It was a gorgeous day at St. John Fisher college. It's a good thing, too, because as the Buffalo Bills practiced early this afternoon, there wasn't much else to be excited about. Anyone who has been reading the site from its inception knows that I'm a bit of a homer. And by "bit of a homer", I mean that I'm a huge homer. I try to see the positive in every little going-on from Bills camp. So my goal today was to try to be as objective as possible - because hey, I had a job to do today. I had to report what I saw at training camp without sounding incredibly biased.
The Bills' performance didn't make my job terribly difficult. Dick Jauron (in his standard khaki hat, Thronsen) can't be terribly pleased, regardless of what he says.
It was a pretty bad day for the offense, less than 24 hours removed from its poor performance last night. It starts with J.P. Losman. It was only one practice, so read the following with that in mind: Losman was horrid today. Horrid. To borrow a basketball analogy, Losman is a "streak shooter" - he has spurts where he can't miss, and then he has spurts where he looks like Rob Johnson. It was all Robbie today. The defense had four interceptions at today's practice - all off of Losman. (One of those picks, however, did come on a deflection off the hands of Lee Evans.) It wasn't just the picks, either - he had a bad overthrow in 7-on-7 to Evans, then underthrew Roscoe Parrish on a play broken up by Ko Simpson. From what I saw today, he's still streaky. I'd be willing to bet he looks great tomorrow, because he's still inconsistent. But today was a bad day for J.P.
Craig Nall took all the second-team reps and was so-so, showing some accuracy issues on a few out routes but otherwise playing pretty steadily. Trent Edwards had the play of the day, hooking up with Parrish on a long touchdown pass as Parrish exploded by the third-team defense. I came away very impressed with Edwards - for a rookie who came from a terrible college program, he seems very calm and collected on the field. The kid has got a future. Just don't expect to see him on the field anytime soon, because he's still got a problem with telegraphing his passes.
O-Line Dealing with Injuries
The offensive line is banged up. Aaron Merz and Brad Butler have missed a bunch of time (Butler did not practice today), Langston Walker missed today's workout with an apparent arm injury, and then Melvin Fowler appeared to hurt his lower leg in the opening 11-on-11 segment. When Fowler went down, Duke Preston took his spot at center, with Jason Whittle playing right guard.
At this point, the word I would use to describe the run game is, again, "inconsistent". Jason Peters and Derrick Dockery opened up a couple of holes for Anthony Thomas and Marshawn Lynch (who split first-team reps), but they also were handled pretty effectively by the defense on a couple of reps as well. Lynch's best run of the day came to the right side, where the trio of Whittle, Terrance Pennington (who filled in as the starting RT in Walker's absence) and Robert Royal blew away linebackers, springing Lynch for a nice gain. Lynch is solid in the open field, consistently getting by the first defender.
Fred Jackson, who is still dealing with an injury, was very limited today. He did some individual drills and made a nice catch on a bad pass from Losman down the field, but other than that he gave way to the other backs on the roster. Dwayne Wright saw a lot of action with the second team. I love the way this kid runs - he's very tough and finishes everything. He looked fluid once again as a receiver, though he lacks explosiveness in the open field once he catches it. Shaud Williams made an appearance here and there as well.
The Passing Attack
Once Losman irons out some of his issues, it looks like Steve Fairchild will be able to beat any type of defense in any way imaginable. Parrish looked very good - we all know how quick he is, but it's just magnified in a practice setting. It's disgusting how agile he is. Parrish and Josh Reed were lined up in the slot in quite a few 4-wide sets, with Evans on the right side of the field and Peerless Price on the left. Price is so quiet on the field, but he made a couple of tough receptions with defenders hanging all over him.
I came away impressed with both Sam Aiken and Donovan Morgan. These are two big, tough guys. Aiken has a nice rapport with both Nall and Edwards, and he made some nice catches short and over the middle. Morgan had some very nice catches, including one that he reached up over his head to grab in traffic and another that he slid to snare just before it hit the turf.
McCargo Dinged, but D-Line Looks OK
For the most part, I thought our defensive line played pretty well today. John McCargo injured his ankle about halfway through practice and was hobbling around on the sideline for the rest of the segment; it appeared that he tweaked it while going to the ground on a run play to the left. The injured foot is the same foot that placed him on IR last season.
Anthony Hargrove practiced once again and saw the lion's share of his reps with the second unit. But the team is finding ways to get Eric Powell and C.J. Ah You reps - Powell saw first unit reps in place of Aaron Schobel (because really, what does he have to prove in a camp setting?), and Ah You saw a lot of snaps on the second and third units as well. It's too bad Hargrove is going to miss time, because he's very talented - he exploded through the line early in practice to hit a ballcarrier about three yards into the backfield. McCargo had a similar play very early on in the practice - Bill Kollar was loving it.
Neither Powell nor Ah You saw time inside at tackle - in fact, no defensive end did. My guess is that little wrinkle will be installed after the first cutdown, when the team isn't trying to decide whether or not to keep Jason Jefferson or Tim Anderson. For the record, Jefferson was on the second unit today, and was joined there by Anderson only after McCargo went down. Anderson was a monster in one-on-one drills with the O-Line, where on two consecutive reps he destroyed Duke Preston.
Defensive Back Seven Looks Good...
... but I still haven't decided if the sole reason was Losman. Paul Posluszny got the day started off with an interception off of Losman on a seam route he jumped. The pass was intended for Royal, but J.P. didn't have enough zip or air under the ball, and the pick was easy for Poz. Keith Ellison also snared a Losman pass on a short throw underneath and made a nice return out of it. The linebackers also looked very solid in run support, with the minor exception of John DiGiorgio, who has a lot of trouble shedding blocks.
To my surprise, the team was doing a lot of rotation with its nickel units. DiGiorgio, Terrence McGee and Keith Ellison compose the "first unit" nickel team, and then they're replaced by Posluszny, Jabari Greer and Coy Wire with the "second unit". I never thought that we would see Poz in on nickel defense - that shows you how far along he is in his pass defense.
The other two interceptions of the day went to Greer, the pre-season INT machine. The first came on a high throw over the middle intended for Evans, who deflected the ball right into Greer's hands. Later on in practice, Greer was burned badly by Evans, who sold him on a go route, cut off the route and had about 10 yards of padding to catch the ball well downfield from Losman. On the very next play, however, Greer didn't take the bait and jumped a shorter hitch to pick off Losman again. He looked very quick to the football in all facets of the game, and it's clear that as skeptical as most Bills fans are of his performances, he deserves a very long look for serious playing time.
Donte Whitner was quiet as he continues to come back from a hip injury. Ko Simpson had a nice pass breakup and looked pretty quick getting to the line in run support.
A Few Quick Special Teams Notes
Rian Lindell got to kick a few field goals during practice, and he drilled them all dead center. Bobby April also set up a punt drill in which two blockers would seal off a gunner in front of the returners. I wanted to point this out because easily the star of this segment was John Wendling - twice he manhandled his opponents, including a very nice tie-up of Sam Aiken. Wendling is so big, thick and quick that it was very hard for gunners to get past him. He looked great in this drill.
Let's hear it. You are allowed to yell at me for being so negative, but I'm just trying to tell it like it is. If I left anything out of the report that you'd like answered personally, leave it in the comments and I'll try to answer those questions as best I can.