Finally some of the newest Buffalo Bills were able to show their talent on the field Thursday night as quarterbacks Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith along with linebacker Nick Barnett saw their first action at Bills training camp.
They were joined by returning signees Drayton Florence, tight end Scott Chandler and long snapper Garrison Sanborn who got their first practice of the season in as well.
"It was great to see everybody and most everybody made some kind of play out there," said head coach Chan Gailey. "It was great. It was good to see those guys. I didn't see much of Nick (Barnett) because I'm watching the offense obviously. I'll have to go watch it on film. It looked like he got around the ball a couple of times. Drayton made a play or two. I saw that. I thought Tyler did some nice things for not ever having taken a snap in our offense, at least the one here. So it was good."
Barnett and Thigpen were thrust right into the action as both got a lot of work both in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team work. Barnett lined up at inside linebacker alongside veteran Andra Davis in the first team defense and also was with the first team nickel package alongside Reggie Torbor. It wasn't easy jumping right into a full pads practice after an eight month layoff, but Barnett felt he was up to it.
"I didn't mind the pads too much. My conditioning was fine," he said. "When you're out there and you have the pads on and you're trying to think about the defenses sometimes you get a little discombobulated. Other than that I thought I felt really well out there running and tackling and doing what I'm supposed to do."
Barnett said he simply needs to get a better handle on the terminology and he'll be good to go. That's why in the nickel package he let Torbor handle the calls knowing he doesn't quite have the command of the system that he needs to lead the unit.
"For right now Reggie and Andra are going to make the calls until I get everything down and we'll figure out what happens from there," he said.
For Thigpen, it was a solid first practice of work having never lined up with any of his new teammates before. Thigpen and the other new signees couldn't even line up in the morning walk through earlier in the day because the new CBA had not yet been ratified. All things considered Thigpen performed admirably and made some plays.
"It's one of those things Chan definitely feels confident that I know the offense well enough to go out there and make those calls," said Thigpen, who ran the second team offense. "That's what five days in the classroom will do for you. You've just got to go out and apply them on the field."
Thigpen got off to a quick start in 7-on-7 red zone as his first throw was a touchdown pass to Donald Jones. He also hit Felton Huggins for a score, but seemed to have the best rapport with Naaman Roosevelt. He connected with him for a pair of touchdowns on the night in 11-on-11 work.
Developing a rapport with the rest of the receiving corps is at the top of Thigpen's to-do list.
"Timing, location with the balls, some footwork issues," he said. "Sometimes it's a controlled five (step drop) and sometimes it's a quick five (step drop) things like that you've got to get down pat. In individual today we did all red zone routes so I didn't get a chance to do any field routes, but (Friday) I'm not sure if it's red zone or not, but I would imagine it's probably field work so that's something I can work on. So I'm looking forward to it."
Smith, who was wearing a white receiver's jersey instead of a red quarterback jersey, only got a handful of reps during individual and another handful during 7-on-7 red zone work. It was enough time for him to throw a nice fade pass in the back right corner of the end zone to Chandler for a score. During the 11-on-11 team periods however, Smith did not take any reps.
Drayton back in the FloDrayton Florence was back at his familiar starting right cornerback spot with the first team defense as he took the field for the first time. And Florence turned in a big play on the night with an interception during one-on-ones, which he took up the near sideline to the cheers of the fans on hand.
Florence is already focused on preparing for the team's first preseason game, which is just over a week away.
"The guys have looked pretty good," he said. "Everyone seems to be in shape. The guys took care of themselves in the offseason. Hopefully we can get into the swing of things, be ready for that preseason game and fine-tune the things we need to before we open up in Kansas City."
With Florence back in the lineup, the two starting corners in the base defense were Florence and Terrence McGee at left cornerback. In the nickel package, Leodis McKelvin stepped in at left corner and kicked McGee into the slot, where he's seen a lot of work the past five days.
Injury updateLeaving practice early was David Nelson, but it wasn't a physical issue. Nelson was having trouble breathing, but Gailey said it was under control shortly after he and the athletic trainers reached the locker room. He's expected to be fine.
There was also a momentary scare when top pick Marcell Dareus went down after appearing to twist an ankle while in pursuit of Fred Jackson at the tail end of a run play. He popped back up however, and walked it off back to the huddle. He lined up for another play and then he was subbed out.
"They just held him out for precautionary reasons," said Gailey. "He could've finished practice. He tweaked something and they said hold him out for the rest and we'll get him back (Friday)."
Dareus did not go to the locker room as he remained on the field for the final 15 minutes of practice.
Not participating Thursday night were Marcus Easley (knee), David Martin (toe) and Kelvin Sheppard (muscle pull). Easley did do some light work on the side with athletic trainers, so his return is getting closer.
HighlightsStevie Johnson was putting on a show during 1-on-1 drills with the receivers and defensive backs. Johnson made a difficult catch over his head along the near sideline that drew some applause. He got the big oohs and aahs after he leaped and made an impressive one-handed grab on a pass.
TE Scott Chandler got off to a good start in his first practice with a pair of red zone touchdowns during 7-on-7.
"He's a big guy and a huge target," Gailey said. "We've got to try to get him involved a little bit down there because of his size."
Chandler goes 6'7" and 272 pounds.
Donald Jones, Lee Evans, Naaman Roosevelt and Felton Huggins all had touchdowns during the 7-on-7 red zone period.
Defensively during that segment Jairus Byrd broke up a pass that was intended for Stevie Johnson and tipped it to himself for an interception and promptly ran it back in the other direction.
Safety Rajric Coleman had a pass breakup on a pass intended for Kamar Aiken.
In 11-on-11 team work C.J. Spiller had one of the nicer looking runs of the night. The first team offensive line opened a good hole off right tackle and Spiller let it develop and shot through it quickly getting past the second level and into the secondary in a blink. The run earned some applause from the crowd.
Roosevelt showed good footwork on a sideline catch and he dropped his toes in bounds before falling over the sideline for a reception.
Florence put a solid hit on Stevie Johnson at the goal line after making the reception. Jairus Byrd also came up to make a nice hit at the line on tight end Mike Caussin for a no gain play.
Dwan Edwards had a 'would be' sack on Thigpen as he disengaged quickly from his blocker to close on the quarterback.
Rookie running back Johnny White had a nice run through the hole before taking it outside and reaching the front right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Paul Hubbard made a tough catch in tight coverage with Aaron Williams blanketing him.
Defensively, George Wilson had an interception late in the 11-on-11 red zone work and ran the ball 90 yards the other way for a score. In hot pursuit for about 80 of those yards was Fred Jackson, but Wilson's fellow defenders kept him at bay.
Da'Norris Searcy also had a pass breakup when he pulled the ball loose from the receiver's hands for an incomplete pass.
Roosevelt pulled in a pair of touchdowns both of which came from Tyler Thigpen. His second was a well executed slant route that got inside leverage on the defensive back for the score.
The second-year U.B. product also made a big play when he leaped and pulled in a 40-yard bomb from Levi Brown during a full field drill. Roosevelt really had a good night.
Next practiceThe Bills are back on the practice field at 3:30 pm Friday.