With their backs against the wall following the comments from Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey on Wednesday night, the second team offense, led by Tyler Thigpen, rose up from the ashes and had a 'Rudy' moment.
Ok, not really.
But they were a lot better, and looked as though they took a step forward. Gailey actually put it best after practice.
"I think they did. It's hard to go the other way."
Comforting. That's probably the confidence they were looking for.
On to the breakdown:
- Practice MVP: DE Shawne Merriman. Yes, we've heard this song and dance before. Merriman looking good in training camp is something that took Bills fans by storm last year, only to be disappointed by yet another injury setback. But here we are again and Merriman is looking the part, mainly over the past two days, of a player that looks like he can help this team immensely. He was a nuisance to Ryan Fitzpatrick the past two nights, even accidentally knocking him in to the back wall of players during team drills on Thursday because he got there so quickly. Temper your enthusiasm, but Merriman is off to a good start.
- Practice LVP(s): The left tackle battle. Both rookie Cordy Glenn and second-year player Chris Hairston struggled mightily on Thursday, with Hairston perhaps having the better day of the two. Merriman really had his way with Glenn on Wednesday, and the left tackle couldn't snap out of it on Thursday. Merriman was once again the thorn in the side of the other left tackle combatant, Hairston. He had trouble dealing with the defensive end's speed, but got the better of Merriman on a pair of reps. I think Thursday was a step back in that position, but there's a long way to go in training camp.
- On to the aforementioned Thigpen. He had, for my money, his best practice yet in the 2012 training camp. He started off strongly in 7-on-7's, making the proper read and delivering a strike to the intended receiver, and he connected on a pair of deep passes perfectly. His first set of team reps weren't exactly awe-inspiring, but on his next set Thigpen came back and delivered a string of solid passes to the likes of Naaman Roosevelt and others on the second unit. He definitely needed a day like that to get him back in to the swing of things.
- On the other hand, Vince Young continues to struggle throwing the ball. One play was particularly head-scratching. Young zeroed in on his receiver that was covered perfectly by the cornerback, drawing safety Delano Howell over to the area as well. Young pump-faked, and instead of going elsewhere (or even tucking it and running), he cocked his arm back and let 'er rip to that very same receiver. It hung in the air, and Howell was a good pair of hands away from picking it off. The times Young has looked his most comfortable? When he's not inside his head. You see his poise when he tucks it and runs, but one play stood out in terms of shutting his mind off. Young was in shotgun, and the snap was delivered low. The quarterback kept his cool, picked up the ball, and delivered his best pass of the day 15 yards down the field to a receiver on a crossing route. You want your quarterback to analyze things, but you don't want him to be swimming in possibilities in his mind to the point where it cripples his natural abilities. There's still time yet for him, though.
- I know he was a bit of an afterthought heading in to training camp, but Derek Hagan isn't going anywhere anytime soon if he continues to practice the way that he has. I've made some notice of him on these before for his ferocity in and out of his breaks, and he's continuing it every single practice. He had the play of the day beating his man clean on a fly route, disguising his hands from the cornerback and going up to make the catch for a long touchdown. He seems to be earning some of that trust Ryan Fitzpatrick was talking about, and he has Gailey raving about his effort. These are all very good signs for the veteran receiver.
- Alex Carrington may make this team by default. Thought to be in some trouble to make the 53-man roster due to a lack of separation in his abilities from others at his position, Carrington now likely has to do something terrible to not make the team. He's got two main competitors for a roster spot: Torell Troup and Kellen Heard. Troup is struggling to overcome all his back problems from last year, sitting out of all the team drills so far. Meanwhile an ankle injury has sidelined Heard since one of the first few days of practice, and he was behind Carrington as it was. With all these reps -- especially without his competition taking them -- the only person he has to blame for not making the team is himself.
- Although the circumstances of injuries to starters aren't ideal, it's a very good thing that some of the Bills young linebackers are getting some valuable reps with the first team. Scott McKillop, Arthur Moats and Nigel Bradham are all getting an extended amount of time with the first team, and they shouldn't take it for granted. Bradham has really stuck out to me as a player that might be able to be a starter down the line. Getting those guys acclimated to the system is essential before the start of the season comes around.
- Kelvin Sheppard left practice early with the same undisclosed injury. Gailey isn't sure if it will be a day or a week before he's back. Chris Kelsay and Mark Anderson both didn't participate in team drills (Kelsay didn't practice at all) because of respective groin injuries. Linebacker Bryan Scott didn't do team drills because of a thigh injury.
- Eric Wood and Terrence McGee both continued to take reps in team drills. McGee put a big ice pack on his knee after his reps. Right tackle Erik Pears still has yet to take any team reps after sitting out a pair of practices a few days back.
- David Nelson, Kellen Heard, Justin Rogers, Kamar Aiken, Josh Nesbitt and Mike Caussin all didn't participate on Thursday.
The Bills resume practice at 3 pm at St. John Fisher College on Friday. The session is open to the general public.