A lone morning workout brought an end to the Bills rookie minicamp on Sunday with Buffalo's youngest roster players finishing strong. There was a lot of enthusiasm during the last few team portions of practice with players on the sidelines hooting and hollering for their respective sides of the ball when they got the best of their opposition.
For head coach Chan Gailey the energy was encouraging, as he was generally pleased with what his newest players absorbed and accomplished over the course of the three days.
"What you're trying to do is build on each day," Gailey said. "If you have to go back and start over at ground zero every day then a guy pretty much is going to have a hard time playing. So I thought on the whole they were able to pick up and retain what they learned in one practice and take it to the next practice."
Several players admitted their heads were spinning a bit with all the information that was thrown at them, but Gailey made it a point to challenge their capacity for learning the scheme and applying what they've learned on the field.
"I thought the guys picked it up fairly well. We had a lot of guys giving great effort," Gailey said. "We got some mistakes that have to be corrected, but it's early and with these guys this is their first exposure. We saw what we had in the new guys and to be honest with you we saw what we have in some of the veteran guys that were in camp with us which was good."
Subpackages and suchAn indication as to how much the coaching staff pushed the players was evident on the last day of workouts. The defensive coaches put in more blitz calls and worked on their nickel and other subpackages, while the offense countered with three-wide and other spread formations.
Receivers and defensive backs also worked against each other in groups where two receivers worked against two corners and a safety to let the secondary work on communication and combination coverages.
Meanwhile running backs worked against linebackers in one-on-one passing drills. Top pick C.J. Spiller was a clear mismatch in this drill no matter who he faced. Most NFL teams are more likely to use a defensive back on him this season.
Sargeant steps up
One veteran that had a solid finish to the weekend was cornerback Lydell Sargeant. Back from ACL knee surgery, Sargeant looked to be the same promising player he was as a college free agent last offseason. On Sunday he almost had an interception on a play deep over the middle, but bobbled the ball a few times before it got away from him.
Later on the first play of 11-on-11 work, Sargeant jumped Steve Johnson's route and took an interception the other way for what would've been a touchdown.
"I was just playing my leverage according to what defense coach Edwards called and just knowing where I have my help at because they were both playing nickel," said Sargeant. "So I was just playing my leverage and breaking on the ball."
Sargeant's interception return is what sparked the enthusiasm during the last few segments of practice.
"The team had a lot of confidence after that play, even the offense it picked up the intensity a little bit," Sargeant said. "And the last two periods of practice we practiced real well."
Other highlights at practice included receiver Felton Huggins, who was working the middle of the field well Sunday. He caught a pass deep over the middle from Levi Brown in 7-on-7 and followed it up with another during 11-on-11 from Brian Brohm. Huggins unofficially had five catches on the day.
Levi Brown beat the blitz on a pass play to David Nelson outside the numbers.
Safety Dominique Harris had a pass break up on a throw intended for Jonathan Stupar.
Alex Carrington knifed between a pair of offensive linemen and would've had a sack or quarterback hit under live conditions during 11-on-11.
The defensive line also had what would've been a team sack and a tackle for loss on another run play that went to C.J. Spiller, which got the defenders watching from the sidelines fired up.
Arthur Moats had a pass defensed on a pass for fullback Rodney Ferguson.
Ellis Lankster knocked down a high pass intended for Huggins along the near sideline on a broken play.
C.J. Spiller had a couple of nice looking runs through traffic. One came off a catch out of the backfield with the other on a straight run play.
The Bills top pick also had a good blitz pickup on Aaron Maybin allowing Brohm to get the ball off to Naaman Roosevelt.
Spiller admitted that as more and more plays were installed he had a few more miscues with the offensive scheme, but he's determined to clean those up between now and the OTA practices coming up later this month.
"I accomplished a lot of things, but I still have a lot to learn," he said. "When I'm gone I'll be working out and like I said looking over my notes and making sure I stay right on top of everything. That way when I come back I can have less mistakes than I did out here."
Upcoming scheduleThe players are off for a week before the offseason conditioning program resumes for workouts on May 17th. Then almost the entire roster is expected when voluntary OTAs begin on May 25th.