The Bills defense has had the better of the play the past couple of days and the offense was determined to do something about it. In practice Thursday Buffalo's quarterbacks and receivers made a point of turning in big plays in the passing game and delivered right from the start.
On the very first play of 7-on-7, Ryan Fitzpatrick went up top to Stevie Johnson deep down the left sideline for a 35-yard pass play.
When the second unit rotated in Tyler Thigpen hit T.J. Graham in stride down the left sideline for a 30-yard pass play.
On the very next play Thigpen hit Easley deep down the right sideline.
"We had some of the deep balls on the call sheet," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "We were able to get a couple of them, which was good to see. It was not just one guy; there were a lot of guys making plays down field so that was good for us.
"Hopefully it loosens them up a little bit in the secondary. We knew we had to come out today and have a better day. They really handed it to us the last couple of days and we wanted to make sure that we went out there and made some plays."
In 11-on-11 the big plays continued with Fitzpatrick hitting Stevie Johnson for a 50-yard bomb on a deep post. Johnson juggled the ball on his way to the ground, briefly held it between his legs to keep it from hitting the ground and then rolled and grabbed it with his hands to complete the catch.
But the pass play of the day was when Fitzpatrick launched a ball that traveled 50 yards through the air to Derek Hagan for a 65-yard scoring play bringing the crowd in attendance to their feet.
"This offense is wide open, whether it's myself, Stevie, David Nelson, Donald (Jones), T.J. (Graham), anybody that's out there we're all capable of making plays," said Hagan. "It just comes down to timing. If you're doing the right things the ball is going to get to you. Sometimes you're getting the ball and it's really what the coverage dictates. We all just have to take our time and be patient and hopefully Fitz will find us and get the ball to us."
For all the highlights you can go to the Media Center and watch the daily Bills Roundup report.
Hagan stepping upDerek Hagan was signed late last season during a rash of injuries at the receiver position. His best game may have been the season finale at New England. Since then he's made every effort to fit in to Buffalo's offense and his head coach has taken notice.
"He is taking advantage of his opportunity," said Chan Gailey. "Derek Hagan is working his rear end off out there. It is a great thing to see. He wants to make this football team and wants to be a big part of our offense. He has done a good job. He made some big plays out there today. He is making a real bid to be a near lock."
Merriman making his markOver the past couple of practices Shawne Merriman has been the beneficiary of a few extra reps with the first unit after spending most of the first week of camp with the second string defense. Merriman has taken those reps and run with them… right at the quarterback.
Merriman flashed in practice Thursday registering a pair of sacks, which came on back-to-back plays.
The first he came off the edge and got an assist from Dwan Edwards to tap out Fitzpatrick for a would-be sack. The next play he came so hard off the corner that he had trouble slowing down in time as he chased down Fitzpatrick from behind and bumped him a bit more than QBs should be bumped.
Merriman apologized to Fitzpatrick, but Gailey is encouraged by what he sees from the veteran pass rusher.
"It is not just the last couple of days," said Gailey. "He had the nicked ankle, but before that and since then he has given great effort. It looks like he has some quickness to him. Stamina is good. Hopefully he will make the season and things will go well for him. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do when we get it really live."
Mario Williams, Kyle Moore and Sean Ferguson also registered sacks in practice Thursday.
Injury updateChris Kelsay was the new non-participant at practice Thursday. Gailey said he's dealing with a nagging groin injury.
Kelvin Sheppard returned to practice, but only participated in individual position drills because of an undisclosed medical situation.
"I'm here breathing smiling and communicating so I think I'm pretty fine," said Sheppard. "A couple of days off and I'll be back on the field."
"He is trying to get back in there. It is probably going to be a little bit of slow progress," said Gailey. "We will see how he does. It may be tomorrow, it may be next week."
Seeing their reps reduced Thursday were Bryan Scott and Mark Anderson. Scott is dealing with a thigh contusion while Anderson is working through a groin strain.
David Nelson and Justin Rogers remain sidelined.
ScheduleThe Bills again have an afternoon practice session Friday scheduled for 3 pm.