After a rusty start to 2009 Buffalo Bills training camp, Trent Edwards and Buffalo's offense rebounded on day two, making plenty of big plays through the air and looking much more cohesive in general. Another rookie has signed as well. The news wasn't all positive, however, as the Bills did lose two players to injury - one of them perhaps for the season. Jump in for day two's recap - and if you're looking for photos, see the below post or click on that picture above (which, by the way, proves that the play-action pass exists in Buffalo).
Perhaps the most important news of the day was Buffalo's signing rookie OG Andy Levitre to a contract. Levitre will become the second of five Bills rookies to hit the practice field after the start of camp when he takes the field Monday; color us curious to see how he's rotated in at left guard, where Kirk Chambers has been taking first-team reps. With Levitre in the fold, three rookies (DE Aaron Maybin, OG Eric Wood and FS Jairus Byrd) remain unsigned. All are expected to be in camp by the end of this coming week.
Worth noting from the field, re: quarterbacks
Trent Edwards was a little off on Saturday, throwing several bad passes along with his big ones. That changed Sunday, as Edwards repeatedly made good throws and appeared to quickly knock the rust off.
Edwards hit at least five passes of twenty yards or longer in the morning session, including three to Terrell Owens - one of which was a 50-yard scoring strike. Trent's hot hand continued into the afternoon workout, as he hooked up with Lee Evans on a 40-yard bomb that Evans caught over two defenders.
When an offense is making big plays, someone on your defense is getting victimized. Today, it was second-year CB Leodis McKelvin. To his credit, he also made a few plays himself on Saturday (and had a pass break-up today); his coverage assignment isn't exactly easy, either, no matter who he's lining up across.
Buffalo's backup quarterbacks continue to struggle, however. We've heard that they were a bit more crisp than they were on Saturday, particularly in the afternoon session, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gibran Hamdan are still quite erratic. MattRichWarren, who covered camp for Buffalo Rumblings all weekend, noticed that Edwards was throwing from three-step drops quite frequently. Most will point to a re-structured line as the reason for that wrinkle, but we're willing to bet the backups have a bit to do with it as well. We need Trent healthy.
Schonert tinkering with offensive personnel
With a wealth of talent at his disposal, offensive coordinator Turk Schonert has begun tinkering with his personnel to try to create mismatches. We'd already seen RB Fred Jackson and TE Shawn Nelson lined up in the slot in mini-camps; that continued today, with another TE, Derek Schouman, joining them there. Meanwhile, Roscoe Parrish worked with the second-unit receivers ahead of Steve Johnson, proof that Schonert hasn't forgotten about his ultra-quick receiving option. Parrish made some nice receptions on the day.
Johnson, meanwhile, continued to impress, even while working with lower units. He caught a long scoring pass from Fitzpatrick, and has made a few nice grabs over the first four practices.
While tight ends Schouman and Fine continue to duke it out for the starting role at the position, it's worth noting that Nelson took some reps with the first-team offense, lining up on the line. Buffalo has always been a team that likes to use multiple tight ends, so don't expect the starter to be much more than a figurehead. Don't sleep on Jonathan Stupar, either - he's flashed some potential over the first two days of practice, and he could find a role as a fourth tight end and a specialist, particularly if Corey McIntyre can't hold onto his tenuous fullback job.
There was a defense, too...
For a second straight day, Bills defenders were able to create a little pressure on the quarterback as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell began installing some blitz packages. Keep in mind that in a padless practice and with an incomplete offensive line, any pass rushing success should be taken with a boulder of salt. Still, pass rush is pass rush - now we just need to keep it going.
Rookie cornerback Ellis Lankster had an interception. Ko Simpson picked off a pass deflected by Drayton Florence. Perhaps most encouragingly, however, second-year DE Chris Ellis had a good day, showing off a bit of strength in blocking drills and registering a few quarterback hurries. Anything we can get out of Chris Ellis is going to be huge this season.
April tweaking return units
With the NFL changing special teams rules this off-season, prohibiting wedge blocking with more than three players, special teams coordinator Bobby April has begun installing his new return schemes. MRW explains that on return units, April is using smaller blockers, with a "spread" wedge formation that includes two groups of two blockers a few yards apart, with a fifth blocker filling the middle of the gap solo.
As our very own kaisertown points out, we're likely to see some rough moments from the special teams units this pre-season on returns, as coordinators will be pushing the limits to see how officials call penalties with the new rules. April, however, seems to have a pretty firm grasp on what he'd like to accomplish right now.
Keeping track of the offensive line
No changes from Saturday - Langston Walker, Kirk Chambers, Geoff Hangartner, Seth McKinney and Brad Butler made up the first unit from left to right. With Levitre on board (and Eric Wood likely soon to follow), the real intrigue begins with Monday's practice. It will be quite interesting to chart how the rookie guards are rotated in. We'll get our first glimpse of the coaching staff's plans in that regard tomorrow.
Head coach Dick Jauron told the media that DT Marcus Stroud (hamstring) may miss 5-7 days of practice, but that his injury is minor and his absence is a precautionary measure. The news is dismal, however, for reserve RB Justise Hairston, who was likely lost for the season after sustaining a freak, no-contact knee injury on Saturday morning.
Buffalo is now officially done with two-a-days; their first pads practice comes on Monday. Matt is taking the day off from reporting, but fear not - we'll have you covered. And if you're going to camp, we'd love to hear more first-hand accounts!