There was a big crowd on hand as no doubt people are getting excited that the team's first preseason game is on the horizon. Travis Henry was held out of practice and Mike Williams is working back from his hamstring injury. Coy Wire exhibited an intermittent, barely decipherable limp but was back looking otherwise good. Ryan Denney practiced with bandage/protection on left knee.
THE NEXT TWO AND A HALF WEEKS WILL BE CRITICAL: After all the buildup and hype, it is getting close to decision time for the front office. Who will stay....and who will feel the pain of the “The Turk”. Questions that might be helped answered in Saturday’s preseason game against the Ravens include: Are we sold on Antonia Brown as the Kick Return man, does Shaw cut it as the Punt Return man, will Jett, McDonnell, McKenzie, Jones and Aiken play prominent roles...and what are they? Are the starting and back up safeties finally defined or is there still a battle going on?
LETS GIVE THE BILLS FIRST TEAM OFFENSE A BREAK: The Bills defense is so improved over last year and the competition is so intense that it is starting to wear on the offensive skill positions. I propose that the first team offense practice against the second team defense until they can get back on their feet. The defense has become so efficient and disruptive; it is difficult for the offense to get into a rhythm. Defensive team speed is phenomenal. Offense takes a while to develop consistency while the defense has show results that are more immediate. The offense seems destined to work on its short, screen and dump off passes until they can get work against other teams with lesser defenses. Throwing anything long brings a sack or interception.
DEFENSIVE PLAYMAKERS ARE EVERYWHERE: Pick your poison. Clements and Winfield continue to show shutdown coverage skills today in practice. Their confidence is contagious. I am very comfortable with Kevin Thomas as either THE corner or the nickel back. It would be nice to have Winfield back next year, but with Thomas exhibiting such superior cover and ball hawking skills, I don't think the Bills will have much of a drop-off there. Sidney showed signs of improvement in 11 on 11 drills. He is a solid, steady performer yet 4th round draft pick Terrence McGee and his special teams’ contribution might end beating him out for the final CB spot on the roster. Takeo Spikes is intimidating and he showed more today than I have seen in the past with the blitz packages. The Bills seem to be doing a lot more shifts, stunts and schemes that are designed to create confusion. Jeff Posey is the biggest contributor. His size and speed combination make him and force off the edge or a presence in coverage. Marcus Jones was back with the first team unit today at DE.
SPECIAL TEAMS IN FOCUS: The Bills staff is spending so much more time on the finer details of special teams play this year. It seems as though up to a third of the Bills practice time has been spent on upgrading unit performance. Clarence Coleman had a few too many bobbles today to be considered as a serious contender at PR/KR. Nate Clements continues to practice these duties and seems the best of the group. Will the Bills risk him here? Antonio Brown is sure handed and makes great cuts but the soaked field put a damper on his blazing speed show today. Dorenbos is getting all percent of the long snapping duties throughout camp, so it appears he might have a roster spot locked up unless he messes up in game situation. Don't worry about Moorman and Lindell- the Bills are fine there, thank you.
BACKUP QBs BETTER TODAY: Alex Van Pelt had a nice hookup with James Jett on a fly pattern that backed the defense up a few yards the next time he was on the field. Jason Johnson appears to have lost confidence. Brown and AVP look very good in the short game and with decision making skills. Sam Aiken continues to struggle with a slump of sorts but he is a rookie. For example Aiken beat fellow rookie McGee on a sideline route and then dropped a nice throw. Bobby Shaw shows promise as the third receiver. He is loose, confident and likes to joke around and fosters good camaraderie. Veteran Charles Johnson tries very hard and is a good leader but he continues to lack production on the practice field. Rodney Wright is trying very hard to crack the roster, look for a future Battlin’ Bills article on the wide receiver position.
There will be another morning practice tomorrow with LBs Angelo Crowell, Mario Haggan, DaShon Polk, Takeo Spikes expected to be in the autograph session afterwards.