The Bills may be down to just two unsigned draft picks very soon. Head coach Dick Jauron confirmed Tuesday night after practice that first-round pick Eric Wood is close to a contract agreement with the club.
"Russ (Brandon) told me we were close and we're all hopeful," said Jauron. "That would be great news for everybody."
As of Tuesday evening Wood was in Orchard Park waiting for his deal to be finalized so he could sign it and report to camp. The Louisville product has missed six camp practices thus far.
Under the lightsThe Bills were ready to go for their first night practice with the team going in full pads. Position groups squared off with one another early in the practice session.
Tight ends were working against the defensive ends in one-on-one blocking with the defensive ends getting the better of the battles. The tight ends were scrappy, but the ends are a much more experienced group and it showed.
In one-on-ones with receivers versus cornerbacks Terrell Owens had a long over the shoulder touchdown reception on a well thrown ball by Trent Edwards.
When the offensive linemen took on the defensive linemen there were a few spirited battles. The most notable were between Chris Kelsay and Brad Butler as they went toe-to-toe for a while. On one rep Butler stood Kelsay up and held him at bay. On another rep Kelsay drove Butler back into the pocket.
During the run game period in team work there were a couple of good hits provided by the defense. Kyle Williams plunged into the backfield and dropped Bruce Hall for a tackle for loss.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Ashlee Palmer shot the gap and also got to Hall just after he got the hand-off to put on a good lick.
Special teams continued to work on their blocking techniques knowing the three-man wedge is a thing of the past. Coordinator Bobby April looks like a man with a plan as he was coaching up the coverage players in a two-on-two drill with a return man trying to squeeze through a hole.
"Attack him! Be a downhill runner," April said to his coverage men.
Return game candidatesSpeaking of special teams there are some additional candidates to the group of usual suspects for the Bills on kick and punt return.
In addition to Leodis McKelvin and Fred Jackson as two of the primary kick returners, April is also making use of running backs Bruce Hall and Dominic Rhodese.
For punt return the four aforementioned players are also being used along with top man Roscoe Parrish.
The most noteworthy lineup change came at nickel cornerback. Reggie Corner has been the first nickel since camp began, but on Tuesday veteran Drayton Florence was bumped up to the top spot and fared well.
Corner worked with the second nickel package in the slot and Ashton Youboty worked at times as the third nickel. All three however, have played fairly consistent in their coverage assignments with very few big plays allowed by any of them when defending on the inside.
It's believed that the coaching staff is simply mixing and matching the nickel candidates with the different units to give each of them a full opportunity to go against the starting offense to see how they'll do against top competition.
With Corner seeing less reps inside, he was used more at outside corner Tuesday.
"Just like being able to do both," said Corner. "I definitely think I can play the corner and play the nickel and the coaches just want me to get better at the both of them."
Youboty also saw more time on the edge.
At tight end Derek Fine is usually the first tight end through in the rotation, but Derek Schouman is usually getting reps a couple of plays after. The snaps for the top two tight ends remains pretty even thus far. Fine has turned in a few more plays in the pass game through six practices.
The left guard position saw veteran Kirk Chambers get more of the first team reps. Andy Levitre is still being rotated in, but appeared to spend a little more time with the second unit Tuesday night.
A bit raggedThough there were some memorable plays during the two-hour workout head coach Dick Jauron did notice some legs getting a bit tired out there as practice number six came and went and that affected performance at times.
"It was a little sloppy, but it's that time of training camp," Jauron said. "It is early in training camp, but it is late enough that their legs are starting to get heavy and they are tired. We have worked them pretty hard. We had a great turnout fan wise and that perked them up some. We got a lot of work done, we got a lot of film to look at and there are a lot of things we can work on and correct."
Quarterback Trent Edwards, who has been solid in camp so far agreed with his head coach's assessment.
"It always feels like the first night practice there's always guys a little more anxious; jumping off sides, making little mental mistakes, mental errors here and there, and that's going to happen," he said. "That's going to happen in the games but it's a matter of fixing those mistakes and making sure that you're finishing practice strong."
Things got started early in 7-on-7 as Terrell Owens pulled in a pass from Edwards for what looked to be a touchdown.
Edwards threw a well-timed ball to a wide open Derek Fine in the end zone on perhaps the best executed play of the night by the offense.
Justin Jenkins pulled in a well thrown pass by Gibran Hamdan that was dropped over his shoulder for a 35-yard scoring play in 11-on-11.
"Our defense has been doing a good job all day long, just sitting on routes making plays and I think they had three or four interceptions," said Jenkins. "So we did a little pump and go and the cornerback bit on it on the first move, I took it deep, and the quarterback made a great throw."
Edwards threw a dart to Owens on a deep out along the far sideline for a big gainer.
Lee Evans pulled in a pass that he turned up field for what would have been extra yardage.
And Roscoe Parrish caught a ball in the flat and put the moves on his defender getting behind the defense for a big gain before getting cut off by the safety.
The defense had its share of plays too with Reggie Corner recording the first interception on the evening on a throw intended for Felton Huggins.
On the very next play Ellis Lankster made a high leaping interception that he tipped to himself before pulling it in. It was his second pick of camp.
Leodis McKelvin had a nice pass breakup on a ball intended for Terrell Owens.
Keith Ellison had an interception as he swooped in after fellow linebacker Pat Thomas tipped a pass coming over the middle.
Marcus Stroud in his return to practice had a 'would be' sack after he got a good push inside.
The entire defensive line got credited for a 'would be' sack when they effectively collapsed the pocket on one play to get to Edwards.
Injury updateMarcus Stroud returned to the lineup at defensive tackle Tuesday night, but two defensive tackles were sitting out. John McCargo did not participate in practice as well as undrafted rookie Ventrell Jenkins.
"John twinged his hamstring just a little bit," said Jauron. "We're thinking or hoping anyway, that it was very similar to Marcus' (Stroud) injury, and Marcus came back and practiced tonight. We'll see where it goes with John tomorrow."
Also not practicing again was Steve Johnson who is still nursing that tear in his rib cartilage.
"I knew it was something," said Johnson of the injury when he first felt it during practice Sunday. "I've been in pain before, but then when I got up and I ran like two or three more routes, I was like, 'OK, this thing is really bugging me so it must be serious.' So I couldn't go for the rest of the practice and then the next thing you know they were talking about it was a separation in the cartilage."
Johnson said he's day-to-day.
Another receiver left practice early as P.K. Sam suffered a quad injury. No word on when he'll be able to return to practice this week. Counting James Hardy and C.J. Hawthorne the Bills have four receivers on the shelf leaving just six to practice.
"We have been so unlucky at that position," said Jauron. "It is really putting a great deal of stress on the guys at our practice and working through it. To lose another one is not good."
Buffalo has just one practice Wednesday scheduled for 1:10pm.