The Buffalo Bills hit the practice field on Tuesday night for their third night practice of 2009 training camp, and they did so with good fervor. Perhaps it was because Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly was on hand to take in practice at St. John Fisher College, but the Bills practiced fast and delivered plenty of good hits on the evening.
Our de facto camp reporter, MattRichWarren, was live on the scene once again. Here's a recap of what was noteworthy from tonight's practice session.
Keeping track of the O-Line
Much of the future work we planned to put into this little daily segment of ours was rendered moot when Bills head coach Dick Jauron confirmed to BuffaloBills.com earlier today that the team's starting offensive line is set. Langston Walker, Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood and Brad Butler will officially make up the starting five. Still, it doesn't hurt to track their progress, right?
Butler missed practice tonight as he continues to deal with a back injury he sustained in Monday's practice. Filling in for Butler on the right side was second-year pro Demetrius Bell, who had a strong outing. He performed quite well in one-on-one drills and had a nice blitz pickup; he was, however, pulled from the lineup late in practice in favor of Kirk Chambers. It appeared that line coach Sean Kugler didn't like something that he saw from the still-developing Bell.
On the whole, the line's pass protection was solid most of the night, though they did spring some leaks late. Kyle Williams knifed past Andy Levitre for a would-be sack. The line (and the backs) failed to pick up a blitzing Bryan Scott, who reached Trent Edwards unscathed for another faux sack. John McCargo got good pressure working around Chambers early in the session (Chambers was at left tackle at the time). In case you needed us to state the obvious, this is still a work in progress - but each lineman has had his moments, and there seems to be improvement in some area on a nightly basis.
Good night for the DBs
Beyond the fact that Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin will be Buffalo's starting cornerbacks, there's a lot that is in flux right now at the position. Once again, Buffalo's coaches threw a bit of a surprise our way in the fact that it was Ashton Youboty taking first-team reps in place of McKelvin, who was limited on the evening as he continues to deal with a quad strain.
Youboty had a great evening, intercepting two Ryan Fitzpatrick passes in the red zone. Drayton Florence got some first-team reps in place of Youboty later on in the session, but that doesn't erase the big plays. Reggie Corner saw the bulk of first-team corner reps. This trio seems to do something a little bit different every day.
McGee had great coverage on a deep throw to Evans. We've mentioned Scott's sack; he was really the only safety to get in on the act. Even undrafted free agent Lydell Sargeant contributed, returning a Bruce Hall fumble for a score.
Tight ends continue to impress
It is (apparently; I'll confirm myself Thursday and Friday) fun watching rookie TE Shawn Nelson practice. Nelson continued his heavy workload in the red zone tonight, as he is routinely lining up in the slot in the red area. Early in the practice, he was working on fade routes with Trent Edwards. He later caught a touchdown pass out of a bunch formation. This kid's future is blindingly bright.
Nelson isn't the only tight end impressing, however. Derek Schouman (especially) and Derek Fine continue to make plays in the passing game as well, and both have flashed dominance as blockers. We don't want to jump the gun, folks, but the tight end position may finally be ready to contribute to a Bills offense. There are certainly very capable players here.
James Hardy and Jairus Byrd remain on the PUP list. Leodis McKelvin dressed, but was limited and did not participate in team work. Butler was not on the field at all; we heard a rumor that he was being iced down in the training room, but cannot confirm that. Steve Johnson, Copeland Bryan, Marcus Smith and David Lindquist did not practice.
The Bills have an early afternoon practice on Wednesday. Matt will be there again. The dude is a machine. Thursday and Friday will really be sweet, however, as yours truly will be at camp both days. Matt and I will be double-teaming this thing on those two days. (I know - TWSS.)