With training camp drawing to a close for the Buffalo Bills, the team got their second-to-last public practice in under the hot sun at St. John Fisher College.
With the completion of two full weeks of workouts, it was the backup quarterbacks that showed a huge sign of improvement. You could even call it a sign of life, basing it on how poorly both combatants have looked during practices.
Solid performances, big hits and trash talking: Monday had all that to offer. Here are some of my observations from the Bills' session:
- Practice MVP: QB Vince Young. It's been 13 long and grueling days waiting for one of Young and Tyler Thigpen to step up and take the reigns as MVP of a practice, and the former won that battle. Young was poised and accurate in the team's two-minute drill that started on their own 30-yard line. Young didn't panic and found his receivers time after time, culminating with a touchdown pass. Young has been labeled the favorite by many to win the backup job, and he certainly went a long way to earn the role with his performance Monday. With a chance to play a lot of minutes as the second-team quarterback on Friday against Minnesota, Young can really put a stranglehold on the job with a solid performance. Thigpen also had a better practice, but still missed on some throws that should have been on target during 7-on-7's.
- Practice LVP: HB Tashard Choice. By now, I'm assuming you've heard about Choice getting knocked on his behind during team drills not once, but two plays in a row. If you haven't, allow me to catch you up to speed. Choice, known by his teammates as one of the biggest trash talkers on the team, received a handoff during team drills. He bounced it outside with a full head of steam, and was promptly flatlined by an approaching Da'Norris Searcy. The next play? Choice gets the handoff and Kirk Morrison fired through the line and hit the runner with a big shot that jarred the football loose. Choice was not pleased after practice, while Searcy laughingly remarked that it was nice to shut Choice up for a few minutes.
- The runner up for MVP of Monday's practice? Wide receiver Ruvell Martin. He gets these honors for a few different reasons. Martin made two huge catches during Vince Young's end-of-practice two-minute drill, including the touchdown reception. Above that, Martin was getting reps with the first team while the receiver group was fully healthy. That's notable because he was getting reps ahead of Marcus Easley, David Clowney and others. Unlike the other receivers buried by the depth chart, Martin is viewed by the Bills as a very good kickoff and punt team defender. On Monday, it was apparent he was the sixth receiver on the depth chart.
- That also means Marcus Easley is dropping down the depth chart. Already passed by both Derek Hagan and T.J. Graham, Easley didn't even see the field during the first and second-team reps in team drills, while Martin, David Clowney and Naaman Roosevelt all got in with the two's. At this point, Easley looks like he's ninth on the depth chart -- ahead of only Kamar Aiken and Derek Session. A lack in the results category on this team will do that to a player, even one with Easley's size and speed. Those thinking he may get a free pass because of his perceived "potential" may need to wake up and smell the coffee. He's in major jeopardy of not making this team, especially since he has little to no value on special teams.
- On Monday, Chris Hairston and Cordy Glenn split time evenly at left tackle. Both have had their moments of brilliance, followed closely by moments each would like to have back. Glenn got beat pretty cleanly by Robert Eddins when going up against the second-team defense. However, he performed rather well against Chris Kelsay. Hairston did much of the same while he was bounced back and forth between left tackle and right tackle. I still get the sense Glenn has the leg up in the competition.
- With Michael Jasper now off the roster never to return, the Bills tried somebody new at left guard with the second-team on Monday. Fifth-round pick and usual tackle Zebrie Sanders got some time at that spot for the first time to my knowledge. I think Sanders is in a roster-wide battle, with about eight players to my count, that are looking to fill three spots. If he offers the versatility to kick inside it could give him a leg up. Once training camp is over and the second preseason game is completed, I'll take a stab at where I think the roster is right now.
- I don't talk about him much in these notebooks because every single day is the same for C.J. Spiller. The running back looks explosive on a daily basis and finds the hole quite succinctly. Rarely have I seen him play poorly during a training camp practice. Often times you'll see him hit a hole and pop out to the other side of it before the defense gets there. He needs game-reps, not practice ones. They're almost too easy for him.
- Shawne Merriman was the notable addition to the non-participant list. Head coach Chan Gailey said after practice that they gave Merriman the day off and expect him to be back on Tuesday night.
- The other players that did not practice stayed the same from Sunday. Justin Rogers, Josh Nesbitt, Kevin Brock and Mike Caussin all sat out of the session. Gailey hopes to have Rogers back by Tuesday or Wednesday, but has ruled out the cornerback for the team's game against Minnesota.
The Bills' final practice open to the public is on Tuesday night. It starts at 6:30 pm, but fans will need a (free) ticket to get in.