While the move of Langston Walker from right to left tackle was the big news of the day, the Bills run defense made an early statement that they're going to be better in 2008. The unit was plugging up the middle effectively and strung out several wide running plays as well.
In fact on all but one running play the Bills defensive front did not let the running back get more than a yard beyond the line of scrimmage. Marcus Stroud set the tone when he penetrated and grabbed Marshawn Lynch in the offensive backfield.
Dwayne Wright was surrounded on two straight rushes one in which he was wrapped up by a host of tacklers for a loss. And an off tackle run play for Xavier Omon didn't get very far either as Buffalo's run defense swarmed to the ball.
"I think we've done pretty good the first couple of practices in pads, but it's a long way to go and I definitely don't think we're as good as we're going to be," said Kyle Williams. "We're still developing some chemistry, but playing hard is the main thing and we've got some guys that can play."
Bills head coach Dick Jauron is cautiously optimistic that his run defense will be better in 2008.
"I'm encouraged about everything with our teams and the direction we're taking, but it's still got to have results on game days and we're just not going to know for a while, but I like our guys. I think we've increased our talent level significantly in some spots so we've got a chance, but that's all it is."
Angelo Crowell missed practice for a second straight day with an ailing knee. J.P. Losman and Ko Simpson were back taking reps on offense and defense respectively Wednesday. Losman's reps looked to be somewhat limited as the training staff likely did not want is jammed thumb to be overworked.
"With Angelo (head athletic trainer) Bud (Carpenter) doesn't think it'll be a long thing, nor does he think it's very serious," said Jauron.
Also not practicing was rookie receiver Steve Johnson. Johnson had his right knee wrapped while watching practice. Jauron said Johnson should not miss more than a day or two.
Defensive end Shaun Nua left practice early with a left leg ailment, but the specific nature of the injury was undisclosed. Nua did have a support stocking on his left calf during practice before heading to the locker room early.
Depth chart changes
With the Langston Walker switch, Aaron Schobel's absence and some injured players sitting out there were several shuffles to the first and second team lineups.
Kirk Chambers went to the right tackle spot with the first unit as he flip-flopped with Walker.
With Aaron Schobel excused he was replaced by Ryan Denney and Chris Ellis moved up to the second team to replace Denney. Once Nua left practice to help fill the void at defensive end Jason Jefferson took some snaps on the edge much like he did last year when the team was shorthanded.
Angelo Crowell was replaced by Keith Ellison with rookie free agent Marcus Buggs replacing Ellison on the second team defense.
Felton Huggins, Jason Jones and Scott Mayle all got more reps due to the absence of Johnson.
During 7-on-7 work rookie tight end Derek Fine had a nice reception down the seam on a well-timed play with Gibran Hamdan. Fine was also mixed in with the first unit for a few reps here and there.
Other than that Lee Evans and Josh Reed dominated the 7-on-7 passing segment catching six of the eight attempts made by Edwards with the first team.
There was some lengthy work in the red zone Wednesday. Felton Huggins made an acrobatic grab at the five-yard line on a ball that was a little high from Losman. On the next play Losman delivered a nice looking fade pass to James Hardy in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Defensively Terrence McGee recorded an interception on an underthrown ball on an attempted fade to Hardy. McGee made the pick four yards deep in the end zone. Ashton Youboty also raked a ball away from Scott Mayle to force an incompletion.
Derek Schouman went up the ladder to make a leaping touchdown reception in the back left corner of the end zone for the score on a pass from Hamdan.
"The red zone is critical to every team," said Jauron. "We haven't performed very well or scored a lot of points the past two years. We need to score points. We'd just as soon score them from outside the red zone, but we need to work on specific plays down there and the sooner the better."
Special teams update
Rian Lindell looked good on his attempts during field goal drills. The more interesting development was at holder. Brian Moorman is the starting holder, but you may be surprised to know the backup holder is not a quarterback. It's receiver turned safety George Wilson. Wilson worked with backup punter/kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick and got the laces facing out on most snaps. He also snared a snap that was a little wide and got it down in time for Fitzpatrick to kick.
Punt coverage drills were again a part of the special teams segments. Gunners went against a pair of jammers in their effort to get downfield and make a play on the returner.
The jammer pairings were Will James and George Wilson, Jason Jones and Kennard Cox, Felton Huggins and Jon Corto and Reggie Corner and Ko Simpson. Some of the main gunner candidates were Jabari Greer, John Wendling, Justin Jenkins, Dustin Fox and Ashton Youboty.
Greer outran a pair of gunners after making a quick move at the line. Huggins delivered a nice blow to slow down gunner Dustin Fox. And gunner Justin Jenkins fought through a block to make a play downfield.
On the interior there were also a few good matchups where some of the bigger special teamers went toe to toe. Donte Whitner was in that part of the drill and did a nice job steering coverage player Dwayne Wright away from his return man.
There was a moment of worry however, when Ryan Denney got rolled up as he and the return blocker were jockeying for position and wound up on the ground. He was able to walk it off, but after he broke his foot on a special teams play in the preseason last year it certainly had people holding their breath for a second.
Special teams coordinator Bobby April, who reminds some of a Civil War confederate general, fit the part Wednesday. After watching punt returner Roscoe Parrish stop on a dime and spring backwards three feet to avoid a would-be tackler, and then spring forward and be back up to top speed in an instant earned a doffing of the cap from April. It was a pretty amazing display of athleticism as Parrish seemed to almost hover for a second before darting forward again.