The Buffalo Bills veterans reported to training camp today, including the anticpated arrival of…
Bills Training Camp Report July 24/25th
Day One, 7/24/03
The weather was rainy and cold. The players were excited and there was no better place to be on a Thursday morning. In the AM practice, there were as many surprises as there were raindrops. The first being a huge guy in a jersey that read #71. At first I thought it must be a rookie, or maybe a new acquisition, but the brace on the left knee gave it away: Marcus Jones. He was there and going full force, and to tell the truth he did look a bit sluggish. It was his first action in over a year so that was to be expected.
The next surprise was a receiver, there was a diving catch made on the near sideline by a mysterious receiver wearing #16. I hadn't a clue who that was, but my roster told me it was Paris Jackson, a 6' 3" undrafted rookie free agent out of Utah. That was the only big play he made and thereafter dove face-first into mediocrity. It was however, very impressive.
Then in a full team drill the first scuffle of camp occured, Chris Kelsay vs. Justin Sands. Let me tell you it was no battle royal, after a quick hip-toss Kelsay had Sands pinned to the ground and that was it. It was a very impressive display of Kelsey's' power. As was the rest of his practice, he was stopping backs and pressuring QB's all morning long. Josh Reed was impressive as well, he caught absolutely everything that was thrown his way, also ran the reverse very well. Once he turned it up-field reading Jennings bloc, and the next time Jennings had Grant irons pinned inside so he went wide and down the sideline. He made both reads very well.
Special team's drills and screen passes dominated the morning practice, Ken Simonton looked very good as a third down back option, he has a good build for it, and had great hands. It's really tough to assess RB's because there aren't in pads yet but right now I'd say Simonton is the lead candidate of the guys there because he offers something different. The rest of the backs all have similar styles. Crosby looked like he was very comfortable in the offense and he jacked up Denney once even though he wasn't really supposed to. It was a great block though. The Corners really struggled in the morning practice due to the fact that they are almost all rookies and they were in a pouring rain, but they looked better late.
The afternoon practice was a little more productive. I got there a little late but from what I saw I could tell a lot more about the skill positions due to a drying field.
Terrence McGee was the standout of the CB's, Thomas and Wire looked good too, but it was McGee that was breaking up a lot of passes. He didn't look out of position very often. Once, however, he did get beat badly by Aiken on a fly route. On that note Aiken is not nearly as slow as made out to be, in individual workouts he flew past Antonio Brown. Brown will have to make a big impression with the special teams coach to get on the roster because he did not display the greatest hands this afternoon, he did make one nice grab, but that was it.
The linemen are hard to assess at this point, because none are wearing pads. But Grant Irons looks great, he kept his muscle mass, but seems to be much thinner now and looked really fast. Clarence coleman stole the show in the afternoon, he made some great catches over the middle but his size makes me uncomfortable with his chances of making the team.
Josh reed went on a fade pattern against McGee, and Brown (who took most of the snaps in both practices) underthrew the ball intentionally, Reed skyed backward to make the grab, he looked a little slow getting up but continued practice as if he were fine.
Both practices were finished with an autograph session at the end. The morning practice was very disappointing because of the rain, nobody could get any signatures without smudging but the afternoon was great.
Travis Brown - Took 70% of the snaps today, he looked to have great touch on his screen passes and his deep ball, but there were a few throws he made that made me questions his arm strength. The out passes in particular did not have the zip they'd need to get past starting CB's.
Jason Johnson - Took most of the remaining snaps at QB and looked pretty good. Still learning the offense obviously, but looked pretty comfortable, flashed potential on some deep balls and slants.
Josh Reed - Dominated the first day of camp, looked great in his routes and burned some people deep, he will be our #2 receiver this year and will make us all forget about Peerless really quickly. He flashed really good speed today, I was very impressed.
Sam Aiken - He dropped one ball that he should have caught, but other than that he was really great, as I said before, I don't think he is as slow as his 40 time indicates. He ran past a lot of people today and I think he will challenge Bobby Shaw for the #3 receiver spot. And if he progresses along schedule he could be one of the best 3's in the league.
Grant Irons - A slim version of what we had last year, he looked faster than last year but just as powerful I think he will take a roster spot this year along with Kelsay, Schoebel, Jones, and Denney.
Luvale Sape - They have him listed as 6'1 but he doesn't look taller than 5'10. He showed good speed but he doesn't have enough height to ever be a special player on the inside. Don't look for him to swat a lot of balls down.
