The Buffalo Bills held their first night practice of 2009 training camp on Tuesday night, but the biggest news of the day came from the team's home base in Orchard Park, where terms have been agreed upon for the rookie contract of OG Eric Wood. Buffalo's projected starting right guard is expected to sign his contract either tonight or tomorrow, and he could be on the practice field as soon as Wednesday. (Let's hope it's Wednesday, at least - the sooner, the better.) Meanwhile, per the same report, the Bills are close to finalizing FS Jairus Byrd's rookie deal as well; there is no word yet on how soon a deal might be done, but that, too, is encouraging news nonetheless.
On the practice field, however, the Bills were making a few waves of their own. The offense focused on a few key wrinkles (we'll call them wrinkles based on historical performance, at any rate - though one fits under the traditional definition), and our de facto camp reporter, MattRichWarren, has some goods on the offensive line, Trent Edwards' hot hand and several injury updates.
It was a star-studded night in Pittsford, with Peter King and Ross Tucker of Sports Illustrated on hand to take in camp. (Both were impressed with the atmosphere; good on you, Bills fans.) Scott Pitoniak was in attendance as well. Under the bright lights in front of big names, the Bills put together another solid showing, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Our notes, courtesy of Matt, are after the jump.
(Editor's Note: Big thanks to Rumbler ChipShot for helping me out when I couldn't get a ticket for tonight. He stepped in and gave me one of his. Much appreciated! - MRW)
Keeping track of the O-Line
We didn't see any lineup changes tonight. Langston Walker, Geoff Hangartner, Seth McKinney and Brad Butler are still taking all first-team reps at left tackle, center, right guard and right tackle, respectively. McKinney's time may be running short, however, with Wood expected to report in the next day or two. A rotation continued at left guard, where Kirk Chambers and Andy Levitre evenly split reps.
Butler was particularly impressive on Tuesday night, handling his duties well at right tackle and displaying solid footwork. Walker had a solid night as well, though he did struggle some with a rejuvenated Aaron Schobel, including surrendering a sack. Matt referred to the collective play of Chambers and Levitre at left guard as "OK." Overall, the line gave a solid performance; once the starting lineup is finally cemented, the hope is that the unit will really begin to take strides at that point.
One other note on the O-Line: reserve tackle/guard Demetrius Bell is looking very good. He's much more well-built than he was at this time last year, yet has preserved the athleticism that makes him such an intriguing prospect. Blocking Ryan Denney and Chris Ellis with the second-unit line, Bell turned in an impressive evening.
Offensive emphasis: Wildcat, play action and screens
For a second consecutive day, Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert experimented with a Wildcat look. He's got two personnel groupings he's playing with at the moment: Roscoe Parrish has lined up at quarterback between Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, and Jackson has also taken quarterback snaps between Lynch and Dominic Rhodes. It's not known how frequently this wrinkle will be implemented next season - particularly with the no-huddle on the way - but the idea of Parrish taking direct snaps is, admittedly, tantalizing.
The offense worked on play-action early in the practice, and threw in a screen pass for good measure. (I know, right?) These are weapons that the Bills have failed to utilize in past seasons on a consistent basis, so working on them this early in camp is, at a minimum, a good sign. Of note: when players are lining up in traditional "blocking back" roles, Corey McIntyre isn't there - it's usually a tight end, whether it be Derek Schouman, Derek Fine or one of the deep reserves.
Quarterbacks: more of the same from Edwards, understudies
Trent Edwards' hot hand continued Tuesday night. Once again, he was very efficient in practice, making several nice throws and minimizing his mistakes. Terrell Owens has caught at least one long pass from Edwards in every training camp practice he's participated in as a Bill, and that continued today as he hauled in a 40-yarder.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, continues to play inconsistently. His inconsistencies have leveled out - by no means is he getting worse - but he has yet to make many strides as well. He threw another interception tonight (a tipped pass picked off by Keith Ellison), but also had a few nice throws. Gibran Hamdan has not fared any better, though he did throw a long touchdown pass to Justin Jenkins this evening. Backup quarterback should still be atop the skepticism list in Buffalo.
DT Marcus Stroud strapped on the pads and participated in his first full practice since Saturday morning; he appears nearly fully recovered from his hamstring injury. Fellow DT John McCargo is now dealing with a hamstring issue of his own and did not practice. TE Shawn Nelson also sat out with a wrap on his foot. WR Steve Johnson remains sidelined; DT Ventrell Jenkins sat out, and WR P.K. Sam left with a strained quad, according to BuffaloBills.com.
Buffalo practices in the 1:00 PM vicinity on Wednesday. MattRichWarren will be there, to the surprise of no one who knows him. If you know Matt or see him at camp (or at games later this year), please be aware that he deserves many beers. We also hope to have more photos for you from tonight's practice at some point tomorrow.