The Bills defensive line made a lot of headlines in the offseason by virtue of their free agent acquisitions. Mario Williams and Mark Anderson are two new pieces that have to be integrated with the rest of the unit up front. Marcell Dareus believes that's already happening.
"I feel like we've all hit the ground running," Dareus told Buffalobills.com. "It's crazy. I like the feeling of everybody together. The camaraderie, the way we feel with each other. The way we're playing together. Everything feels like it's coming together, slowly but surely. I can't say there's a feeling we're going to do this or do that. I just know we're going to go out there and play the best Bills defense we can play."
Dareus himself made a couple of plays in the run game during team period with a pair of tackles for loss including a stop on C.J. Spiller in the backfield.
The defensive linemen have this collective feeling because they all bring a lunch pail mentality to the practice field. Every defensive lineman is pushing the other one to be better. As encouraged as they are that they'll meet their goals this season they still understand the proof will be in the production.
"It is still early," said Shawne Merriman. "We still have a lot of camp left. Being around the guys for the whole offseason workouts, the OTAs and mini-camp, you got a feel for everybody's work ethic and where we want to go. We just have to get there."
Rotating throughThe defensive line saw a heavy rotation at most every position. Gailey has said that he really has two starting caliber defensive lines, and he put that into action with the rotation that was employed on Friday.
Mario Williams split time at left defensive end with Mark Anderson. Dwan Edwards also rotated in with Marcell Dareus at defensive tackle. That was due in part to the fact that Dareus twisted his ankle while hustling to the sideline on a play to the flat. He was able to walk it off and eventually return, but Edwards kept rotating in.
Shawne Merriman flipped over to the left end spot to line up there with the second unit. He played on the right side on Thursday. Though the objective is the same, Merriman admits he's still adjusting.
"I am playing a different position obviously, so it is a little bit different for me," he said. "But at the same time it is still the same mindset to go out, make plays and go out and continue to work."
Position battlesAs expected there was rotation at several of the positions where there's serious competition. Chris Kelsay lined up as the starting right defensive end a day after Mark Anderson lined up there with the ones.
Cordy Glenn was the starting left tackle on Friday. Chris Hairston ran with the second group and is anticipating the rotation to continue for the foreseeable future.
"I believe we're going to share reps all camp long between the ones and the twos and see who rises to the top," Hairston said. "I'm just taking this competition and trying to max my talent out as best I can."
Vince Young took the second team quarterback reps after Tyler Thigpen did on Thursday.
Leodis McKelvin has been the primary nickel corner, but had to leave practice early due to illness. He was replaced inside by Justin Rogers.
HighlightsAs always the best moments from the day's action on the practice field can be found in the Media Center in our daily Bills Roundup report, but there were two plays that had stories behind them. The first was T.J. Graham, who caught a ball deep down the left sideline early in 7-on-7.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw gave him a chance to go up and make a play for a specific reason.
"The only reason I threw to him was because it was his birthday," said Fitzpatrick. "He didn't tell any of us that. Somebody told me walking out to practice so I figured I'd give him one little softball that he could catch out there to get the fans cheering."
On a more serious note, Fitzpatrick said Graham has made some very good progress since the OTA practices and believes the next step for him is developing the physical part of his game so he can get off the line of scrimmage with more than just his speed, but moves as well.
The other highlight that went as the play of the day was Corey McIntyre's wheel route that turned into a 65-yard touchdown play. The play was a busted coverage by the defense and Fitz his McIntyre in stride down the left sideline and no one was within 30 yards of him. The big fullback coasted to the end zone.
"When you've got weapons and you've got that speed you've got to use it," said Fitzpatrick chuckling. "We've been trying to feed him the ball."
Pads go on SaturdayUnder the guidelines of the new CBA the first two practices of training camp must not be in pads, but Gailey and his staff fully intend to make the team's third practice on Saturday the first one in full gear.
"Tomorrow is the start of camp, when you put on the pads that starts camp," said Gailey. "This other stuff is good and important and it helps us, but you really start to find out about your football team when you put the pads on."
"It's something we've been excited to see," said Fitzpatrick. "There's no contact in OTAs and minicamps and the first couple of days of camp here. We'll get the pads on and get some more run game stuff done going tomorrow just to see how everybody is doing. It is nice to get a couple of days before you get the pads on just to get your feet under you and get going. Other than the pads now we've got a little more stuff installed."
"There's more game like situation of course where you can really get a feel with the pads and get control of the guy with the pads," said Dareus. "It makes practice more realistic instead of running around with these spider pads on."
Good reps for young playersOnce again some of the squad's younger players were getting some quality reps with the starters. Arthur Moats was rotating in and out with Kirk Morrison at strong side linebacker with the first unit during the team portions of practice.
Nigel Bradham again saw a few reps with the starters too. Da'Norris Searcy got some reps in the defensive backfield alongside George Wilson after Jairus Byrd was shaken up for a few plays when he landed hard on the ground while trying to come up with an interception. He did return, but Searcy was rotated in for Wilson as well.
ScheduleThe Bills Saturday practice is scheduled for 3 pm.