on August 2, 2013 - 11:19 PM
PITTSFORD — EJ Manuel continued his strong first week of training camp by closing Friday’s practice with a picturesque, 63-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to Marquise Goodwin.
The Bills’ first-round draft choice made a hard throw look easy, lofting a touch pass 40 yards in the air and into the arms of Goodwin, who made the catch in perfect stride and raced into the end zone.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett raced downfield to celebrate the score. Head coach Doug Marrone decided it was a perfect play on which to close and declared practice over.
“I think he’s done an amazing job,” said fellow quarterback Kevin Kolb of Manuel. “He gets better every day. He works hard. He studies.”
Manuel is off to a fast start. He has looked professional. He has showed off his great arm. He has looked decent or better every day. He has yet to display a rookie-like, deer-in-the-headlights look.
“No, he doesn’t have that look in his eye at all,” Kolb said. “The thing I like about him is he doesn’t have pride as far as when he doesn’t know something, he asks the question. A lot of times players don’t do that because they want to look smarter than they are. He’s not afraid to put himself out there and be vulnerable and that’s how you learn fast and get better. I commend him for that.”
It’s way too early to say Manuel is going to win the starting quarterback job out of training camp. Manuel will need to keep it going and look competent in preseason games.
But: So far, so good for the 16th overall pick in the draft.
“I feel great,” Manuel said. “I think I’ve done well. I think the biggest thing for me, like I said last week, is to continue to be consistent. Continue to build on what we’ve done as a team these past five days in practice. Each day is a new day for me. Just continue to get better.”
Kolb looked shaky at times the first four days. But the seventh-year NFL veteran had his best day of camp Friday and outperformed Manuel overall during the 2ø-hour practice at St. John Fisher College.
Bills coach Doug Marrone acknowledged Manuel’s good start.
“We’re very, very pleased,” Marrone said. But the coach resisted gushing or overreacting to five days of practice work.
“Kevin made some really good plays today, I think that’s part of the experience, what he’s doing,” Marrone said. “That’s a heckuva battle right now.”
Once again, Kolb got more of the snaps with the starters. Overall, Manuel took 30 snaps, Kolb 29 and Jeff Tuel eight during 11-on-11 drills.
“As far as the pass attempts, Kevin has probably 20 to 30 more at this time,” Marrone said. “We’ve been monitoring that, keeping it close.”
Marrone also made it clear Manuel has a lot to learn.
“He came in with a bad play late and made a big play at the end,” Marrone said. “You just see it. You see the little things he has to work on. Getting the ball down in the red zone.”
Manuel fired a bit too high for tight end Lee Smith over the middle on his last inside-the-20 snap Friday. In red-zone work Wednesday, he missed tight end Chris Gragg with an overthrow over the middle. But eye-opening misfires have been a rarity for Manuel.
And he has thrown some beautiful deep balls, like the one to Goodwin, the rookie speedster from Texas. Manuel had just been sacked on a blitz by safety Mana Silva and faced a fourth-and-8 play in the two-minute drill.
“It was just a go route,” Goodwin said. “I just went inside, baited the corner outside, slipped inside of him and then stacked on top of him and ran right to the ball. It was perfect timing.”
Kolb, meanwhile, also produced a touchdown on the two-minute drill. He eluded a blitz from safety Duke Williams - it was debatable whether he would have been sacked - and found rookie Robert Woods wide open for a TD of about 20 yards down the left side.
Other Kolb highlights: A bullet to Gragg on the right side of the end zone for a TD; and 18-yard slant pass to Brad Smith; and an 11-yard touch pass in the back middle of the end zone to T.J. Graham.
“I feel like every practice has gotten better and better for myself,” said Kolb, who has a 9-12 record as a starter with the Eagles and Cardinals. “I feel more comfortable out there. I feel more comfortable with the play calls, with the footwork. There’s always going to be a little bit of rust when you come into training camp.”
“Today by far was not only my best day, but I think as an offense those last three or four team periods, I think we looked as smooth as we have so far,” Kolb said.