Chemistry in the passing game is one element that the offense is striving for and in the practice setting Saturday there was an encouraging sign that within the new scheme quarterback Trent Edwards is getting in sync with some of his more important passing targets.
Early in the team portion of Saturday afternoon's session, Edwards was able to connect with top wideout Lee Evans on a few occasions for some first down plays. On the very first play of 7-on-7, Edwards hit Evans along the far sideline for a 15-yard pickup.
Four plays later he hit Evans in stride over the middle, and on the very first play in 11-on-11 work, Edwards saw his top wideout slip behind the secondary down the left sideline and got the ball out to him for a 50-yard pass play that could have very well wound up being a touchdown under live conditions.
Though it seemed clear that Edwards was trying to get Evans involved early and often, the quarterback maintains that the ball has to be spread around so that the attention that's typically paid to Evans during the regular season is forced to relent hopefully giving them the opportunity to use him for a few big plays a week.
"I feel like all of them have potential," said Edwards of the rest of the receiving corps. "And I will be playing with all of them in the preseason, so if I can get on the same page with them and they can make some plays for me in the preseason, that's only going to help our team more."
Head coach Chan Gailey admits that no matter what kind of adjustments an offensive coordinator tries to make, if an opponent wants to take a top receiving weapon away, it's possible.
"In general people can shut down a receiver if they want to," Gailey said. "There are some guys you can move them around enough, but in general if they want to take a guy away they can do it. So you've got to be able to get it to other people in an offense. What we're trying to do is make sure we can develop enough talent so we can spread the ball around and then when his shots come we take advantage of that."
One-on-onesThere were some good one-on-one battles going on out on the field during both the receiver and cornerback matchups and the offensive and defensive line matchups Saturday.
Dwan Edwards had perhaps the most impressive play during the one-on-one pass rush drills as he bulled his opponent into the backfield dropping him on his seat.
Marcus Stroud looked strong coming off the edge of the front and quick as he's down to 300 pounds, the lightest he's been in his pro career. He handled a couple of the offensive line starters on a few reps.
Kyle Williams and Torell Troup also showed well on the defensive side.
The most consistent in standing their ground on the offensive side appeared to be Andy Levitre and Geoff Hangartner. Eric Wood and Cornell Green had some good snaps as well.
James Hardy had a good looking touchdown play in one-on-ones with the cornerbacks. He gave his cover man the slightest shoulder bump just before the ball came down to create enough separation for him to pull the ball in over his shoulder for the score.
Hardy's time spent this offseason with 10-year NFL veteran receiver Torrance Small appears to be paying off as his routes look noticeably sharper.
"It's coming," he said. "That's all I can say. It's coming. Each and every practice I'm getting better. I'm seeing more things than I've ever seen before. You have to be consistent [during] practice. Now that the injuries are gone, I'm going to show that on a consistent basis."
Steve Johnson also showed some strong hands making some receptions in the middle of the field despite some tight coverage.
HighlightsIn 7-on-7 aside from the Lee Evans noteworthy receptions, undrafted rookie David Nelson had a couple of nice looking catches including one on a well thrown ball by Brian Brohm that split the defense right down the middle for big yardage. Nelson even got some reps as the fourth receiver with the first unit alongside Evans, Steve Johnson and Roscoe Parrish.
Fellow rookie Marcus Easley made a good catch down the middle of the field as well.
Felton Huggins had a good looking play on a deep crossing pattern to a 20-yard pickup on a throw from Brohm, who also hit Fred Jackson who slipped behind the linebackers for first down yardage and more on the very next play.
The coaching staff looked to be making a concerted effort in taking a long look at Joique Bell, who got the bulk of the work in the team periods at running back behind Jackson. Bell made some good decisions in running to daylight with a couple of runs reaching the secondary before he was touched.
Chad Simpson and Marshawn Lynch were mixed in for reps, but they did not see much action.
Defensively, Drayton Florence had a batted pass as he came around the corner on a blitz and got his hands up to swat the pass away.
Ellis Lankster however, had the defensive play of the day when he leaped and pulled down a 50-yard bomb intended for Donald Jones deep down the field. Lankster did a good job of catching the ball at its highest point and showed impressive body control in pulling the ball in.
In and outKawika Mitchell did not practice on Saturday, but after going through both practices Friday, Gailey gave the veteran a rest day. So he joined Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison and Chris Kelsay on the sidelines.
Marcus Stroud was pulled out of practice a half hour early after he appeared to get overheated. He was taken to the cooling tent area, and later headed to the locker room under his own power.
Terrence McGee has been full go for the most part, but in one team session this past week he did not see many reps in the team setting. McGee said sometimes the staff wants to pull him back knowing he's returning from shoulder surgery.
"Yeah the coaches have been looking out for me, but I'm still out here practicing going with the ones and full everything, but certain days they might want me to pull back from that," he said. "For the most part I'm out here with the rest of the guys learning this defense."
ScheduleThe Bills have a single practice scheduled on Sunday for 3 pm.