Earlier this week, we brought you the early storyline of Jay Ross stealing practice reps from Marcell Dareus in Buffalo Bills training camp. Some fans questioned both Dareus' mental and physical well-being at the time, hoping to point the finger at a single cause that could be rectified and bring the former third overall pick up to his ceiling. If you believe Dareus and head coach Doug Marrone, that's not the case.
"I’ve seen a player that has come in, has made a lot of plays out there and worked extremely hard," said Marrone following Tuesday's practice. "I’m excited about how he did on his conditioning test and where his weight is and where he’s going."
Physically, he's where Marrone wants him to be. Dareus echoed that statement (we think) when he declared himself "healthy as a rock" on Monday. Mentally, Dareus says he is "closer than he has been in a long time" to being the player he was before his brother's murder last September.
"It was just a lot. I was only 22 years old," he told ESPN.com's Mike Rodak Monday. "I didn't have anybody I could talk to. [That] took it a lot out of me. But towards the end of the season, I caught myself. I started having fun again."
"I don’t see any signs of a player that has anything hidden down inside," said Marrone Tuesday when asked about Dareus being "refreshed" from a season ago. "I see a player that’s having fun, playing football and that’s what we want them all to do."
Still, there's one question that remains: why is Dareus losing first-team reps?
According to BuffaloBills.com, Ross continued to sneak in first-team reps alongside Dareus with the first team on Tuesday, saying "there’s clearly something the staff likes" in the former undrafted free agent. Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News believes Ross is subbing for the still-limited Kyle Williams at nose tackle, not Dareus. Joe Buscaglia from WGR 550 in Buffalo noted that Dareus did well in one-on-one drills, calling him a "standout." It was the first day of contact, which will help separate the linemen on both sides of the ball.
As the contact continues to ramp up and Kyle Williams and Mario Williams return to practice, it will be interesting to see how Dareus fits in. Bills fans are already concerned enough to be dropping the "bust" label in conversations about the third-year defensive lineman.