Ryan Denney - He's got big, just as fast as last year but he looks like he is ready for real time this year.
Marcus Jones - He is a lot bigger than he looks in pictures, he was very tentative in the morning practice but he loosened up in the afternoon and started getting after some people. Had the chance to kill Bledsoe but obviously pulled up. I think he will be a starter if he continues to come back from injury. I was truly surprised to see him out there going full in both practices today.
Linebacker group - Without pads you can't evaluate LB's really well but they had them grouped as such. The first team was Spoon (who looked very good and healthy) Stevenson and Polk. The latter group was the two rookies and Stamer. They all looked good but the ones that stood out were Stevenson, Spoon and Crowell. They all look like they could move outside and challenge Posey for the starting spot. Haggan by the way is the only guy on the team that has arms comparable to Spoons.
Coy Wire - Looked very solid, didn't get beat deep but didn't make any plays either so I guess it's a good day.
Tony Driver - saw a lot of time on the field today, he played pretty well, he was better as the lone safety in the 4-6 and looked a little less comfortable in our cover 2 scheme in a 4-3.
Day Two, 7/25/03
The morning was today's only practice. The guys seemed very intense and very focused. Nice weather along with some hard hitting, today was such a good practice.
Tom Donahoe was present and didn't seem to concerned with the Willis MaGahee negotiations. He was out there evaluating as if he were drafting these guys all over again.
Team strategy -
Today there was a lot of work on making quick decisions in the red zone. I couldn't tell you how many times Coach Williams told guys that there simply "isn't time to think down here (red zone), you have to make a decision and react. It better be the right instinct too." It sounded like he rehearsed it all night. But it was great coaching. He wants guys playing on instinct not thought. If they learn the defense quickly, there is that possibility.
In our goal line offense we ran a lot of trips to one side tight end to the other side and single back formations. On pass plays we had a few rollouts to the trips side and the other plays were screens to the tight end side mostly. There were a lot of special teams' drills as well, mostly on busting the wedge. Sam Aiken, and Kevin Thomas looked pretty good in that regard.
Travis Brown and Jason Johnson took the majority of the snaps today. Johnson was erractic early on, but then settled in to have a pretty good practice. Brown was flat all day and the same as yesterday. He had good touch on screens and deep balls but had a few out routes easily knocked down.
Ken Simonton continued to impress me, he has nasty ability to make his body move in two directions at once, nobody really squared up on him all day.
Josh reed continued to be an absolute acrobat with great hands. With a nice dry sunny day it was easier to gauge his speed, not as fast as Peerless, but not slow either, he got behind the secondary quite a bit.
Sam Aiken was not as impressive today as he was yesterday. He managed to get open on a few double moves but his speed looked questionable at times.
The tight end competition is looking fun at No. 3. Right now I have Nuefeld on top. He is catching everything thrown his way, but he isn't very big, and that's a problem in a running offense. McDonnell looks to be the bigger of the two, but he doesn't have great hands and Coy Wire absolutely destroyed him on a ball in the end zone today. McDonnell had the catch but lost it as he was leveled by Wire.
Phil Crosby made a real nice diving grab but that was the only thing he did notable the whole day. Neither good nor bad, but looks to be as fast as Centers with much better blocking skills.
At defensive end Marcus Jones continued to go full all day. He looked very good and at onepoint pancaked Jonas Jennings to his back. Ryan Denney looked strong on the corner and fast off the edge.
At LB it is difficult to figure out motives behind the moves. Stevenson moved to outside linebacker and made a fair share of mistakes. Right now if I had to rank the guys behind the top three it would be Spoon, Crowell, Stevenson, Polk, Haggan, Stamer.
Both Wire and Driver had big hits today, neither got beat deep.
Hits of the day:
Marcus Jones bull rushed right over Jennings and put him on his back, that was impressive.
Mike Williams got revenge for his buddy (Jennings) on the next play and and pushed Denney at least 7 yards down field.
Later on Josh Reed took a reverse and went around the left side, Kelsay stayed in great position, and had him but Jonas Jennings appeared out of nowhere and took out Kelsay, you could hear him say "Welcome to the NFL," when he helped Kelsay up.
Jonas was heavily reprimanded for hitting a teammate from the blindside but I think Gilbride was really happy to see it.
In the secondary, Tony Driver layed out Sam in a deep crossing pattern and Coy Wire took out Brady McDonnell in the endzone.
The biggest hit though was the first real fight of camp, between Jonas Jennings and Grant Irons, they went at it for a good amount of time before finally being seperated by Coach Williams.
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