Wednesday was a day that went to the defense as they had the better of play for most of the practice and really stepped up at the close of the workout.
The strong pass defense continued as the defensive backs continued to challenge several passes through the course of the session in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Terrence McGee had perhaps his best day of camp with a pair of pass breakups on throws intended for Terrell Owens.
McGee said it was their intention to be more aggressive in light of all the double moves the receivers were throwing at them. Defending against the likes of Owens, Evans and the speedy Roscoe Parrish has raised the level of the secondary.
"You've got different guys, you've got (Owens)," said McGee. "I know especially at the line he's real strong, throws you off, so that's some good work. You've got quick people, a person like Roscoe (Parrish), Lee (Evans). Its different guys so you can get better."
Fellow starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin made his first big play of camp pulling in an over the shoulder interception in the end zone on a pass by Trent Edwards. But McKelvin had to pull himself out of practice after straining his left quad. He told Buffalobills.com the injury is "minor" and he's not worried about it.
Ko Simpson could have had his second interception of camp, but could not hold onto the wet ball.
Two minute drillAt the end of practice the offense ran its first two-minute drill of camp with the situation being 1:59 on the clock and the offense needed a field goal.
Starting at their own 35-yard line the offense couldn't crack midfield. After short receptions by Lee Evans and Derek Schouman set up third down, Marshawn Lynch ran for a first down. And Kawika Mitchell was ticked off. He wanted a three-and-out and ranted about it kicking the football.
The defense was charged up after that and clamped down.
Mitchell came screaming in for a "sack" on the next play.
On second down Aaron Schobel pressured Trent Edwards flushing him out of the pocket where Kyle Williams was waiting for another "sack."
And before third down was even snapped, nickel cornerback Drayton Florence was calling for the punt team. Florence then backed up his words breaking up a pass intended for Josh Reed.
On fourth down Schobel again applied pressure from the outside forcing Edwards to check it down to Fred Jackson who was well short of the first down marker on 4th-and-21.
"You've got to claim it. If you call it and claim it, it's going to happen," said Florence. "Kawika (Mitchell) got us going. I saw big Marcus Stroud running down the field chasing Marshawn Lynch down. So when you got your D-lineman running downfield 40 yards, you've got to suck it up once that two-minute drill starts."
"It was our first two-minute period of camp and it came at the end of a really hard practice for a lot of reasons," said head coach Dick Jauron. "I thought both sides handled it pretty well. The defense pressured at strategic times and did a great job."
Injuries and other ailments continue to plague the receiving corps and defensive line. On Wednesday another receiver had to leave practice early as Felton Huggins was ill.
"Felton (Huggins), after he ate, when he came to practice, that he just didn't feel good," said Jauron. "He ate lunch, and it just never sat well with him, so he got sick late in the practice. We're hoping he's alright."
Newly acquired receiver Shaine Smith made a nice reception during 11-on-11, but after Huggins left practice Buffalo was again down to six healthy receivers with P.K. Sam and Steve Johnson still on the shelf, and James Hardy and C.J. Hawthorne still on PUP.
Defensive tackle is also suddenly a thin position. John McCargo remains out with a twinged hamstring as well as Ventrell Jenkins with a knee problem. In addition Marcus Smith was held out of practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury. It leaves the Bills with just four healthy defensive tackles.
Drayton Florence for the second straight practice got reps as the first team nickel. Reggie Corner and Ashton Youboty switched in and out with the second and third nickel units. Florence was a lot happier with his practice Wednesday than Tuesday, but he likes that the coaching staff is experimenting by mixing and matching players in the lineup.
"It's very beneficial when the defensive coordinator has his pick," said Florence. "When we're playing against certain teams we can match guys up based on ability. I'm just out here trying to get better. Working with the guys. First group, second group, no matter what group I'm in, I'm just out here trying to get better and help Buffalo win ball games."
Ellis Lankster was another player that was mixed in as he got some second team reps at left cornerback with Drayton Florence playing first team nickel.
At linebacker Marcus Buggs switched back to second team middle linebacker. Pat Thomas had been manning the position the past couple of practices.
At left guard Andy Levitre is still being rotated in behind Kirk Chambers. Levitre is still trying to find some consistency in his game now with three practices under his belt. He was in with the first unit during the two-minute drill at the end of practice.
Coordinator Bobby April had his field goal block drill working Wednesday afternoon where he has the kickers kick soccer balls off tees while the player attempting to block the field goal fights two linemen to break through and block the kick.
Offensive lineman Jonathan Scott proved the most successful with a pair of blocks. Also registering blocks were Kyle Williams, David Lindquist and Marcus Stroud.
The reason soccer balls are used is so the flight of the ball is true on every rep.
Gunners and jammers were also working against each other as the gunners worked on getting a release against a double team.
Among the gunners working were Ellis Lankster, Lydell Sargeant, Justin Jenkins, John Wendling and Reggie Corner.
Some of the jammer combinations were Corner and Ko Simpson, Terrence McGee and Ashton Youboty, Lankster and Sargeant and Simpson and George Wilson.
Not participating were Steve Johnson, P.K. Sam, Dustin Fox, Shawn Nelson, Ventrell Jenkins, Copeland Bryan, John McCargo and Marcus Smith.
Fireworks Thursday nightIn addition to night practice Thursday, the Bills will also have a jersey launch and fireworks after practice is over.