The Buffalo Bills have completed their first set of two-a-days this summer after two practices today. The morning session (closed to the public) featured a much-publicized scuffle between Aaron Maybin and Geoff Hangartner, while tonight's practice session was well-attended, if not exactly action-packed.
Chris Kelsay and Paul Posluszny missed tonight's practice session with their respective injuries. Demetrius Bell was also a spectator as the team continues to ease him back into the lineup. Marcus Stroud was in full pads and participating after missing the morning session, but second-team defensive end Spencer Johnson did leave the field with what appeared to be a minor ding. Prior to practice, the Bills waived second-year linebacker Nic Harris (he failed his physical), adding Donovan Woods to the roster in his place. Woods was a college quarterback who converted to safety and then linebacker, and has spent time with Pittsburgh and Dallas professionally.
I was in attendance at St. John Fisher College tonight, and let's just say that camp isn't overly different under new head coach Chan Gailey. There are differences, but practice is still practice, and watching practice is still kind of boring. Plenty of observations to flesh out after the jump.
Chan Gailey's Bills
This was the first practice I've seen run by Gailey, so while I've hardly seen enough to say "this is how a Chan Gailey practice is run, every time, without fail," there were noticeable differences. The pace was slower between sessions, the energy was higher in those sessions, and it seemed like players were given a lot more one-on-one attention. Things seemed more deliberate tonight, and there was a lot of chatter on the field.
The team started out with some walk-through sessions; the defense worked on run fits and coverages, while the offense fiddled with some route combinations and verbiage. From there, skill position players separated from linemen for a bit, and the two groups worked on some fundamentals. A brief special teams session - highlighted by some fake field goal tries - was followed by some stretching. More positional work followed, and it was only into the second half of the practice that the team started to come back together. 9-on-7 work alongside more line drills was followed by a chat session (more on that momentarily), and the practice ended with 11-on-11 work.
Buffalo spent a great deal of time working on the running game tonight, on both sides of the ball, and only really let the passing game get its shot at glory in the latter sections of practice.
With about a half-hour to go in the practice, the entire team congregated in an end zone, and Gailey addressed them all for a full five minutes, at least. Might have been ten. A few players were lined up in a field goal formation, but they never did anything. Gailey was pretty vocal during that time frame; I've no idea what was said or if it will prove beneficial, but I'd never seen Buffalo's previous coaching staff do anything like that.
Be warned that I have only two eyes, and was situated (by choice) near one end zone, so while I got to see some linemen work in full-team activities, I spent most of my time tonight watching quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, tight ends and defensive backs. If I don't mention a guy, it's because I didn't really pay attention to that guy tonight. I'll just go position-by-position to make it easier on everyone.
Quarterback: About what you'd expect. Trent Edwards was OK, Ryan Fitzpatrick was a roller coaster ride of strangeness, Brian Brohm was an enigma, and Levi Brown didn't get to play much. Edwards was clearly the best QB on the field; he made some nice throws with good zip down the middle of the field, and didn't really make any bad decisions. Fitzpatrick, as usual, would follow a brilliant throw with a little league throw. Brohm didn't do much to stand out; his arm strength is really suspect on deeper throws, if you ask me. I liked Brown's arm, but the ball still comes out of his hand funny - though not nearly as strangely as it did at Troy. He's a long way off from being a serious factor here.
Running Back: Fred Jackson was Fred Jackson. Marshawn Lynch looked excellent, though he didn't get a ton of work during team drills - he ran with a lot of energy and spunk, and was working his butt off tonight. I thought Joique Bell looked a little better than Chad Simpson; Bell's got a little kick to him when he gets to the second level. The Bills are obviously deep here; lots of good options, even without the rookie in tow.
