The Buffalo Bills’ second night practice took place last evening in front of another sell-out crowd at St. John Fisher College.
As usual, the night practice consisted of high energy fans who packed the bleachers until the last autograph was signed.
I figured since I’ve spent so much time studying the offense the last few practices, that last night, I would switch my attention to the Bills’ defense. This, of course, proved to be a little uneventful for the first hour or so as the defensive backs and linebackers broke up plays in 2-on-1/7-on-7 and the defensive line worked on first step drills and off the ball plays. Jarius Byrd and Stephon Gilmore drew the most noise during their drills, after the two of them pancaked Derek Hagan to break up the pass. The crowd applauded. Stephon Gilmore is all over the field.
Byrd had a big day, too, breaking up several pass plays throughout the entire practice, even notching an interception during 7-on-7. Byrd, and the safeties in general looked good today, attacking receivers and getting their hands on several plays.
Other guys in the secondary not named Stephon Gilmore who also had big days were cornerback Prince Miller and Leodis McKelvin. Miller had two picks on the night and some solid route defense. McKelvin spent a lot of the practice returning kicks and punts, a role, I’m going to just assume, is his to lose. I’m very interested in where McKelvin will fit in come September because I think he’s had a better camp than Aaron Williams, but he isn’t taking many first team reps. I guess he will just have to be a wait and see player for now.
I think Terrence McGee took seven or eight snaps in full-team reps, but spent most of practice on the sideline doing individual footwork and weight-lifting drills. I’d be surprised if he made the team, but also surprised if he got cut, if that makes any sense.
With Kelvin Shepperd out tonight with an undisclosed injury (that Chan Gailey wouldn’t mention in his post-practice press conference), Scott McKillop came in for some first team reps.
Shawne Merriman was also rotated into the first team. I think leaving Merriman out of the first-team is a good plan. Today, he gave Cordy Glenn some trouble, but ultimately wasn’t an upgrade over Shepperd. The good thing about Merriman is that he clearly won’t be relied on like he was last year, and hopefully, a little Lights Out can go a long way.
The play of Tank Carder has also been well-documented on the interwebs and tonight was no exception. Carder is just all over the field, making boatloads of on-the-ball players, whether it’s making “stops” (no tackling) or breaking up passes, the guy is simply a workhorse and is going to be fun to watch once he can really go all out.
And as far as the defensive line, once again, they terrorized the quarterbacks. Mario Williams had a few sure-sacks and Kyle Williams is looking pretty close to healthy. He’s getting to the quarterback, which is only a good sign. Marcell Dareus didn’t take the majority of first-team reps, a job that instead went to Spencer Johnson. Johnson actually had a pretty funny moment where he swatted a Fitzpatrick throw that Fitzpatrick then caught. He also had a kind-of interception during the two-minute drill where the ball slipped out of Fitz’s hands and Johnson snagged it behind him to return for a TD.
Another small tidbit I noticed was that Mark Anderson, who is playing with the second team, is surprisingly fast. He has a great first step and just gets right at the quarterback. He is going to be a fun guy to root for.
Just a few offensive notes:
I’m really curious to see what happens with Derek Hagan. He’s been taking first team reps all camp, but I can’t imagine he will be with the first team come the start of the season. He did have a few nice catches today, but with the depth at receiver (Jones, Easley, Nelson, Graham), I have a hard time seeing where Hagan fits in.
The Bills did the two-minute drill again today and, shockingly, Tyler Thigpen did the best. Thigpen’s run may have ended with a Prince Miller interception, but he still moved the ball quickly and effectively up until that moment. Fitzpatrick was better than he was last time, but his last three plays killed his spot as the top two-minuter for Wednesday night. It looked like he just got lost, throwing two bad balls and a fumble-slip that Spencer Johnson took care of.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @chrishooker9 for more Bills camp updates.
Also, I appeared on yesterday’s episode of Fantasy Football Weekly with Joe Everett and Jim Day, which you can listen to here (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fantasyexchange/2012/08/02/fantasy-football-weekly). The guys are talking AFC East and I come on with some Bills camp stuff at the 29:45 mark.