Pass pressure was the headline of the day at Bills practice Monday. Buffalo's defensive pressure off the edge was noticeable throughout the team periods of practice as they unofficially logged five sacks in the session.
Shawne Merriman had the first as he came off the offense's left side to tag out Ryan Fitzpatrick. A short time later during the red zone segment, Alex Carrington got to Fitzpatrick to force what would've been a third and long situation.
Undrafted rookie Robert Eddins came off the edge to tag out Brad Smith before he could throw the ball out of bounds. Danny Batten got to Tyler Thigpen for the fourth sack of the afternoon, and Spencer Johnson closed it out getting to Thigpen as well.
While the edge pressure was great to see from a defensive standpoint, head coach Chan Gailey thought protecting the pocket was an issue for his offensive linemen.
"I'll have to go watch the film to get the real story, but obviously our pass protection we just collapsed a few times and you can't have that," he said. "We've got to let our quarterback stand back there and throw the football."
In defense of the offensive line they were shorthanded as Demetrius Bell did not practice for a second straight day due to a shoulder strain. That left the Bills with Ed Wang as the starting left tackle going against the likes of Merriman and Johnson. Cordaro Howard, who just came off of PUP Sunday and is still not 100 percent was the second team left tackle.
The absence of Bell however, really accentuates the lack of experienced depth at the position.
"We don't have a lot of depth right now," said Gailey flatly. "Ed (Wang) has played none and Cordaro (Howard) played very little last year. So we really don't have any depth at that position. We have to develop it, and that's what training camp is about to develop that. We'd love to have had some more time to do it, but you take what you've got."
For a defense that had just 27 sacks last season, the production Monday was encouraging.
The Bills are also making greater use of Spencer Johnson and Alex Carrington as edge rushers in their subpackages where they're lined up as a rush linebacker. It's not often you see 300-pound rushers in that role, but Johnson (306) and Carrington (304) are pretty athletic and both got sacks Monday.
"I definitely think guys are doing a lot focusing on the rush, the pass rush and coach is emphasizing it and so I think guys are really getting a lot more comfortable in the defense, so I think things are coming together a lot better than last year," said Johnson.
Buffalo made similar use of their base ends in some subpackages last year as Johnson and Dwan Edwards were used in that role for 3rd-and-short to 3rd-and-medium to help set the edge in the event that a team tried to run on them, which happened a lot. But Johnson and Carrington also offer some pass rush ability enabling the Bills coaches to cover all the bases on what can happen in a 3rd-and-3 situation for example.
"Alex is one of those guys that's really long," said Chan Gailey. "He's a tall guy that has long arms. He can press the guy and push him back in the pocket and he has enough speed and quickness to be able to get on the edge."
"It's good to have big guys that can move," said Johnson. "Alex is a great athlete, I'm a good athlete myself so it'll help us on the run and getting a little push off the edge."
FisticuffsDuring 1-on-1 pass rush drills, defensive end T.J. Langley got into his second scrum of camp, only this one was a full on haymaker contest. After going against fellow undrafted rookie, guard Isaiah Thompson for a few reps the two had apparently had enough of each other.
They began trading right hooks as each player was punching the other's helmet repeatedly. The rest of the linemen let them go until they finally wrestled each other to the ground after about a dozen punches were thrown.
Later in the practice during team period, Geoff Hangartner took a well executed block and decided to completely finish it. After Tyler Thigpen shot through the hole Hangartner created on a quarterback draw, Hangartner kept driving DT Lionel Dotson all the way to the ground turning him face down on the way down.
Dotson didn't appreciate that and got up swinging. Hangartner never threw a punch, but just calmly kept him at arm's length with his hand on Dotson's facemask. After Dotson had thrown about six punches, Hangartner had enough and ripped Dotson's helmet off and may have used it against him had the other players not stepped in to break things up.
Troup injuredDT Torell Troup, who has been having a solid camp, had to leave practice early Monday after sustaining a hand injury. It took place during 1-on-1 pass rush drills between offensive and defensive linemen.
Ironically, Troup's injury was related to the part of his game where coach Gailey feels he's made the most improvement.
"The one thing Troup has done so much better than last year is he's learned to use his hands," Gailey said. "He's become much better with his hands this year in taking on blockers in the run and the pass game."
More will be known about Troup's hand when the team returns to practice Wednesday.
Parrish, Kelsay nickedRoscoe Parrish missed a second straight day of practice with Chris Kelsay and Antonio Coleman missing their first practice sessions of camp. At this point in camp Gailey isn't surprised to see players suffering from stiff and sore muscles.
"Most camps when you get to practice eight and nine that's where it starts to wear on them a little bit because they've been running and doing things, but they haven't been carrying that extra weight (pads and a helmet)," said Gailey. "Then their legs get a little fatigued and that's what happens. It's 90 percent lower body."
Parrish had been getting his legs stretched out a good deal during his down periods during practice the past couple of days.
Also not practicing Monday were Justin Rogers, Donald Jones, Drayton Florence, Kelvin Sheppard, Kellen Heard, Demetrius Bell, Marcus Easley and Shawn Nelson.
HighlightsDuring the run game period Nick Barnett came up and put a lick on Brad Smith in the hole as he rushed on a quarterback keeper.
Shawne Merriman had a fumble recovery on a bad exchange between Ryan Fitzpatrick and C.J. Spiller.
Jehuu Caulcrick had a solid lead block through the hole for Johnny White, who got past the first down marker for a new set of downs.
In 7-on-7 Johnny White took a swing pass 40 yards for a touchdown on what was a busted coverage as no one defensively followed White out to the flat.
Undrafted rookie Kamar Aiken pulled in a pass over his shoulder along far sideline from Tyler Thigpen for a 25-yard pickup.
Defensively, undrafted rookie Loyce Means broke up a pass intended for Craig Davis on a throw from Thigpen.
Terrence McGee followed up a short time later with a pass breakup of his own on a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass that had David Nelson targeted.
The pass breakups continued in 11-on-11 as Reggie Corner had a pair on the afternoon. The first he knocked away from David Nelson on a post pattern and the other also prevented a completion to Nelson.
Fred Jackson looked slippery as he ducked a shoulder to get through a hole on a well executed run play by the offensive line.
Aaron Maybin had a fumble recovery on what looked like a bad exchange between Johnny White and Tyler Thigpen.
George Wilson made a difficult pass breakup deep in centerfield on a 40-yard bomb from Fitzpatrick that was intended for Stevie Johnson.
Naaman Roosevelt had a big catch on a post pattern that went for 20 yards on a throw from Brad Smith.
Smith on the very next play however, took a big time shot from undrafted rookie Robert Eddins.
TE Mike Caussin pulled in a touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone from Levi Brown during red zone work.
And undrafted rookie CB Doyle Miller closed out practice with an interception off Thigpen that was intended for Felton Huggins.
Day offThe Bills have the day off Tuesday, but return for a night practice on Wednesday at 7:15 pm.