Editor's Note: As mentioned previously, if anyone here makes it out to a training camp practice and efforts a recap such as this one, we're going to front page your hard work. Thanks, k8! - BG
Hey there sports fans! You'll have to excuse the delay of this post, as it's a recap of Saturday's Buffalo Bills training camp practice, but I haven't had a chance to get in front of the computer for non-work purposes until now. I also probably won't be able to do justice to Macktruck's night practice recap that came out recently, so I won't try; I'll just share with you a couple of candid notes and a few photos from my point of view.
First off, I have to say that watching a Training Camp practice can be a little bit of a sensory overload to the uninitiated. I sat in the stands and tried to take some photos of the action and occasional sidebars, and tried to figure out who was whom with the expanded rosters, and there were often 3-4 groups of players doing different things, and never for longer than 5-7 minutes. The quick switches don't give them much time to get in a rhythm and improve on anything in any one session. However, I guess it does allow the players to work on a lot of different skills in one practice, and improve over a series of practices. Plus less fatigue in whatever muscle groups are being worked from one drill to another, except the players' brains, which must have to process a lot of different sets of info.
Another overarching practice observation I made was that Chan Gailey is very much removed from the action. He was a detached observer and rarely talked to the players or the coaches, with the exception of the practice wrap-up speech. I hadn't thought about it before, but this seems like a smart management strategy. Script practice with your assistants beforehand and delegate the responsibility to them to implement it, then try to observe the action as much as possible.
On to the action. The defense definitely won the day. I got to practice a little late, but I can't say that I saw anything spectacular from the offense. It seemed like they were working on the passing game a lot more than the runs, and the majority of the completions were short-ish sideline and over-the-middle tosses. A few nice throws and grabs to be sure, but nothing that got me too excited. One guy that did stand out seemed to be Kamar Aiken. He made a couple of nice grabs that had the people around me looking through their fan guides to figure out who he was ("his name's Kay-mar Aiken, must be a new guy"). :) Fitzy was the best QB by far, and it seems increasingly apparent that Thigpen is not long for this team, but not because VY is obviously outperforming him. VY is seems to be coming along slowly, but didn't look completely comfortable out there or at all electric. He was a laconic ying to Fitz's occasionally hyped-up yang (he kicked a batted ball out of frustration at one point). Sorry to say, VY looked like a backup QB. I'll give him time to improve though.
Last point on the offense: whomever was playing center for the first team in 11 on 11 toward the end of practice (not Eric Wood) needs to work on their snapping. Wish I knew who it was, or could remember the number, but there were two ground balls in 5 minutes. Not good. Other than that I couldn't really focus on OLine play, too much other stuff going on.
*Edit* Must've been #60.
As for the defense, the first teamers got quite a bit of pressure on Fitz. The majority of the pressure seemed to come from the middle and not as much the ends. There were a couple of 'complete chaos' pocket collapses, and the only clear sack that I saw was a Kyle Williams lightning fast breakthrough. I think it's safe to say he's recovered from injury.
Mario Williams did have at least one clear pressure that forced Fitz to roll to his right, but he got the throw off with time to spare. I think Mario was going easy on him and slowed up early - might've been a sack in a game situation. He also had two straight plays in late 11 on 11 where he tackled the runner outside the hashes and then got the receiver on a pass to the flats. It's been said before, but he's obviously no slouch at doing the stuff that doesn't involve rushing the passer.
The secondary. Guys, I'd like to introduce you to our number one corner: his name's Stephon Gilmore, and he's pretty good. I thought he showed better than anyone else on Saturday, is crafty and occasionally ferocious. After three practices he's far ahead of Aaron Williams. Another CB who's number I didn't recognize made a few good plays, and I later found out it was Prince Miller. Back to Gilmore: he was lined up on Stevie for almost the whole day, and Stevie didn't make many (any?) catches on the outside - Gilmore was again stuck to him like glue. There is a caveat to his game though - Gilmore is a little soft on his coverage over the middle, and that's where Stevie made his catches. Gilmore plays really well when he's in the space between the receiver and the QB, i.e. on most outside throws, but when a receiver cuts in front of him and drags him across the middle he doesn't fight for position or the ball nearly as hard. Could've been a product of two guys with little to gain going half-speed in the first padded practice, but it will be something to keep an eye on going forward.
Gilmore's top play came when he was lined up against Stevie, but Spiller motioned into the slot on his side. He dropped Stevie and picked up Spiller who was going deep. Gilmore seemed to relish taking on a speed threat who challenged him and played with a little "extra mustard." He hand-checked him the whole way without holding, and Fitz threw a nice ball that Gilmore laid out for to bat away with his outside hand. Really, really nice play - kept up with Spiller, kept his eyes on the ball throughout, and extended to make the play. He was congratulated heartily on the sidelines by Jairus Byrd and George Wilson. They actually talked to him fairly often on the sidelines. Which brings me to my last major observation...
Vet Leadership. George Wilson, Jairus Byrd, and somewhat surprisingly Bryan Scott and C-Mac all stood out to me on this front. George and Jairus were all over the place, talking to CB's, LB's, any open-space defenders really. They, combined with Scott were always in the lead during conditioning drills as well. I also have to add that Scott made a big impression on me with an interview I read with him regarding the Penn St. scandal punishment, which he took on in the most mature, magnanimous way possible. He was simultaneously able to accept the punishment as given and show a great amount of support for his alma mater. Impressive and well-articulated. C-Mac was leading the way on special teams and was really, really into the conditioning portion. I thought it was kinda cute that the Bills had a Crossfit station set up in the far corner of the field with the heavy ropes, medicine balls, and the whole sledgehammer/ tractor tire thing. Those trendy Bills.
Coupla short notes: Jairus had long black underarmour and track pants on in the mid-80's heat. WTH? Kirk Morrison had long underarmour on as well - I would've been dying out there in that. Neither looks like he needs to cut weight or anything, maybe they just don't like getting scraped up on the turf.
Brad Smith didn't do positional drills with the QB's or the WR's. I only noticed him during the special teams portion and when he took two snaps during 11 on 11 (both incompletes I believe). Jack of all trades, master of none?
I'll echo Mack's comments on the placekicker battle to the T. John Potter matched Ryan Lindell on 5 field goals with one rusher and the whole team watching. Cool as a cucumber, and didn't look like he was expending much effort. When they both made 50 yarders and the horn sounded for everybody to move to the next drill the team started booing because they wanted to see them keep going! Could be a really good competition for the remainder of camp.
Last note: I intended to add a few pics I took to this post, but SBNation only allows you to insert them from a web URL. Lame. I don't want to upload my pics to the web so I can upload my pics to the web, you know? I'm sure there are reasons why SBN doesn't do it this way, but I want to be able to drag and drop my images into the body of the post like I would in an email or a word doc. Anybody have a workaround for this or suggestions? Thanks everybody, hope you enjoyed this and stuck through my long @$$ post! And if you're an upstater, get thyself to TC, it's fun to see a glimpse of what it's like on the inside! *Edit* Thanks Danroc, imgur worked like a charm!