Bills head coach Chan Gailey said Friday that training camp doesn't really start until the pads go on. Apparently Buffalo's defense was ready. With the speed of practice kicking up a notch Dave Wannstedt's unit looked sharp and effective.
"I thought the defense dominated the practice," said Gailey. "We've got a lot of work to do on offense to meet their level of play right now so it's a little bit different than it has been. It's good for our football team."
The defensive line was consistent in getting pressure on both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen, who rotated back in as the primary number two signal caller Saturday. Mario Williams had a strong day rushing the passer getting into the backfield with regularity. Marcell Dareus had a 'would be' sack in 11-on-11 work. Kyle Williams consistently pushed the pocket and Mark Anderson was active as well.
"They've got some good players and they work hard, play hard, they're good leaders," said Gailey of his defensive line. "It's a strong group up there."
"I feel we're doing real good as a defense and pushing the best way that we can," said Marcell Dareus.
In fairness to the offensive line they're still without Eric Wood in team work and right tackle Erik Pears was also out of the lineup (see below).
Nelson nickedBills wide receiver David Nelson headlined a list of players that got nicked up in practice. Nelson appeared to knock knees with cornerback Prince Miller during 11-on-11 and had slowly went to the sideline.
Team doctors examined him closely for almost 10 minutes, focusing on his right knee. After gently trying to test and flex the knee he slowly and carefully walked to the locker room under his own power, and was anything but pleased with the situation.
"They said it's like a bruise," said Gailey following practice. "They don't think it's any kind of ligaments or anything like that. We'll see the determination is tomorrow probably."
Also injured in practice was DT Kellen Heard. He re-aggravated a high ankle sprain that kept him sidelined for most of the spring practices back at One Bills Drive. Heard was injured during one-on-one pass rush drills and also went to the locker room early.
S Josh Nesbitt was also pulled from practice, but stayed on the sideline for the rest of the session.
Merriman, Pears sitShawne Merriman missed practice Saturday with an ankle sprain.
"He couldn't go. He rolled an ankle yesterday late. He taped it up and finished, but we held him out today," said Gailey. "He went through the walk-through this morning so it's not like it's a hobbling thing. We're going to make sure he's ready to go before we bring him back."
Pears injury was also deemed minor by Gailey.
"He aggravated that groin," said Gailey. "They don't think it's much, but they were being precautionary and we'll see how soon we can get him back. Tomorrow night, if not Monday."
The reason the athletic training staff is being so careful is because Pears is coming off hernia surgery in the spring.
HighlightsAs always the highlights from Saturday's practice can be found in the Media Center at Buffalobills.com. There were a couple however, that we did not get good looks at that you should know about.
Rookie defensive backs Ron Brooks and Nick Saenz both made interceptions on back-to-back plays late in 11-on-11 work. Brooks was along the far sideline as he had excellent leverage on the receiver to make the play.
Saenz just read the quarterback's eyes and jumped a crossing route over the middle.
Moats impressingIn the spring Arthur Moats was cross training at two different linebacker spots. He was playing strong side linebacker in the team's base defense and middle linebacker in one of their nickel packages. Now he's got three roles with the 'will' (weakside) linebacker in the nickel package also on his plate.
Moats has taken it all in stride and has fared well through the first three practice days of camp.
"I'm feeling more comfortable now because I've had all the OTAs and I've had these first few practices to start working through all the different positions. Today was a little better because we had the pads on and you're able to see how the play will look with guys hitting out there so it helps out a lot."
Moats is determined to know all three roles and play them effectively. What he's working on now are his recognition keys in the run game.
"I feel like in the pass game (I know them), but that's because we see more pass plays with our offense," he said. "With the run plays I feel like I'm getting better every day, but we don't really run a lot. As many reps as we can get we have to hone in on it to try to get better at it."
Moats has rotated in and out with the first unit with veteran Kirk Morrison on the strong side and has been working second team nickel with Kelvin Sheppard.
"I think he's handled that very well," said Gailey. "He's got a lot better in OTAs and the minicamp. It made so much difference for him to have that it's unbelievable. So I feel good about where he is right now after three days of practice. He's been very impressive thus far."
Lineup changesThe rotation continued at left tackle, right defensive end and number two quarterback. Chris Hairston was back at left tackle. Mark Anderson was back at right end and Tyler Thigpen was again the primary second QB.
Stepping in for Erik Pears at the starting right tackle spot was Sam Young. He was replaced on the second unit by Zebrie Sanders.
With David Nelson out Donald Jones spelled him most often in the slot. Jones had a strong day as Ryan Fitzpatrick almost seemed to be making a point of finding him in the pass game.
Leodis McKelvin returned to practice and was again the primary nickel corner. Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks also saw time in the slot.
Other notesCordy Glenn held his own in one-on-one pass rush drills facing Chris Kelsay most of the time.
2011 practice squad receiver Kamar Aiken had a solid day making some difficult catches that drew some 'oohs' from the crowd. His best was perhaps the grab he made during one-on-one WR-DB drills when he leapt just a bit higher than the defensive back tipped the ball to himself and caught it while falling to the ground on a 40-yard pass play.
Prince Miller had an interception in one-on-one WR-DB drills.
The punter returners lined up for duty at practice Saturday were Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Naaman Roosevelt and C.J. Spiller.