ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — News, tidbits and observations from Monday’s Buffalo Bills practice, the first of four OTAs this week. I tweeted a lot of it as it happened, but here’s a bit more perspective — and more, including an interesting comment from DL coach Giff Smith about DE Mark Anderson:
• WR Stevie Johnson (above, my photo from Monday) said he’s expecting to fully take part in team drills next week at the mandatory three-day mini-camp, which concludes spring off-season workouts. He fielded several passes Monday while working out solo. He ran at about half-speed but made a nice leaping grab at one point. See my photo of that play in the gallery post, below.
• QB Ryan Fitzpatrick again was as hot as the weather, other than — as last Tuesday — just one glaringly bad play. Fitz was hitting quick pass after quick pass all over the field Monday, finding receivers and delivering them the ball in the numbers for the most part. His best pass in 11-on-11s was the last play — a perfectly thrown ball down the left sideline to speedy rookie WR T.J. Graham, who caught it and was gone. Safety Jairus Byrd couldn’t make his way over in time from what appeared to be cover-2. It was about as bang-bang a long pass as you’ll see. Fitz threw it quickly, without much loft, and Graham snared it. Afterward, Fitz ran down the field and chest-bumped Graham.
• Fitz’s one groaner on Monday was on a shortish post. The WR was double-covered all the way. Safety George Wilson easily picked off the pass. Should never have been thrown. Fitz forced it.
• QB Vince Young took almost all of the non-Fitz reps. Didn’t do anything memorable. Missed a couple passes again. As QBs coach David Lee told me last week, Young is coming along quickly and has a ton to learn, but for having not played in an offence like this before he’s making strides. But bottom line: Fitz has nothing to worry about.
• I could be wrong — and probably am — but I don’t recall seeing Tyler Thigpen taking a single snap in 11-on-11s. [UPDATE: Thigpen threw only position-drill passes, as he's still limited after pulling a chest muscle two weeks ago.]. Brad Smith only got a few snaps. On one he handed off in the zone-read, and on another — right after a defensive coach screamed to watch out for the running quarterback — he took off for a nice gainer on a QB draw.
• DT Jay Ross busted up a Vince Young pass play, breaking through early up the middle before Young could even set up.
• Kevin Brock appears to be the second-string TE. Scott Chandler, the starter, again made some nice grabs.
• Rookie OT Zebrie Sanders (fifth round, Florida State) was the goat on an apparent third-and-10 play near the defence’s end zone. He jumped before the snap, killing the play.
• DC Dave Wannstedt was still wearing a neck brace. He told me last Tuesday it would be coming off in “a few days.” Nnnot yet.
• CB Aaron Williams was starting with the ones on the left side, which appeared to be the short side, until a recurring knee ailment sidelined him. HC Chan Gailey said that was a precautionary move. Leodis McKelvin played right-side corner (wideside, it appeared) with the ones against traditional two-WR sets, but slid inside to be nickelback to cover the slot WR against trips. Rookie Stephon Gilmore then came on to play corner on that side.
• McKelvin was dynamic at times on Monday. On consecutive plays in 11-on-11s, with the offence at the 10-yard line, he broke up quick-slant passes — the first to RB Fred Jackson, who’d repositioned to the slot, and the second to WR David Nelson. A few minutes later, McKelvin nearly had a pick when he leaped in front of what looked like a post. Later, in 7-on-7s, he had another PBU. Impressive.
• Undrafted rookie DB Isaiah Green (out of Fresno State) had a really nice PBU in 7-on-7s on a post to WR Marcus Easley.
• During kickoff drills, WRs T.J. Graham and Donald Jones were back fielding balls.
• Rookie LB Nigel Bradham was all over a swing pass to Fred Jackson, after Fitz was super-rushed by DE Mario Williams. Bradham did the same thing on a safety-valve swing pass to an RB last week. The kid is not slow.
• Afterward, DL coach Giff Smith told me that DE Mark Anderson isn’t just a pass rusher: “I was looking at film of him before OTAs started, and you know what? Everybody talks about how good a pass rusher he is — and he is that — but he’s also a lot better run defender than he’s been given credit for.” Anderson, BTW, is fine health-wise, Smith said.
• Afterward, DE Mario Williams told me that he and the other defensive linemen are developing chemistry both on the field and off. For instance, late last week they all got together for a dinner.
• Gailey on his depth chart as of Monday: “Nothing’s set … It’s all magnets. They can be moved.”