It's hard to believe it, but after Monday's practice wrapped up at St. John Fisher College, there are only five practices left at training camp for the Buffalo Bills.
As the team approaches their first preseason game, the Bills are starting to get healthier and saw the return on Monday of many different players that get first-team reps.
Who stood out in the session? Here's my breakdown:
- Practice MVP: S Jairus Byrd. The fourth-year player is the first repeat 'Practice MVP' of training camp in the ten days of work. Byrd picked off two Ryan Fitzpatrick passes throughout the afternoon. The first was right in his breadbasket after C.J. Spiller got tangled up and fell to the turf on his route, while the second interception saw Byrd sprawl out and dive for an errant pass during the one-minute drill. He cradled the ball and didn't allow it to hit the turf, resulting in the pick. Byrd just continues to impress here at Bills camp.
- Practice LVP: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. I've already outlined a pair of the quarterback's interceptions, but he also threw two more during team drills on Monday. The first was just a bit ahead of Fred Jackson, allowing the running back to get one hand on it. The ball deflected off his hand and straight in to the hands of George Wilson. His final turnover was a complete misfire that Leodis McKelvin ripped out of the air and returned for a touchdown. He hasn't had many sub-par days in Pittsford, but Monday was one of them.
- Bills wide receiver Donald Jones was a close second for the MVP honors for two catches he made during the session. They were along the same lines, but equally impressive both times. Jones skied in to the air and high pointed the ball to come down with a tough catch on both occasions. The first time he did so, it went for a touchdown. If he can become more consistent with his hands, he could become a viable threat for this Bills offense. After practice, Jones said he's had only two dropped passes this camp, which is two too many in his opinion. That's the attitude you love to hear from a developing player.
- It might be time to worry just a little bit about how far away starting right tackle Erik Pears is at this point. There is still a month before the season begins, but him going from doing individual drills through the last week, to being held out of practice completely today could be bad news. The Bills could have a line of thinking to just sit Pears down for the rest of the week until they get back for practice on Saturday night to try and get him right, but that much is unclear at this point. Either way, the 'minor' off-season surgery to his groin is setting him back.
- The plight of 2010 second-round pick Torell Troup continues. On Saturday, Troup didn't even make it on the field for practice. Today? Troup takes a step forward, dresses for practice and even takes reps during team drills. After a few of those, back to the trainer's room he went. Troup not being on the field is by no means attributed to a lack of effort or want-to. He wants it badly, as evidenced when I spoke with him earlier about his progress during camp. It's all about how much his body lets him be out there, and to this point it isn't a whole heck of a lot. Much like Terrence McGee, this situation is about small gains. Monday seemed like one of those before having to go back to the trainer's room.
- Tyler Thigpen threw his best pass of training camp on Monday. Finding the weak spot in a zone defense, Thigpen put it smack dab in the middle of the converging defenders to Dorin Dickerson on a post route. The ball hit Dickerson right in the hands, and in stride, for a touchdown. Vince Young had a solid day as well, looking really comfortable throwing on the run. I continue to believe that if you allow him to use his natural athleticism, he can really be a nice backup option for the Bills.
- The smooth operating style of Scott Chandler continues during team drills. He makes tough catches with defenders all around him and has done so throughout the entirety of training camp. His best catch of the day came right along the goal line with rookie Ron Brooks in coverage. Chandler was breaking towards the pylon and roped in the catch with Brooks draped all over him and the sideline drawing near. It's been a stellar camp for him ten days in.
- Only three players missed practice on Monday: Justin Rogers, Erik Pears and Mike Caussin. Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, Chris Kelsay and Torell Troup all returned in one way or another. Nelson was the most limited of the group. He didn't take part in either 7-on-7's or team drills. Chan Gailey said they were trying to work Nelson back in slowly, which probably makes him a long-shot to play against the Redskins on Thursday.
The Bills have one more practice before their tilt with Washington. Practice resumes Tuesday afternoon at 3 pm on the campus of St. John Fisher College. The session is once again open to the general public.