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Practice Notes - Day 11: Linebacker battle heats up

Posted Aug 7, 2012

Position battles are not a rare occurrence in the early stages of training camp, and the Bills now have another one on their hands. Veteran linebacker Kirk Morrison and third year linebacker Arthur Moats will compete for the duration of training camp and preseason action to determine who will man the strong side linebacker position in the 4-3 base set.

“At the strong side position Arthur Moats and Kirk Morrison are in a battle,” said Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. “To be quite honest with you Arthur gets the nudge a little bit. They are going to split time in the game, but Arthur might have outperformed him a little bit at this point in training camp. So we have real competition right there and how it unfolds; the games will determine that.”

The two outside linebackers shared reps and rotated with the starting defense during practice Tuesday. Bills head coach Chan Gailey did not necessarily predict this competition before camp, but he understands why it has emerged.

“It started in OTAs and Arthur (Moats) has continued to play very well in training camp. It is nothing against what Kirk (Morrison) has done. It is just that Arthur (Moats) has earned the right to get some reps up there, so it will be a good battle that I did not foresee happening, but it has become a good battle.” 

Another player who continues to impress the coaching staff is linebacker Bryan Scott. Scott is the starting outside linebacker in the team’s nickel packages and he was making plays throughout practice on Tuesday.

The former defensive back showed off some of his safety instincts during team drills today when he batted down a couple of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s passes. He followed up one of his pass break-ups with a sack and also was consistently helping stuff the run.

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt understands how valuable Scott is to this defense.

“The one guy that has had a great camp and is a heck of a football player is Bryan Scott,” said Wannstedt. “The real bonus guy in this thing is Bryan Scott, in our minds he is a starter. If we play it out this year he will have more reps at the nickel linebacker than Moats or Morrison will have at the Sam linebacker.”

Highlights

Rookie cornerback Ron Brooks also made a statement today during practice as he had three pass break-ups during the team’s seven-on-seven drills with the second unit.

Starting left side cornerback, Aaron Williams added an interception, as well, when he picked off an underthrown fade route by Ryan Fitzpatrick intended for Stevie Johnson.

Da’Norris Searcy also chipped in with an interception himself when he jumped a route and picked off Tyler Thigpen.

This was one of only a few mistakes by the back-up quarterback who looked sharp once again during team drills. His competition for the second string quarterback position was up for the challenge.

Vince Young was also sharp during practice and recorded back to back touchdown passes during red zone work. His first touchdown pass was to Fendi Onobun over the middle from about 20 yards out. That was followed up with a touch pass to David Clowney on a fade route in the back of the end zone.

Thigpen and Young saw some extended action during practice and it was not a coincidence.

“Well they are going to play most of the game Thursday night, so yes we wanted to get them a few more reps, especially against some of the looks that they would get in the ball game,” said Gailey speaking about the preseason opener on Thursday night against Washington.

While the quarterback play was solid, it should not undermine the consistent play at receiver throughout the day. The wealth was certainly being shared throughout practice as just about every player got their hands on the ball. It was a group effort by the wide receiver core, but a solid one at that. 

Rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham contributed with a few catches as he continues to show constant improvement. 

The catch of the day was made by Donald Jones on a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick as he stretched out to make a tremendous leaping catch over the middle of the field.

For all the highlights just go to the Media Center at Buffalobills.com to watch some of the best from the day’s action in our daily Bills Roundup report.

Injury Update

On the injury front, the news continued to get better for Buffalo regarding a few of their players. Erik Pears was back on the field and participated in individual work and took a couple of team reps.

Wide receiver David Nelson also returned to the field and participated in both individual and team work.

On the other hand, running back Johnny White did not practice today and cornerback Justin Rogers continues to be held out of team activities.

Lineup Notes

While there is a new position battle at the strong side linebacker position, there are also several other competitions taking place.

Chris Hairston continues to start at right tackle during team drills, since Erik Pears is not quite ready to fully participate. Therefore, Cordy Glenn is taking the majority of reps at left tackle.

The injury to Erik Pears has stalled the battle somewhat at left tackle because Hairston has shifted over to the right side, but it is something that will play itself out over the next few weeks.

“It is one of those that you hate that it has happened the way that it has happened because we had to move Chris (Hairston) over to get some reps at right (tackle),” Gailey said. “We will see how this works out. I think we will get Erik Pears back next week and we can go back to the normal rotation that we had.”

With David Nelson returning, Donald Jones moved back to the outside number two wide receiver position. Jones had been previously filling in at the slot position while Nelson was banged up. 

Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen are still sharing second string quarterback reps. While both quarterbacks have been playing more consistently as of late, this battle will continue through preseason action.

Schedule

The Bills kickoff their preseason schedule on Thursday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium when they take on the Washington Redskins at 7 pm.

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