If Tuesday night's practice was any indication, most of the players and coaches for the Buffalo Bills are getting pretty tired of training camp. This was not an evening filled with fine execution and enthusiastic play - just the opposite - and the tempo was no faster than at Bills practices in previous years. Indeed, the highlight was a visit by an especially healthy-looking pair of team legends - Jim Kelly and an extraordinarily trim Reuben Brown, who looked more like an NBA star than a former NFL offensive lineman.
Kevin Kolb and Jeff Tuel were unimpressive. Kolb was missing receivers a lot for a starting quarterback, overthrowing Marquise Goodwin over the middle, then putting it in the dirt during a quick out to Stevie Johnson followed by a bad overthrow to him down the sideline. However, Kolb and Johnson did connect a few times, and Kolb completed a deep bomb to Goodwin in the end zone - that is, after the two defenders bumped into each other and fell down. There was also a pretty completion to Marcus Easley in intermediate range, although that was primarily the result of Easley's great effort plucking the ball away from Jumal Rolle and Jordan Dangerfield, who basically had him covered.
It should be noted that Kolb and the first string offense were up against the second and third string defense in most of the 11-on-11 work tonight. That's something Doug Marrone likes to do. Jeff Tuel and the second string offense, on the other hand, were trying to move the ball against the ones on defense. Even so, I would say that Tuel looked marginally better than Kolb during this practice.
Tuel excelled in the red zone, where he completed two bullet passes to Easley for scores and another to Nick Provo. Jerry Hughes did have a pretty pick against Tuel in the same red zone drill. In other 11-on-11 work, Tuel had his share of incompletions, but also a laser shot to Fred Jackson threading the needle that would have gone for a nice gain. At the very end, Tuel was intercepted again, this time by Crezdon Butler who ran it back for a score.
Last week, Joe P asked me how Da'Rick Rogers was doing, and I promised I would train my binocs on him frequently tonight. What I saw was a very fluid athlete who didn't seem to be putting in as much effort and concentration as his fellow wideouts. In one position drill, the receiver was supposed to pick up a tennis ball from the ground, throw it to a coach, then turn around immediately and catch a pass. Rogers was the only one who dropped the pass. He did catch a bullet later from Tuel in red zone work, but on another occasion managed to drop a ball that hit him in the numbers when he was wide open. That was soon followed by a sideline pass that he had on his hands but couldn't manage to haul in. That's not the way to inspire your quarterback to have confidence in you.
Two plays deserve special mention. One was a sensational sideline grab by Jackson in which he extended himself fully to make the catch, then danced two toes in bounds before going out. In general, while C.J. Spiller showed dazzling speed all night when he got the chance to run, Freddie looked almost as fast. Anyone who thinks Freddie is getting old and has lost a step has it all wrong. The other noteworthy play was an interception by Marcell Dareus (yes, that's what I meant to write). Easley let a Tuel pass bounce off his hands, and in a flash 99 grabbed it and was headed to the end zone, juking his way through traffic.
Both Stevie and Justin Rogers were back doing team work tonight and seemed unlimited, although Stevie did come out briefly at one point holding his hamstring. Leodis McKelvin participated in position drills, but not the 11-on-11 work. My brother-in-law, an astute and loyal Bills fan who was with me tonight, could not get over how flexible Leo looked during the warm-up exercises, to the point where he stood out from the rest of the team. A real pretzel. Now if he can only learn to keep his eye on the ball...
There was a brief moment of concern when Stephon Gilmore came out injured, but it was apparently not serious. He did not return to practice, however.
All in all it was a better night for the defense, especially the ones, but even they were sloppy at times, with the defensive backs blatantly grabbing receivers (and drawing yellow flags from the refs who were present) instead of making an honest effort to cover them. C.J., Freddie, Stevie, and Easley were impressive as usual on offense, but that was about it. Robert Woods did not have a catch all night.
None of this may mean anything once the regular season begins, but for those who couldn't be there this is what I observed on a beautiful summer evening at St. John Fisher as the Bills prepare to close training camp.