Buffalo's offense really had to redeem itself after a pair of practices in which they were soundly outperformed by the defense, and they responded. The Bills passing game was far more consistent Wednesday night with several big plays and not surprisingly Lee Evans was in the middle of it.
Buffalo's top wideout unofficially had seven receptions on the evening. One of his prettier catches was an over the shoulder grab down the far sideline. Evans gained inside position on Terrence McGee and J.P. Losman deftly dropped the ball over his inside shoulder for a big gainer.
Losman and Evans looked very much in sync for the first time in a few practices as the pair worked the sidelines a lot. During their two-minute drill series Evans made two catches at the end of the drive. One he made in the flat and successfully got out bounds to stop the clock and on the next play he got outside the coverage to make a reception near the sideline. As his momentum carried him over the sideline he tried to reach the ball inside the pylon for a touchdown, but just missed.
Head coach Dick Jauron thought the offensive performance had improved.
"We took the pads off and practice is a little different without the pads," said Jauron. "But they were smarter and they were crisper and didn't make as many errors."
Jauron did admit however, that during the two minute drills the result of the play at times will favor the offense to keep the segment going. One example Wednesday night was when a pass rusher appeared to reach Losman before he got rid of the ball for a 'would be' sack. But instead the completion to Marshawn Lynch out of the backfield was upheld.
Bills offensive quality control coach Alex Van Pelt is in charge of making the calls.
"I tell Alex you make the calls to keep the drill alive," Jauron explained. "There are plays the defense would make, but we may give the offense the benefit of the doubt to keep the drill going. The longer it goes and the more tired they get, the more they have to communicate and the better it is from our point of view. They're very competitive so both sides want to win. And the defense knows when they've won a down and we don't give it to them. They let us know."
Evans only blemish on the night was an uncharacteristic drop on a comeback route.
Not to be outdone by Evans in the receiving department, the number one receiver's understudy had a solid night in the passing game as well. Aiken only had a few receptions, but almost all of them were memorable.
In 7-on-7 he made a pretty leaping hands catch that drew 'oohs' from the fans in attendance, although it could be debated that Jim Leonhard may have buried him under live playing conditions.
At the end of practice during the second team two-minute drill segment, Aiken pulled in a key fourth down interception following a sack to move the chains. Then on 4th-and-goal with five second left Aiken committed a false start penalty, but he quickly made up for it.
On the next snap Aiken worked cornerback Eric Bassey inside, then broke to the sideline and Trent Edwards hit him perfectly in the back corner of the end zone before safety help could arrive for the touchdown drawing cheers from the crowd.
"It was great," said Aiken of the throw. "It was cover two and the coach going through the drills earlier said, 'Make a move and get the D-B to go one way and then release outside and make a play. That's what he told me to do."
After the catch however, Aiken wasn't through. Being shoved out of bounds by defenders the receiver was quickly closing in on a four-foot black chain link fence that runs parallel to the end line of the field no more than five yards from the back of the end zone. Aiken quickly released the ball and vaulted himself over the fence landing on the blacktop on the other side. At that point he put his arms in the air to appeal to the crowd.
"I love night practice," he said. "It gives me a chance to put my talents on display."
Aiken is having a solid camp and has been more consistent in the passing game and finally appears to be taking full advantage of his size.
Jauron calls Aiken a "tremendous special teams performer," but he may be starting to see him emerge as something more.
"As a receiver he's just gotten better and better," said Jauron. "He does make plays. He's bigger than most receivers and very tough. He's a very physical guy, so there's definitely a place for any player who plays the game like he does. For Sam Aiken on this team he's key."
"I love special teams," said Aiken. "That's where I've made my mark. I also want to make my mark on offense. I can do that by making plays like I did tonight, when they put me in the preseason games. I just have to make sure they carry over in the game to let them know that I am a playmaker."
Buffalo's defenders has their share of plays tonight, though not nearly as numerous as the past couple of days.
In 7-on-7 Coy Wire had a pass breakup on a throw over the middle intended for Brad Cieslak. Two plays later Donte Whitner came up with an interception after Jason Webster punched the ball loose from Josh Reed's hands after a reception.
Jabari Greer had a pass breakup on Aiken in 11-on-11.
The defense was also credited with two sacks during the two minute segment with Ashton Youboty getting one on a blitz.
Moorman draws applause
For the third time at a night practice Brian Moorman got applause from the crowd that rivaled those of the plays turned in by the receiving corps.
Kicking from his team's 45-yard line Moorman launched a moonshot that he got to bounce straight up at the five-yard line and die. The punt drew a large round of applause. He followed it up with a second kick inside the five and then coffin-kicked a ball out at the two-yard line. A special specialist to say the least.
Special teams also worked on onsides kicks Wednesday night.
Melvin Fowler did not participate in practice at all Wednesday night due to a sprained ankle. John McCargo did participate in individual drills, but his ankle kept him out of team work.
"We don't think either one of them are in the serious category," said Jauron. "We'll make our errors on the conservative side as we move through preseason. We'll just have to see how they are in the next couple of days. We're not concerned long term right now."
It doesn't look like Brad Butler (hamstring) or Josh Scobey (calf) will be getting on the field this week after the latest update from the head coach. Dick Jauron said they're optimistic that both will return to action next week.
Angelo Crowell participated only in individual work Wednesday night and was replaced by Coy Wire in the lineup during all team work. Crowell told Buffalobills.com that he's fine and just got a night off. He did have a stocking-like wrap on his left leg.
Also not participating were Trevor Hooper (head) and Aaron Merz (shoulder).