Every year, I make at least one trip to St. John Fisher College in Pittsford to take in a Buffalo Bills training camp practice. No matter how long I do this, I'm always amazed at two things the first time I go each year: just how awesome the atmosphere is, and just how boring the practices are.
Rather than give you our normal breakdown, I'm instead going to use this post as an opportunity to get some things off of my chest. I've just got a few observations about some players to throw out there; as it was a short practice (the Bills are quite dinged up at the moment, particularly on defense), there wasn't much in the way of highlights.
QB Trent Edwards. Trent looked a little off to me tonight. He still seems a little hesitant to make the throws, and on more than one occasion the ball wasn't in a spot where the receiver could make the catch. He did have a perfect strike to Terrell Owens that Owens could only get one hand on; there was good coverage on the play. If there's a negative about Trent, it's that he's still trying to hit the perfect play (at least in practice). He'll thrive if he's assertive in picking up the sure yardage. The positives: he looks extremely comfortable running the no-huddle, and he looks quite calm in the pocket. His feet aren't as happy as they have been the past couple of seasons. He's making all the right reads. It was nice to see him working with Alex Van Pelt for an extra 20 minutes after practice as well. Trent just needs to play.
WR Justin Jenkins. Jenkins turned in the play of the night when he tipped a Gibran Hamdan throw over double coverage from Reggie Corner and George Wilson to himself for a long scoring play. He also hauled in a long throw from Hamdan over Terrence McGee earlier in the session. I realize that he's buried on the depth chart and working against bodies (as opposed to players), but the guy looks like a Pro Bowl receiver out there. He's a very smooth athlete with good hands. Buffalo's coaching staff is going to have a hard time cutting this guy.
TE Derek Schouman. This guy is lining up everywhere. On the line, in the slot, in the backfield - he's all over the place. What's more, he's the only tight end to get reps in all three places with the first unit. Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson get a lot of work in all three areas as well, but it's clear that Schouman is going to be the starting tight end, with Nelson getting specialized packages. Fine might have a hard time finding playing time, at least initially.
LT Langston Walker. Walker looked fantastic tonight. The guy is a monster pass blocker. He's agile, and he's so big that if he gets an arm on you, you're done rushing the passer now, thank you very much. The only area where he might struggle is with speed rushers; the Bills don't exactly have a lot of those at the moment. We'll see how that goes when the time comes; in the meantime, breathe easy. He looks good.
C Geoff Hangartner. I wasn't a fan of the snap he put over Edwards' head, but I liked the way Hangartner blocked tonight. He's not an overwhelming power guy, but boy, can he move. Expect to see him do a lot of pulling this year.
OG Eric Wood. If Marshawn Lynch is willing to part with his "Beast Mode" moniker for the duration of his suspension, I'll nominate Wood as the recipient for those three games. This guy is nasty.
DE Aaron Schobel. I didn't see as much of him as I'd have liked to, considering the shortage of defensive linemen and the short practice, but Schobel looked quick tonight. He's moving very well. The foot doesn't look like it's anywhere near a problem. We'll need him to be productive early in the season.
DE Chris Ellis. Copeland Bryan being sidelined is about the worst thing that could have happened to Ellis, because he's got no competition right now, and he's playing like it. He looks very comfortable and ordinary out there. Nothing about his game stands out much - he's tough, he's got some speed, but he's handled a lot as well. I was not impressed - but again, it was just one practice.
DT John McCargo. Easily Buffalo's most active defensive lineman tonight. Worked his butt off. Tipped a pass at the line, and was very tough to block in one-on-one drills. That's very promising news indeed; the Bills need all the run-stuffing they can get.
LB Pat Thomas. I'm going to try to get a closer look at Thomas tomorrow, but the little I saw of him tonight, I liked. He's a fine athlete. He came up with a blocked punt tonight, and continues to run with the second unit defense at middle linebacker. The fact that he's played in NFL games skyrockets his value to this team, and makes him a lock for the final roster. I just want to see more.
CB Ellis Lankster. This guy is fun to watch. He's got a little Antoine Winfield in him in that he's not a big guy, but he's nicely built and can really play. He looked great in coverage and also looked excellent in punt drills (he did not see any action in the return game). It's going to be tough to cut him. He's really impressive.
CB Cary Harris. I saw Harris attempt to jam Shaine Smith tonight and whiff by a country mile. I also saw an extremely raw athlete with loads of potential. A virtual lock for the practice squad.
P Brian Moorman. I just thought it was awesome that he lined up as a kick returner with the scout team return unit. He did not, however, touch the ball. I wanted him to, though.
It was a short practice and I've only got two eyes, so that's about all I've got information-wise for you. I'll be back at camp tomorrow, so if there are any players you'd like me to keep an eye on, mention them in a comment and I'll keep a list. There were some things that I liked tonight, and some I didn't. Pretty typical of a training camp practice. Looking forward to tomorrow.