A host of injured players returned to the practice fray Wednesday night and it certainly had a positive impact on Buffalo's defense as they controlled most of the play during the two-hour session.
"It was great to have a bunch of guys back at practice," said head coach Chan Gailey. "We really miss those guys and they added some energy to our practice, which was obvious. It was a pretty good practice. I thought the (defense) dominated the first half of it. They played well."
Returning on the defensive side from the injured list were linebackers Chris Kelsay and Kelvin Sheppard, defensive lineman Kellen Heard and cornerback Drayton Florence. Florence's return was especially surprising in light of the fact that Gailey had previously stated that Florence could miss the preseason opener Saturday with a four to six-day prognosis.
"With Drayton, when I heard about the injury and we talked about it, I thought it was going to be a lot longer term, but the training staff did a great job," said Gailey. "Drayton got in there and worked on it and it's great to see him back out here."
Gailey said Florence is now expected to play in Saturday's preseason game at Chicago barring any setbacks. The Bills starting cornerback appeared to be cutting and driving well off his right ankle and capped practice on the night thwarting a two-minute drill drive by the offense with an interception on a pass intended for Lee Evans.
Kelsay and Heard appeared to have a full workload in their returns, but Sheppard's reps were closely monitored coming off a hamstring injury that kept him out over a week.
"Yeah they kind of eased me back in and make sure I'm ready to go all the way," said Sheppard. "I don't want to hop out there in a rush and have to start all over from day one."
Sheppard said his body felt good moving around out there and having been in all the meetings through the course of his injury he didn't feel behind in the least.
"Actually I didn't have too many missed assignment," he said. "I picked up some hard reads. The offense did some motions and shifts and some boots where I had to drop back and keep back side at home and I got the job done. So I don't feel behind. I've still been in every meeting and staying in tune with what's going on."
Gailey said that Sheppard has a good chance to play in the preseason opener, just not a whole lot being so short on reps in the system.
Offensive returnersThe offensive players that re-joined the fray were mainly in Buffalo's receiving corps as Marcus Easley, Donald Jones and Roscoe Parrish were all back with Demetrius Bell also returning from his shoulder strain.
Parrish's return however, was short lived. Late in the 11-on-11 segment, Parrish ran a deep post route, but Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass was high. Just as the ball cleared Parrish's head he pulled up and grabbed for his left hamstring. He left for the locker room a short time later.
"He tweaked the same thing he sat out for a couple of days and he's going to miss this (preseason game)," said Gailey. "We'll hold him out and not take any chances and make sure we get him well."
Dialing up DavisOne receiver who saw a ton of reps Wednesday night was Craig Davis. It's clear the coaching staff is trying to get the former Chargers wideout up to speed as quickly as possible with the system. Davis got reps with the first unit and the second unit mainly on the left side of the formation where Lee Evans typically lines up.
Davis had seven receptions through the course of practice. His workload was so much more than it has been over the past week that he had to pull out of practice early.
"He just got winded, so we put him out right at the end," said Gailey.
Run 'D'The Bills run defense certainly appeared to be on point for a good portion of practice. During the first handful of plays in 11-on-11 Marcell Dareus and Shawne Merriman turned in back-to-back stops for no gain.
Dareus engulfed C.J. Spiller in the hole at the line of scrimmage and on the very next play Merriman delivered a blow to Spiller again in the hole stopping the back's momentum.
Andra Davis and Terrence McGee also teamed up to fill a running lane to stop Fred Jackson.
Nick Barnett made a nice hustle play as he flattened out on a sweep to the right by Spiller and just got a hold of the back's shoe top to bring him down for no gain. Barnett also made the initial hit on Jackson on a live goal line carry. Jackson lurched forward on a second effort, but Merriman came in to keep Jackson from crossing the goal line.
On the last two goal line plays undrafted rookie Brad Jefferson had a stop on Johnny White and that was followed by rookie Robert Eddins stop on Anthony Elzy.
Maybin making playsOver the course of the past couple of practices, Aaron Maybin has been more noticeable on the field. He's been around the ball more and Wednesday night might have been his best practice of camp.
During 11-on-11 he had a quarterback pressure on Levi Brown that led to an incompletion. He had a 'would be' sack on Tyler Thigpen as he tagged the quarterback out before he completed a pass to Marcus Easley. And he had a quarterback pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick forcing him to throw off his back foot, which led to Drayton Florence's interception to close out practice.
Stringing together more days like Wednesday will do nothing but help his cause.
HighlightsDonald Jones made a quality grab despite air tight coverage from Aaron Williams on a pass from Tyler Thigpen.
Brad Smith pulled in a pass over the middle from Thigpen on a well-time play during 7-on-7.
Smith also had a good looking run on a keeper played when lined up at quarterback in 11-on-11.
A short time later he aired out a 50-yard bomb to Stevie Johnson who climbed the ladder to make the catch of the night despite good coverage from Drayton Florence.
Johnson came down hard on his shoulder with Florence landing on top of him as well, but after being checked out by athletic trainers he was back taking reps and finished practice.
Smith had another run later on a quarterback keeper where he got into the secondary for a 20-yard pickup.
C.J. Spiller had a big carry on a misdirection play that got the offense to the first down marker. Spiller also had a big gainer getting through a big hole from the line during the two-minute drill segment.
Johnny White had a pair of explosive runs through the hole that each got first down yardage in 11-on-11 work.
David Martin pulled in a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick on the first play of goal line work.
Defensively, Chris Kelsay had a total of three quarterback pressures on the night.
Rookie OLB Robert Eddins batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage from Levi Brown.
Arthur Moats broke up a pass in the end zone during the live goal line segment on a pass intended for Mike Caussin.
And Spencer Johnson had a batted pass during the two-minute drill.
Next practiceThe Bills have an afternoon practice Thursday scheduled for 3:30 pm.