"I think if we have our running game going, [Manuel will] feel more comfortable relying on that instead of having him going out there saying 'EJ, we need you to throw the ball,'" Spiller said. It was a sentiment that Manuel parroted after practice.
"When you have great talent like that on the backfield, it's always a huge friend to the quarterback," said Manuel. "If the running game is great, the passing game should open up as well."
That's where Spiller, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown come in. Last season, the Bills finished second in rushing offense, but 28th in passing. Much of that had to do with injuries to Manuel, which pressed Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel into service. If all of the key pieces can stay relatively healthy, Buffalo has a beguiling offensive attack. But if Spiller and Jackson falter, it could have a ripple effect on Manuel, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and others.
Running for the top job in Washington
A new head coach generally means a new philosophy on offense and defense. Jay Gruden and his newly appointed staff taking over in Washington has led to questions about what will happen with the running game. Alfred Morris will undoubtedly remain the starter, but what happens behind him? Will there be a training camp running back competition in the making?
Waiting in the wings is Roy Helu, but he's likely to be pushed by the duo of Chris Thompson and rookie Lache Seastrunk. According to CSN Washington's Tarik El-Bashir, Gruden is more enamored with Thompson's ability as a punt returner, while Seastrunk still has plenty to learn about pass protection and route running -- two things that Helu already does very well.
One thing seems clear: Washington's rushing attack might not change too drastically from the scheme that previous offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ran. The biggest clue is that veteran fullback Darrel Young's job is reportedly safe. If the main battering ram in front of Morris isn't going anywhere, don't look for Morris' role to vary too much.
» Few camp battles will be as closely monitored as the quarterback competition in Cleveland. That attention is only going to become more focused now that head coach Mike Pettine has said the team plans to name its starter before the third preseason game. The coaching staff is still determining how to divide the reps in practice, but this tug-of-war should be a little more even than it was during minicamp. Rookie Johnny Manziel seemed to take the lead during offseason minicamp, but incumbent starter Brian Hoyer says he's a full go after suffering a torn ACL last season. According to Pettine, leadership qualities will play a part in it. That could work in Hoyer's favor -- especially if Cleveland is forced to endure a season without Josh Gordon.
» Speaking of rookie quarterbacks ... Teddy Bridgewatercould be facing an uphill battle to be the Vikings starter for Week 1. While head coach Mike Zimmer hasn't intimated who the top quarterback will be this season, most observers think veteran Matt Cassel will get the nod. Nonetheless, Bridgewater has shown some good things in his limited first-team reps. He'll need to continue that in training camp in order to surpass Cassel -- or at least hold off Christian Ponder.
» Last season, plenty of Giants fans and fantasy owners were nervous about seeing Eli Mannign on the field. This season, it's the veteran quarterback who's admitting to some nerves. Manning told the New York Post that he still isn't where he wants to be with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's scheme but says it will come together "with repetition and more plays." At this point in his career, Manning's fantasy stock is on a downward trajectory. He'll have a hard time being drafted in many leagues, but if Manning can elevate his play after a dreadful 2013, he could become an interesting waiver wire option.
» Travis Kelce was expected to be a contributor to the Chiefs offense last season, but microfracture surgery prevented him from playing all but one special teams snap. This season, the young tight end is healthy and has been working with Alex Smith. The plan is to have Kelce as the main pass-catching tight end in Kansas City's offense -- that could be significant when you consider the success of players like Brent Celek during Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia. Just don't expect huge things from Kelce right out of the chute.