The Buffalo Bills practiced between light showers on Wednesday, yet despite the fact that major downpours were avoided, the rain still had an effect on practice. Bobby April's special teams units struggled to catch punts, and the offensive attack was reeled in a bit, as the team focused on the running game and short-to-intermediate passing routes.
The day was highlighted by the official signing of OG Eric Wood to a reported five-year, $13 million deal. He will hit the practice field for the first time on Thursday after missing the first seven practices of training camp (as well as several meetings and walk-throughs). Expected to start at right guard, Wood's got some catching up to do - and veteran Seth McKinney to beat out.
Buffalo tinkered with its various lineups on the day, including giving some reps to surprise individuals at cornerback and on the offensive line. We've got some good news to report on the backup quarterback front as well. Head on in past the jump for today's notes, all courtesy our de facto camp reporter, MattRichWarren. He's awesome.
Keeping track of the O-Line
Langston Walker is obviously still seeing the lion's share of reps at left tackle, but the coaching staff gave Demetrius Bell a few snaps there with the first team at the end of practice on Wednesday. This is a necessary thing to do; as inexperienced as Bell is, and as prominent a role he'll be playing as a backup tackle, he needs to practice against our team's best players as often as possible. (Just don't let him do that in pre-season games unless Trent Edwards is out of the game.)
Andy Levitre started the practice off at left guard while the team worked on run fronts; he looked good, holding his own against Kyle Williams on more than one occasion today. When full-team work started, however, Kirk Chambers stepped in with the first unit, so the competition rages on in full force. Chambers was his usual solid, unspectacular self.
The rest of the line stayed the same, with Geoff Hangartner, Seth McKinney and Brad Butler taking first-team reps. That's going to change at right guard on Thursday with Wood in camp; you can expect him to see roughly half of the first-team snaps, similar to how Levitre is being worked in. In general, the line blocked well today, particularly in pass protection, where Trent Edwards and company had plenty of time to deliver the ball. Things are looking a bit more inconsistent in the run game.
Defensive Backs have a good day
Helped out by the fact that Buffalo's offense didn't throw deep as often as they have over the first week of practices, Buffalo's defensive backfield made some nicely contested plays today. Terrence McGee registered two beautiful pass break-ups while defending Terrell Owens. Leodis McKelvin hauled in an excellent interception on a deep throw for Lee Evans; he did, however, strain his quad on the play and left practice, according to BuffaloBills.com. Drayton Florence had some excellent reps in one-on-one CB/WR drills.
The lineup tweaking continued in this area, as well, as Perry Fewell began implementing his three-safety look. Joining Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott on the field was Ko Simpson as the third safety; it's worth mentioning here that the Bills are "close" to signing rookie S Jairus Byrd, and if he's going to contribute as a rookie, it will likely be in a three-safety scheme. To expect him to lock down a starting job at this point would merely be wishful thinking.
Also worth noting: Florence was the first-team nickel corner; when McKelvin left, Florence moved outside to replace him, with Reggie Corner filling in at nickel. On a far scarier level, you can tell these guys were competing hard today after Donte Whitner and Terrell Owens both went to the turf hard while competing for a jump ball. Both were OK, though Whitner got up rather slowly. Needless to say, there were a few sighs of relief.
Backup quarterbacks fare better
Perhaps because of the different types of routes being thrown, backup quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gibran Hamdan both had more consistent efforts today. Fitzpatrick still threw an interception, but you can't expect instant dramatic improvement, can you? As long as we're hearing that these two are getting a little bit better each day, we don't have to pull our hair out with worry.
It was a pretty uneventful practice, with very few big plays, through the air or on the ground. There was, however, some good hitting - rookie LB Nic Harris had a big stick on Marshawn Lynch, for example. As far as quarterback play, however, all was mostly quiet on the western front today, even with every snap coming from a no-huddle formation.
Special Teams coordinator Bobby April had a neat take on a field goal blocking drill: rather than kicking actual field goals, his block units would line up and attempt to block soccer balls kicked by undrafted rookie kicker Danny Urrego. Gotta love our special teams coach.
With the rain causing some less-than-desirable field conditions (though in no way was it particularly dangerous or nerve-wracking), eight players sat out Wednesday's practice: wide receivers Steve Johnson and P.K. Sam, tight end Shawn Nelson, defensive end Copeland Bryan, defensive tackles John McCargo, Marcus Smith and Ventrell Jenkins, and defensive back Dustin Fox. As we mentioned, McKelvin left early, but McKelvin (via BuffaloBills.com) does not believe the injury is serious.
Buffalo has another night practice tomorrow (Thursday), taking the Growney Stadium field by storm at 7:00 PM. Matt will not be in attendance, but we have full confidence that thatguy34, a faithful Rumbler, will keep us up-to-date on tomorrow evening's activities live from camp. (You're on the spot, thatguy!) Matt will return to camp on Friday.