As I prepared to head out for the Buffalo Bills’ first training camp practice at St John Fisher, a tweet from Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell caught my eye.
“Practice #1 full pads.”
Unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome. The Dick Jauron era in Buffalo was officially over. The Chan Gailey era was off to a surprising and tone-setting start.
Old-school football and physicality is the order of the day, it appears. You can’t really practice old-school smash mouth football without pads.
Practice didn’t disappoint in the physicality and toughness department. I kept an eye on the one-on-one linemen drills, and those were certainly battles.
I was really impressed by second-round nose tackle Torell Troup. All those things said about how powerful he is? All true and then some.
The man knows how to get low and once he does, it doesn’t look pretty for the offensive lineman in his way.
Also catching my eye on one occasion surprisingly enough was defensive tackle-turned defensive end John McCargo.
On the simulated snap, he looked like a wrecking ball, going into the lineman and coming out the other side and in the face of the assistant masquerading as a hapless quarterback quicker than I’ve ever seen the big man move.
If he can keep that up throughout camp, he could carve out a spot on the roster.
All in all, the linemen drills were fascinating displays of footwork and ferocity on both sides. Every time an offensive lineman got beaten, he came right back and fought harder than the previous snap.
Even if these guys might not be the most skilled pass protectors, and that will come with time, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the run game.
Speaking of the run game, the running backs at camp today came to ball, as Marshawn Lynch put it in an earlier interview this offseason.
To say he looked like Beast Mode didn’t do him justice. He looked faster and tougher than he ever has at the NFL level today.
If he keeps this up into the season, anyone who wants him to be traded will quickly stop that line of thinking.
Also impressing today in the run game were two free agents. One of them, veteran Chad Simpson, can really fly. There were a couple of times today when he hit the hole and simply outran the defense.
The other free agent, undrafted rookie Joquie Bell, looks like a bowling ball out there. He keeps his legs churning on impact and bounces off tacklers well.
I expect that the team will keep Fred Jackson, Lynch, and rookie CJ Spiller. However, it looks like they have a good problem on their hands: a lot of good running backs. Don’t be surprised to see the Bills try and land Bell on the practice squad barring injuries.
Also of note was right guard Eric Wood. Coming off a horrific leg injury last season that some people wondered if he would even be able to walk again, he was one of the fiercest offensive linemen in one-on-one drills.
Hearing Coach Gailey talk on a buffalobills.com press conference about why the team in pads continues to reinforce exactly how he feels about this team.
“We’re in training camp, aren’t we? Training camp is time to go to work. We only have a certain number of opportunities to get out here and get better and be a physical football team.”
That’s why I feel the way I do about this team. No more “You did the best you can, so even though we lost, that’s good enough.”
No, Coach Gailey is more determined than ex-head coach Dick Jauron ever was to make this team better and more physical. That mentality will amount to more wins, no question.
To hear him and the players talk, this team is more mentally and physically tough than it’s been in a very long time.
Yes, they have a long way to go. There are a lot of questions to be answered before this team will be a contender.
Can’t say that they aren’t off on the right foot at the beginning of the 2010 training camp, though.