Mario Williams pulls up on a pass rush to avoid killing QB Ryan
Fitzpatrick Saturday in the Buffalo Bills’ first practice with pads in 2012. My photo, here and below…
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — All that off-season talk sure appears justified about the Buffalo Bills suddenly having a vaunted defensive line.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey on Saturday afternoon summed up what was plain for all to see, after the team went at it in pads for the first time in 2012 at St. John Fisher College.
“I thought the defence dominated the practice,” Gailey said off the top.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on offence to meet their level of play right now. It’s a little bit different than it has been, and it’s good for our football team.”
And the focal point of the defence’s dominance was along the line of scrimmage.
Big-buzz free-agent acquisitions Mario Williams and Mark Anderson — both defensive-end pass-rush specialists — ate up the OL much of the time. So did tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. And all of their backups.
“They’ve got some good players, and they work hard, and they play hard and they’re good leaders,” Gailey said. “That’s a strong group up there.”
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was harassed often, and probably threw far more incompletions than he did in any previous OTA or pre-season practices.
To be fair, the first-string offensive line had two backups, plus arguably its second-best left tackle.
Rookie LT Cordy Glenn was with the twos on Saturday, and second-year man Chris Hairston (left, vs Anderson) took the first-team reps, as they alternate by day. As well, starting centre Eric Wood is not ready to go yet after off-season ACL surgery (Kraig Urbik took his spot), and starting right tackle Erik Pears aggravated a lingering groin-muscle injury on Friday and was replaced Saturday by his backup, Sam Young.
Young was tasked with blocking Mario Williams, who always lines up at left DE. Williams blew him up a lot of the time (see right), crashing underneath Young, blowing around him, or just ploughing him inside.
Williams also displayed savvy awareness in pass coverage on one play, quickly diagnosing a bang-bang bubble screen thrown laterally to his side by Fitzpatrick. Williams instantly halted his pass rush and took off back toward the receiver. If tackling were allowed Williams would have been in on it, for a loss or negligible gain.
The DL’s dominance only increased as the second- and third-teamers got reps.
“That’s where probably most of our depth is — in the defensive line,” Gailey said. “I would expect that to happen here for a while until we can get our offensive line geared up to the speed of the game.
“From shorts to pads it goes up a speed, and then you go to pre-season games and it goes to another speed. So we’re going to have to gear it up to meet the challenges, offensively.”
The Bills defence statistically was the seventh worst in the NFL in 2011. New coordinator Dave Wannstedt has discarded the failed one-year attempt to run a 3-4 and installed an attack 4-3.
Super Mario was super hot.
This was Fitz’s view on more than a few pass plays.
OTHER INJURIES: Wideout David Nelson went down on one of the first 11-on-11 plays, and hobbled off after hurting his right leg. “(Medical staff) said it’s like a bruise,” Gailey said. “They don’t think it’s any kind of ligament (injury) or anything like that. So we’ll see what the determination is tomorrow, probably.”
In addition, oft-injured DE Shawne Merriman rolled an ankle near the end of Friday’s practice and sat out Saturday, and DT Kellen Heard‘s sore ankle kept him out, but slot CB Leodis McKelvin practised after leaving Friday’s practice with an illness.
THIGPEN’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE: Tyler Thigpen took second-team reps at QB, as he continues to alternate by day with Vince Young. While Young again didn’t raise eyebrows with his play, Thigpen again was the master of the cringe. Late in the day in 11-on-11s, Thigpen threw two bad picks. Just as with the two interceptions he threw on Friday, both times Thigpen locked onto blanketed receivers yet delivered anyway. He did complete one nice pass on a slant to WR David Clowney, and looked good on a zone-read keeper. Otherwise, yeesh.
EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Bryan Scott was the only player who wore game pants. Everyone else either was in shorts or sweats … In 7-on-7s, WR Stevie Johnson had a few impressive catches that wowed the thousand or so fans in attendance, one on a deep post in double coverage.
TOMORROW: The NFL Circus, aka New York Jets camp, as my seven-camps-in-nine-days tour continues…
- – - – - -
Vince hits the barrel on the head — twice!
Vince Young won’t be challenging Ryan Fitzpatrick any time soon as the Buffalo Bills’ starting quarterback.
But on Saturday at training-camp practice, Young succeeded in a fun but difficult test of accuracy — twice! — when Fitzpatrick couldn’t.
Young twice lobbed a ball about 27 yards and into a stack of barrels — and hit the rim another time.
Fitzpatrick, as well as backups Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith, couldn’t sink one.
Each QB attempted about 10 passes from about the eight-yard line on near-side hash-mark, throwing toward the barrels stack in the same-side corner of the end zone. By my pythagorean-theorem calculations, that’s 27 yards.
Fitzpatrick wasn’t happy about it either. After practice, he tried again. Twice. And failed both times.