I believe that the single most important day in camp is first day practice with pads on.
Watch how graded stakes horses embrace a saddle in a stall before a race. A horse knows what that saddle means; 1-2 minutes of physically grueling punishment. If a horse is not prepared, it will shy away. If it's ready to run it will be calm and eventually be bouncing on it's toes.
When the pads go on the first day of NFL camp the players know what lies ahead; a punishing camp, pre-season, and a 16 game schedule to qualify for the playoffs; a right to vie for the Super Bowl.
The Buffalo Bills response today?
"Bring it on!"
Overall, very impressed with the depth and quality of the team. The offense had the better of the defense, with the DL being the only concern.
Getting to camp: The Bills have replaced the shuttle buses with yellow school buses; I thought these buses were here to pick up disoriented Patriots fans but later realized that the "Bills MONEY Machine" needs to be greased more often then not. Paid my Dolla and good to go.
Took my spot along the fence and I was surprised to see NFL commissioner Roger Goodel walk by. When he got close I yelled "good job Roger on Favre". He raised his hand in a "Hello / Thank you / Shhhhhhh" sequence and walked by.
Later Bills' owner Ralph Wilson was being driven on his golf cart out of the field area by
us and I pointed my finger right at him and yelled "Wilson you ROCK!" and then gave him the thumbs up. Ralph Wilson smiled in a "Thank you / Where is my security when I need them" look.
Later Bills COO Russ Brandon walked briskly by us. Russ say "Hi", we don't hate you man!
Disclaimer: I don't take pictures and I don't take notes. I scan the field for plays that catch my eye. I have a list of players that I project to be starters, then backups, and potential impact rookies or second year players (last year 35 out of 80 players in that group).
If a player outside that "group" makes a play, then I check the list and make a mental note. This year my list consisted of 53 players in that "group" and the players outside of the "perimeter" players made so many plays I gave up trying to track them all.
This training camp was far more difficult in observing because of the quality and depth of this Bills team. I am not 100% accurate because of simultaneous events and If if I was pinned to a specific question on a event, I would give you a Coach Jauron answer "I have to look at the tapes".
The Bills overall team progress is great for Bills fans but a pain for those watching the practices!
Camp started and I was surprised to see the Bills leave their pads on the sideline. They just ran continuous running plays, over and over, 11 vs. 11. QB's rotated with each group and then finished with warm-ups.
They split up with the Punt returners on our end and they had to catch the punts with a football already in one hand. CB McKelvin was very smooth and caught two in a row; impressive!
On with the pads!
WR's were throw over the shoulder passes and all did very well. What struck me the most about watching the the WR's was how Lee Evans "glides" across the field and the rest of the WR's run. Lee Evans is always one of the top 2-3 players that set the example for off season performance. Evans deserves every penny that he gets from the Bills!
What impressed me about the Bills training camp was how physical they were all day. You had the "LBs vs RBs/TE" and "DL vs OL". The winner had to make contact with a coach or object as a "sack". Poz used his speed rather then his strength to get around a couple of times. Crowell was like a pitbull and LB DiGiorgio made it seem like a piece of cake.
They had also three-on-two (like a screen with the ball carrier a WR or RB) and the defensive players had to shake their blocks and tackle the runner. Great and entertaining and RB Wright (he impressed today) really gave OL Chambers (good day) a really good smack.
There was some six-on-seven, seven vs. seven, and 11 vs. 11 match-ups that created some nice plays by alot of players.
Latter in the practice the Bills went 11 vs. 11 and they went with about 15 straight
running plays (QB's, CBs, and WRs were running drills at the other end). LB Mitchell once got in the backfield to break up a pass for Lynch from Edwards so fast that I thought Mitchell was part of the offense play.
The Bills staff really made the practices more physical and entertaining at the same time. The kicker and mat exercises has to go, but not every one of these is a hit. Great job coaching staff for being creative and demanding!
Random Thought: I watched the replay of the Cowboys and Bills Monday Night game and forgot how punter Moorman set the tone of the game (fake punt and run 1st down - then punt on 2 yard line) for the Bills first TD interception. Punting with Moorman and kicking with Lindell is a Bills strength.
QBs: Edwards struggled with the long ball at first but settled down later on and towards the end of practice completed allot of nice passes outside his short-medium zone. I really like Edwards but the coaches need to give him a real kick in the butt!
Edwards beats himself up when he misses a long pass. He needs to remember that mistakes are the best teachers and he needs to embrace them, learn from them, and move on!
JP Losman: You want to strangle him! He shows such swagger and confidence in completing the long ball but just goes AWOL on the short to medium passes.
Seems that the long ball (x-y axis) is quite comfortable to him but the short pass of WR route, pass window, and defender (X-Y-Z axis) causes him grief in the anticipation department. That's Turk's problem, not mine!
Matt Baker made a couple of nice throws with zip and I will be watching him in pre-season as the possible number three QB.
RBs: Marshawn Lynch was EVERYWHERE! Both sidelines, middle, back field, and slot catching passes. I may have to down grade my 18 TDs & 1800 Yards prediction as "conservative".
Fred Jackson is the real deal and made great running plays and nice catches DOWN FIELD as well!
RB Wright stepped up his game and made an impact on both sides of the ball. Great running and one of the best hits of the day! He ALSO caught a ball DOWN FIELD.
WRs: Hardy is UNSTOPPABLE!!!! No way to cover him. I understand now why he had so many TD's in college while being double teamed. Hardy is the short-medium pass range "Randy Moss". Edwards is gonna luv him!
Lee Evans: The Best! Luv this GUY!!!!! Pay him NOW!!!!
Roscoe Parrish: I saw a really tight sweetie who smiled at me but was wearing Roscoe jersey and my wish that he get pasted came true! Roscoe made some great catches and took some tough hits.
It seems that the Bills coaching staff are going to use the sidelines as a "cushion" to prevent Roscoe from getting pasted from the LB and CB at the same time. Roscoe will spread the field for the rest of the team!
TEs: Schouman still amazes me whenever he makes a "Marshawn Lynch" open field move like today or last pre-season.
Courtney Anderson wasn't on my list before but he is now. He made a few plays that caught my eye!
LBs, CBs, S: Whitner got into the backfield to bust up the play but overall they were owned by the offense. How can you not bust up the running game when they throw you 15 running plays in a row?
I will say that the "no tackling" rule in camp takes away the fear that the defense can impose on the offense and will wait until the pre-season games to make any real judgment.
DT: Marcus Stroud was invisible! The DTs are not making any impact and previous camp reports are confirming that. Coach Fewell needs to sit down with his DT "Fource" and get an identity: speed, smarts, nasty, strength? They seem lost!
DEs: Aaron Schobel seems to have a unique "on-off" switch and a short fuse that he saves for his opponents instead of his teammates. Aarron may have to take a swipe or two at the offense to get his DL crew on board. Whitner needs some help and Schobel is the man to do it!
OL: Hard to gauge with ineffective DL but they did their job!
Added Notes: Alot of great hits and very physical at times. Coaches had two QBs throwing at the same time to WRs. Allot of noticeable plays by " perimeter" players!
I was disappointed that the OL didn't make it to the fence for autographs because of storms!
The Bills coaching staff will iron out the DT troubles and the 12-4 prediction still stands!
BTW, sorry for the late, long winded, and blotchy report!
Gotta luv training camp!!!!
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Also check the stadium wall for Lori's most in-depth Bills game preview that you
will find ANYWHERE! Very professional!