Newly inducted Hall of Fame member Thurman Thomas was at Bills practice last night, but despite his inspiring presence the play of the Bills' offense was less than inspiring. The highlight of the night? A massive shuffling of talent in the middle of the Bills' O-Line.
Preston/Whittle becomes Preston/Fowler/Whittle
After Duke Preston saw a load of playing time against the Saints, the Bills have shuffled their line for the time being. Jason Whittle saw all of the reps at the first unit right guard position last night, while the coaching staff rotated Preston in at first team center with Melvin Fowler. Neither saw second-team reps, as Christian Gaddis took the work there.
Allow me to go on a mini-rant for a moment. I do not understand this move at all. At all. There's a very good chance that it's a temporary experiment, but the coaching staff has got to realize fast that the only way our offense is going to come together fast enough to keep the team from getting destroyed Weeks 1-6 is by picking a starting O-Line and going with it. But instead of saying "hey, Duke got reps at right guard, let's get Jason reps there against the Falcons and pick from there", they've turned it into a three-way battle that leaves the line in even more of a state of flux than it was in before.
I understand their concerns about Melvin Fowler - I thought, for the most part, that his play was pretty poor Friday night. But he's been working with the first unit for the entirety of the off-season. Are the coaches that high on Preston that they're desperate to find him a starting spot, whatever the cost, or is this a motivational tactic for Fowler? Regardless, the move has created more of a mess than it has answered questions. I hate the move, but as I said, perhaps it's only temporary. I'm at camp today, so I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on this.
Sacks, Pressures Galore
J.P. Losman and the offense struggled throughout the practice, as Losman continually had to outlast great coverage by a defense shredded in New Orleans to fire off passes. He also was "sacked" on a few occasions. Perhaps he's being sacked because of the revolving door of players protecting the field in front of J.P.'s face. Losman also had a ball squirt out of his hands as he tried to throw it downfield; the lame duck that ensued was promptly picked out of the air by Aaron Schobel. Yes, Aaron Schobel intercepted J.P. Losman. Our quarterback is notorious for those kinds of plays (see pick-hit-fumble recovery by Robert Royal in the Jaguars game last year), and he'll need to prevent that stuff from happening come the start of the regular season.
The tell-tale sign that things are bad: Craig Nall, in limited passing opportunities, looked strong and accurate. He completed 4 of 5 passes on the night and was "accurate and decisive" according to Chris Brown.
Jackson, Greer Climbing
Before he left practice with a dinged shoulder, Fred Jackson was the big mover on the depth chart. As predicted here at Buffalo Rumblings, Jackson was seen taking reps third in the RB rotation behind Anthony Thomas and Marshawn Lynch, and ahead of Shaud Williams and Dwayne Wright (in that order). The injury to his shoulder seems minor and Jackson said in an interview that he'd be back on the field today, so I'll be keeping an eye on that rotation all day.
Meanwhile, Jabari Greer was sprinkled in on the first unit for a few reps in place of the beat up Terrence McGee. The move was designed to keep Kiwaukee Thomas in his nickel role and clearly establishes Greer as ahead of Ashton Youboty on the current depth chart. I fully expect to see Greer get a series or two as the nickel back against the Falcons in place of Thomas, just to see how he performs in first-unit action. Now is his time to prove that he deserves playing time on more than just special teams.
Coming This Evening: I'll be back this evening with a full report from my day at Bills camp. All of your suggestions on who to watch were great and have been noted, so I'll do my best to keep my two eyes on all the players you'd like covered. Stay tuned!