Bills built for speed with young receivers

It’s no coincidence, receiver T.J. Graham points out, that the

Buffalo Bills opened training camp by putting on an aerial display

featuring one deep completion after another.

The Bills’ intention during a two-minute session that finished

after 10 consecutive long bombs into the end zone was to create an

early buzz by showing off their young and speedy stable of

receivers.

”Coming out as an offense with a bunch of newly acquired

weapons, coming out and showing what we can do with it was the

point of that,” Graham said, recalling the camp-opening practice

in suburban Rochester. ”It’s just showing what we could do. The

quarterbacks love it, and the receivers love it, too. The deep ball

is touchdown. It’s money.”

Some 10 days later, very little has changed in the practice

repertoire, with the offense continuing to find time to put an

emphasis on its newfound ability to spread the field.

Whether it was rookie quarterback EJ Manuel hooking up with

Graham twice on that first day of camp, or Manuel hitting rookie

Marquise Goodwin on a 63-yard touchdown pass to end practice

Friday. Even third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel got involved by

completing a 45-yard throw to Goodwin during a scrimmage

Monday.

These new-look Bills are showing signs of being built for speed

with a revamped group of receivers.

It’s a new approach for a team that was previously knocked for

its dink-and-dunk, popgun attack under former coach Chan Gailey,

who was fired after three losing seasons.

And it comes with the arrival of first-time coach Doug Marrone

who, along with first-time coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, are

installing an up-tempo, no-huddle and aggressive style of

offense.

”You always heard the saying, `Luck follows speed,”’ Marrone

said, noting he first heard the saying from Dick MacPherson, his

college coach at Syracuse. ”I just believe in that. I think when

you have speed, it opens some things up.”

The Bills’ rookie draft class reflects Marrone’s philosophy.

Buffalo used a second-round pick to draft Robert Woods out of

Southern California, and followed by selecting Goodwin, a Texas

speedster and Olympic-caliber long-jumper, in the third round.

They join Graham, a second-year player, who was both a receiver

and track star at North Carolina State. And the group is rounded

out by returning starter Stevie Johnson, who will miss about two

weeks after pulling his hamstring on Friday.

Johnson’s injury turns the focus to the Bills’ young receivers

heading into the team’s preseason opener at Indianapolis on

Sunday.

That’s fine with Goodwin.

”It’s an opportunity to show what we’re capable of,” Goodwin

said. ”(The Bills) know what we’re capable of, or else they

wouldn’t have hired us for the job. It’s all about just proving it

to everybody else out here.”

Aside from speed, the youngsters have also shown signs of having

good hands and being versatile.

Woods is capable of playing both the slot and wideout spots

alongside Johnson.

Quarterback Kevin Kolb has been particularly impressed with

Woods.

”Stud. Legitimately a stud,” Kolb said last week, before he

hurt his left knee. ”Not just talent, the kid can run better than

I think anyone gives him credit for.”

Goodwin has proven to be a better receiver than the Bills

initially expected. On Monday, he made two acrobatic catches on

deep passes, both times coming down with the ball.

”I think you’re always excited about a guy like that,” Hackett

said of Goodwin. ”I think what he’s done out here up to this

point, I don’t think really anybody expected. … I’m really

excited to see how he’s going to be able to help us out.”

The speed among his receivers makes it easy on Hackett when it

comes to designing deep passes.

”It’s hard to out-throw them,” Hackett said. ”We just say

when those fast guys are out there, `Just drop back and throw it as

far as you can.”’

NOTES: Kolb, who is excused to attend a death in his family, is

expected to return for practice Friday, Marrone said. It won’t be

determined until after practice whether Kolb will play at

Indianapolis. … CB Leodis McKelvin was held out of practice due

to soreness. … Former NFL center Kevin Mawae was one of five

selected to be the team’s Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship

participants and serve as coaching interns during training

camp.

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