Thursday's evening practice at St. John Fisher College was an eventful one for the Buffalo Bills, rookie guard Eric Wood, and the fans on hand to witness the unveiling of the team's (GORGEOUS) new throwback uniforms.
While the new jerseys are, rightfully so, the big news of the day, some solid back-and-forth playmaking between the offense and defense tonight was the big story on the field - aside from Wood's debut, of course. MattRichWarren took a night off from camp coverage, but thatguy34 pulled his best Frank Reich impression and filled Matt's large shoes rather comfortably.
Highlights, trends, stories and injury updates from tonight's practice are after the jump.
Keeping track of the O-Line
Eric Wood donned his No. 70 jersey for the first time at training camp on Thursday night, and as expected, he was immediately thrown into the fray at right guard, splitting first-team reps with veteran Seth McKinney. He had a solid night - much like fellow rookie Andy Levitre, he was a little rough around the edges, but he also teamed up with right tackle Brad Butler to open some gaping holes in the run game. If that's the launching point for Wood's career, he's off to a great start.
We're all pretty much fully aware that the left tackle (Langston Walker), center (Geoff Hangartner) and right tackle (Butler) positions are locked and loaded. Four guards are currently fighting for starting jobs, and all of them are seeing relatively equal first-team reps. Expect that to continue for a little while - but the sooner a starting line is decided upon, the better.
Offense and defense making plays
We described tonight's on-field action as back-and-forth; if the offense made a play, the defense came right back and made one of their own (or vice versa) pretty much all night. Some examples:
- Terrell Owens dropped three straight passes in one-on-one drills. He then promptly caught a long touchdown pass from Trent Edwards in 7-on-7 work. On the next play, Edwards threw a poor pass that was broken up by Leodis McKelvin - who'd been beaten on the previous scoring play by Owens.
- Roscoe Parrish ran the Wildcat set several times, but the run defense stuffed those plays rather easily. Not to be outdone, the line opened up a big running lane for Fred Jackson soon thereafter; as Jackson hit the secondary, he was popped by safety John Wendling. Bryan Scott intercepted a tipped pass and returned it for a score.
- In one-on-one blitz pickup drills, Xavier Omon was schooled by Kawika Mitchell. Paul Posluszny and Marshawn Lynch battled to a draw. Omon later redeemed himself with several solid blocks against various linebackers. Derek Fine was beaten cleanly by Aaron Schobel and Ryan Denney, but later stonewalled each player. Derek Schouman and Jonathan Stupar also performed admirably in blocking drills.
In all, plays were made by both sides. That's not the least encouraging thing you can hear this time of year.
Lineup tweaking continues
Buffalo's coaching staff continues to rotate players in an effort to look at various personnel groupings. We've discussed that trend at guard; the other spot it's happening is at linebacker.
The second-unit linebacker corps consisted of Pat Thomas on the inside, flanked by Alvin Bowen (weak side) and Jon Corto (strong side). If you recall, on the first day of camp, it was Marcus Buggs flanked by Ashlee Palmer and Nic Harris. Clearly, Matt Sheldon and Perry Fewell are trying to work these guys everywhere in an effort to get a firm grasp of their skill sets; expect a lot more lineup shuffling at this position.
Some curious notes to keep in mind in the secondary as well: in nickel packages, the first unit consists of Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence, with Florence manning the slot position. The second unit consists of Reggie Corner, Ellis Lankster and Ashton Youboty, with Youboty taking slot duties. This changes seemingly every night as well. Corner, Youboty, Florence and Lankster all have the ability to play the slot. Clearly, Lankster is still the sixth corner, but he's getting second-unit work, which speaks to the impression he's made thus far. Right now, however, it appears pretty certain that Florence will open the season as the nickel corner.
Eight players sat out practice: WR Steve Johnson, TE Shawn Nelson, DE Copeland Bryan, DT John McCargo, DT Marcus Smith, DT Ventrell Jenkins, S Dustin Fox and S Jairus Byrd. Two more - receivers James Hardy and C.J. Hawthorne - remain sidelined and on the PUP list.
The Bills hit the field tomorrow at 2:15 for a mid-afternoon workout. Be sure to give big ups to thatguy34 for tonight's camp updates, because his time is up - MattRichWarren will be back at Fisher tomorrow covering camp live in the afternoon.