Wide Receiver: The raw talent of this group is apparent, but none of the younger receivers stood out in a big way tonight. All made nice catches - Felton Huggins and Chad Jackson had some nice ones on the sideline - and all looked pretty choppy getting in and out of cuts. There were mis-reads, there were instances where receivers weren't on the same page as quarterbacks, and there were some dropped passes (Huggins had a particularly bad one). Steve Johnson continues to get work as the No. 2 receiver, and he's probably the most consistent of the group. David Nelson is a really smooth athlete and looked good running in the slot. Naaman Roosevelt looked good running routes as well.
Tight End: This is a good group. Shawn Nelson is on the ground a lot - diving, falling, stretching for poor throws - but is in a world all his own amongst this group running routes. Derek Schouman looked good catching the ball, as did Jonathan Stupar, who made some nice plays in the seam tonight. Michael Matthews, quite frankly, looks awful running, and dropped a couple of passes. He's a huge guy, though, and looked solid in blocking drills.
Offensive Line: Jamon Meredith and Cornell Green were the "starting" tackles, and neither looked great. Buffalo's pass rush was very good tonight, as quarterbacks were frequently left to fend for themselves on bootlegs. Ed Wang was torched on multiple occasions as well. I didn't spend a lot of time watching the offensive line, so I'll leave it at this: don't sleep on the name Cordaro Howard. He's a very, very good athlete.
Defensive Line: I don't think I spent a second watching the ends, but I wanted to get a good look at Torell Troup and Lonnie Harvey, the only true zero-technique players on the roster. Here's what I like about Troup: he's a throwback. He's a bowling ball of a player - short and squatty with a ridiculously low center of gravity and tremendous upper body strength - and I'm pretty sure he was the only non-kicker on the field that didn't have gloves or tape on his arms/hands. Bare arms, bare hands, crushing interior linemen. He's going to be a lot of fun to watch. Harvey, meanwhile, has a ways to go - I saw him struggling to get off blocks, and he's not very technically sound. His power, too, is very apparent, however.
Linebackers: I didn't watch the inside guys at all, really, so this will be restricted to the outside guys. I thought Chris Ellis looked great moving around, rushing the passer, and seemed totally in his element. He lined up on the strong side, and also lined up on the line of scrimmage in 4-3 looks - which essentially are 3-4 looks, with the strong-side OLB in a three-point stance. Aaron Maybin looked really fluid in blitz looks and had some nice rushes as well, and even looked pretty stout against the run (albeit against Wang). Reggie Torbor looks like a really tough guy, but I think it's pretty clear that he's a run-down defender. Danny Batten looks like a super athlete, and Antonio Coleman flashed a bit of burst I didn't see too often at Auburn, as well. Both Batten and Coleman were flipped between weak and strong side, so they're obviously being asked to learn multiple positions. Batten looked much better in coverage than Coleman.
Defensive Backs: Leodis McKelvin got a lot of reps with the first and second teams, and he made a lot of aggressive plays on the ball in 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. He looked a lot better than Drayton Florence tonight; those two are likely competing for a starting spot opposite Terrence McGee. Ashton Youboty and Ellis Lankster were active tonight, as well; Lankster is legitimate, folks. I wouldn't be shocked if he pushed Reggie Corner for the dime role. Cary Harris had a nice pluck off the ground for a pick on a deflection. I watched John Destin for a bit, as his athleticism is intriguing, but he didn't really stand out in any way. At safety, I thought Donte Whitner played really fast tonight and looked great during blitz packages. None of the other safeties really stood out.
Specialists: Not much to report here, as Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman and Garrison Sanborn are already sure bets for the roster. Lindell looked great during a kicking segment, while Moorman hit Geoff Hangartner for a "touchdown" on a fake field goal that never would have worked in a real game. Bruce DeHaven had a bunch of fake packages installed tonight, including a bizarre one in which Moorman ran an option pitch to Lindell, which might have been less effective only if Drew Bledsoe were receiving the pitch.
All in all, the defense was better than the offense, but both sides had their moments. The practice was hardly exciting, but the guys, to a man, worked really hard, were very chatty with each other, and the high energy was appreciated. Questions and comments, as always, are welcome.