PITTSFORD – Doug Marrone’s patience regarding his team’s propensity to take penalties officially ran out Monday morning.
Marrone temporarily paused practice and absolutely lit up his team after there was movement along the offensive line inside the red zone.
His frustration is understandable. Through the first two preseason games, the Bills have been flagged a whopping 23 times for 180 yards.
“Obviously it has been too much,” Marrone said after practice at St. John Fisher College. “When we get into situations — especially the red zone — when we work on those drills and we work on those situations, we have to constantly remind ourselves of that and really up our focus because we don’t want any penalties down there. They do, they hurt. It’s very hard to make up certain downs and situations in this league.”
Marrone especially loses his cool with what he calls “unforced errors,” penalties that occur before the snap of the ball.
“I get very upset. The players know I get very upset,” he said. “Jumping offsides and things like that, those are things you can truly control and I think that’s where I would use the word frustration.”
While Marrone was particularly upset by a red zone offensive penalty today, only one of those has been called on the Bills this preseason, a holding call against guard Colin Brown in the second quarter against Minnesota.
The Bills have, however, been flagged for seven penalties before the snap, including one for having 12 men in the huddle and another when a cornerback (Nickell Robey) jumped offside. There have been nine offensive or defensive holding penalties, personal fouls on Ron Brooks (for taunting) and Marcus Easley (unsportsmanlike conduct), two illegal blocks above the waist called on Dominique Ellis and a defensive pass interference flag on Robey.
“I think with penalties, people tend to look at the number at the end of the game. I tend to cut them all out and evaluate them all. To say ‘OK was this a penalty? Was this forced by us just being aggressive? Is it a penalty forced on us not being focused?’ We’re trying to play, and we’re just a little too soon. I think you have to manage those as a coach because you can over-manage a situation and lose that aggressiveness in a player,” Marrone said. “We’ve seen that with everyone. We have to make that a point of emphasis for our players and again evaluate the situations, which is what we do.”
Another troublesome part of the penalties: nine of them have come in the first quarter of the two games, when the starters are in. That means they’re not coming from an overeager reserve trying to make a play.
Even Marrone himself is worried about getting flagged. He said the biggest point of emphasis that has been communicated to him from officials is to stay off the field.
“The officials have been talking to me quite a bit making sure that I keep my butt on the sideline. So that seems like a big point of emphasis this year,” he said.
A pair of two-minute drills that resulted in touchdowns saved what was otherwise a day to forget for the Bills’ offense.
Kevin Kolb directed the first scoring drive, completing three straight passes to Stevie Johnson to start.
After a run for no gain and a sack by Jamie Blatnick, Kolb connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin, who beat Robey down the right sideline.
Jeff Tuel was next, and his first play in the two-minute session was a big one: a 49-yard gain down the right sideline to Da’Rick Rogers. Tuel then completed consecutive passes to Brandon Kaufman and Marcus Easley for short gains, before two straight run plays by Tashard Choice. On third-and-goal, Tuel hit Choice on a swing pass for a touchdown.
It was exactly the finish to practice Tuel needed. The undrafted free agent had started the 11-on-11 portion of the workout by going 0 for 8. He was also sacked four times, including a stretch of four plays in which Kyle Williams was in the backfield three times. By unofficial count, Tuel took 28 reps, while Kolb got 32.
There were several good plays turned in by Bills’ defenders. As mentioned, Kyle Williams was in the backfield all morning, and Kiko Alonso, Jerry Hughes and Alan Branch also were in on sacks.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine dialed up several pressures, including one from safety Da’Norris Searcy, who had a direct line at Tuel and forced a hurried throw that was incomplete. On one play, the Bills blitzed both safeties, Searcy and Aaron Williams, at Kolb.
Aaron Williams earlier made an interception of Kolb during 7-on-7s on a ball that deflected off the hands of Stevie Johnson.
Marrone said quarterback EJ Manuel’s surgery Sunday morning on his left knee was a success.
Manuel was back with his teammates by Sunday afternoon. He did not watch practice Monday, as doctors directed him to stay off his feet for 48 hours.
Marrone said Manuel was attending quarterback meetings and reviewing practice tape.
The coach was planning to meet with team doctors again Monday afternoon to discuss a timetable for Manuel’s return. The Bills on Sunday said he would be out for the rest of the preseason, then re-evaluated.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the doctors say to see if it’s going to be shorter,” Marrone said. “The message I got from the doctor was everything went great.”