With the rain moving out of Western New York Wednesday it allowed the Bills to move outside to their grass practice field Thursday for the ninth of 10 schedule OTA workouts at One Bills Drive. Over the past couple of days the defense has been dialing up their pressure packages, and the unit has been effective in tapping out Buffalo quarterbacks during the team segments of practice.
On Thursday there were a host of different players that brought pressure again speaking to the variety of looks that Mike Pettine's scheme provides.
"It's been good," said Nigel Bradham. "Anytime you can cause confusion like that and keep the quarterback rattled that's a good thing. Sometimes we don't even bring pressure and the quarterback is moving his feet fast because he feels like he feels pressure.
"It's an illusion type thing. He's so used to getting pressured that even when he's not getting pressured he's feels like he's being pressured. It causes a lot of confusion and can create turnovers."
There were no turnovers by the offense Thursday, but the whistle did blow early in the play at times as defensive players tapped out Buffalo quarterbacks in the offensive backfield. Alex Carrington led the way with a pair of tap out sacks, which came on back-to-back plays.
"They've done a great job," said quarterback EJ Manuel of Buffalo's defense. "Our defense is moving around, they're flying around. They get to the ball really fast. This is the NFL, you're playing the best of the best and I think that helps us all. As young guys, the rookies, we're learning and the veterans are learning the offense so overall the defense is helping us just like we're helping those guys."
Evidence of that came on back-to-back play by Manuel. He recognized a blitz was coming in 11-on-11 and delivered the ball quickly to his 'hot' receiver Chris Hogan for a completion. On the very next play he beat a blitz call again by the defense completing a quick pass to tight end Mike Caussin.
Gaining the trust of the QBsAfter getting a day to recuperate Wednesday, Stevie Johnson was back on the practice field Thursday and turned in a couple of encouraging plays near the end of practice. Participating in team work, Johnson pulled in a touchdown catch on a quick hitter from Kevin Kolb to cap a red zone series.
A couple of series later Johnson made the catch of the day, leaping high over his defender in the back left corner of the end zone. Despite the tight coverage and a hand trying to knock the ball away, Johnson was able to maintain possession throughout the play for a second touchdown from Kolb.
For Johnson it was a valuable day in which to build a measure of trust with Kolb in the passing game.
"I did (build some trust), but I think we need to push the issue a little bit," said Johnson. "We're not coming off a playoff berth. We're not coming off a Super Bowl. I think we need to push the issue like we're hungry. We're out here fighting. Don't get me wrong we're out here fighting, but we've got to step it up a little bit more."
Johnson's leadership and messages to the younger receivers will only be strengthened by plays like the ones Johnson turned in Thursday.
"You come out here to make the plays. In my position I haven't been working out here with these guys, so they've been putting in all the work," Johnson said. "But at the end of day with me being the vet, the guy who I am, making those plays is big because it gives me the extra authority over my guys so when I say something they'll listen. Even though it's already like that it's like back up for me."
Goodwin earns praiseJohnson wasn't the only receiver that turned in some good plays. Rookie third-round pick Marquise Goodwin had a pair of receptions that earned the praise of the offensive staff. Goodwin took an intermediate pass and turned it up field for a good run after catch gain.
During red zone he also did a nice job in a tight space as he toed the sideline in the front left corner of the end zone for a touchdown on a pass from Tarvaris Jackson.
Safety rotation continuesIt's clear that the defensive staff is choosing OTA practices to experiment with different lineup combinations. They've frequently rotated players through at various positions through the spring. That's partly due to the vast number of different personnel groupings within the scope of Pettine's defensive system.
At the same time it at least appears they want to see how some younger players handle things when plays unfold just a shade faster with the starting units. A day after Mana Silva saw some time alongside Aaron Williams at safety, rookie Duke Williams got some reps with the same unit.
ScheduleThe Bills final OTA practice is scheduled for Friday at 10:30 am.