Heading into the Hall of Fame pre-season game this Sunday in Canton, Ohio, the Buffalo Bills have been dealing with several issues along their defensive line. Aaron Maybin is a holdout. Copeland Bryan is injured. Undrafted rookie free agents Ventrell Jenkins and David Lindquist are gone (Lindquist for personal reasons). On Friday, two more players left practice early, as both Spencer Johnson and John McCargo left the field within a five-minute period.
There's a reason that the Bills have acquired linemen Derrick Jones and Ataefiok Etukeren over the past two days - they barely have enough bodies to get through a pre-season game as it is. If Johnson and McCargo can't go on Sunday, Buffalo's second-team defensive tackles will be Jones and Corey Mace. Yikes.
Other than the walking wounded (RB Dominic Rhodes left early as well, by the way), the Bills seem eager to play another team and lay the lumber against a living, breathing opponent. That will happen in a little over two days' time. For now, we'll recap the day's events at St. John Fisher just as we did yesterday - with a few player observations. Those appear after the jump.
QB Trent Edwards. He looked much better today than he did last night. His throws were crisp, and he looked far more decisive. He did throw an interception to rookie Ellis Lankster, but had a few nice connections with Terrell Owens and a terrific 20-yard seam route to Derek Schouman. Edwards and the starters will get a series or two on Sunday; let's hope the offense can make use of those live reps. Look for Trent to call his own plays as well.
RB Marshawn Lynch. He looked as good as he usually does in practice, but that's not why I'm mentioning him here. The dude walked right past me; he was literally inches away. The added weight everyone is talking about is legitimate. He's a specimen. You couldn't pay me enough to try to tackle that guy. We're going to miss him in Weeks 1-3.
WR Steve Johnson. Johnson has been essentially a full participant at practice for the past two days after missing a bunch of practices with a rib injury. He looked very solid out on the field today; Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gibran Hamdan and Matt Baker look for Johnson a lot. Even with Roscoe Parrish on the team, I'll go out on a limb and guess that Johnson will be the primary backup to each of Lee Evans, Terrell Owens and Josh Reed.
WR Shaine Smith. This guy is freakishly skinny. But he can play. He's very long and has some good speed; you'll see him run some deep routes on Sunday. He has a chance to stick in some capacity (likely the practice squad).
TE Derek Schouman. I've been impressed with Schouman. He's the best tight end on the field by a considerable margin.
The offensive line. These guys sucked today. Chris Kelsay blew up Demetrius Bell (who once again took first-team reps at right tackle) on a continuous basis. Derrick Jones, of all people, made Geoff Hangartner look like a tackling dummy. Jermaine McGhee looked like the second coming of Jevon Kearse. It really was brutal; the run game wasn't any better. My guess is that it'll be like this for a while - they'll be dominant at times, and awful the rest of the time. They've got the right players; all of them have their moments. Gel time is so crucial.
Chris Ellis. I paid pretty close attention to him today; there could literally be a million reasons why, but the guy looked like he was going half-speed through every drill. Bob Sanders got on his case more than once. Somebody needs to remind Ellis that the Bills are four-deep at end - Aaron Schobel, Kelsay, Ryan Denney and Aaron Maybin aren't going anywhere - and there's no guarantee the team will keep five ends. No sense of urgency on his part; he looks like he either is resigned to his fate, or believes that there's no chance he'll get cut.
John McCargo. Before he limped off the field, nobody was busting tail harder than McCargo (though Kyle Williams, who was the best player on the field today, certainly gave him a run for his money). 97 looks like he's in great shape, and he's moving very well. Here's hoping he recovers quickly, because he looked like he's primed for a big season today.
Kawika Mitchell. I like watching Kawika practice. He moves well out there. You can tell that the rest of the linebackers - Paul Posluszny in particular - mimic his every move. He's an underrated player, but more importantly, he's an outstanding influence on some talented young players.
Leodis McKelvin. I've seen him live dozens of times, and I'm still floored by his athleticism. He is an astonishing, unique athlete. He looked much better in coverage today than he has over the past couple of weeks.
Ellis Lankster. More praise for the rookie seventh-round pick. While Ashton Youboty watched in sweats, Lankster calmly stepped in front of an Edwards dart and took it the other way. We might even be talking about Lankster as a fifth corner behind Terrence McGee, McKelvin, Drayton Florence and Reggie Corner before long. Seriously.
That's all for this week's camp practice recaps. I can take questions if you have them; saw a lot more today than I did last night, as I was able to move around much more. Tomorrow is all about the Hall of Fame. Hang in there for 48 hours, folks - we're thisclose to seeing the 2009 Buffalo Bills suit up.