimes, and it's a business, so I know the opportunity will come," Manuel said. "I just have to be ready for it."

For now, Manuel will play the part of Andrew Luck this week to try and get the Bills defense prepared for the Indianapolis Colts. And if the situation arises where there’s either an injury or poor play with the quarterbacks ahead of him, Manuel will still be there. The Bills, despite the demotion, have continued to say they have confidence in the former first-round pick.

3) McCoy progressing
- We’re still one day away from the Bills having to issue an official injury report for the week, but on Tuesday, the man with the biggest question mark over his head was out there and participating — well, at least in the portion the media was able to see. Running back LeSean McCoy injured his hamstring during training camp and hasn’t gotten into a game since, to which the Bills have remained “cautiously optimistic” about his chances to play against the Colts. If McCoy cannot play, keep an eye on the status of rookie runner Karlos Williams. Before his hospitalization, Williams catapulted himself into the backup job and it’s likely to be his upon his return from injury. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman wouldn’t tip his hand to reporters, but it’s clear that Williams is the most explosive option between him, Anthony Dixon, and Bryce Brown.

4) No Manny Lawson
- A peculiar absence from Tuesday’s practice revolved around starting strongside linebacker Manny Lawson. Head coach Rex Ryan did not speak with the media on Tuesday, which means we’ll have to wait until Wednesday to hear exactly why Lawson missed time. Lawson is a steady hand at that position, and someone who thrives in setting the edge against the run more so than he does when rushing the passer. However, if he can’t play, the Bills have an incredibly intriguing option backing him up, that seems tailor made for Ryan’s defense. Second-year linebacker Randell Johnson has a lot of natural ability rushing the passer, and is learning the linebacker position as he goes. His blend of size and speed is hard to find, and he could be the eventual starter either later this year or in 2016. So if Lawson can’t play, perhaps Johnson can help bridge the gap.

5) Practice squad moves on the way?
- Fresh off their latest roster move to release rookie tight end Nick O’Leary in favor of the addition of veteran quarterback Matt Cassel, it seems as though there could be secondary moves on the way. Quarterback Alex Tanney, who was signed to the practice squad over the long weekend, was nowhere to be found on the field Tuesday which indicates either and injury, or that a roster move has been made. Since this would have been Tanney’s first practice, odds are with the explanation for his absence being of the roster move variety. Since the Bills kept O’Leary on the initial 53-man roster, perhaps they’re trying to get him back on the practice squad. The sixth-round pick had a disappointing summer and was surpassed by both Matthew Mulligan and Chris Gragg on the depth chart. Inside linebacker Kevin Reddick, another member of the practice squad, was also absent from the field. According to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle, cornerback Merrill Noel has signed with the Bills practice squad, and that could be the direct reason for Reddick’s absence as well. Either way, we know at least one practice squad move is coming.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia





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