As the Buffalo Bills finished up their very first official practice of the 2012 NFL season, a few unexpected players got some first team reps while some attempting to come back from injury had to be limited. Here are a few short highlights about the day that was:
- The lasting impression for me was the play of Stevie Johnson in the first practice. He looked like he was in mid-season form. Smooth in his routes, met the ball at it's highest point, catching the ball in traffic -- Johnson looked the part. Adding to it all was that the years that Ryan Fitzpatrick and Johnson have been linking up in the passing game are really paying off. On comeback routes Fitzpatrick timed them perfectly to his receiver. Johnson really was the star of the show for me.
- For his first day on the job, rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore had some positive and negative plays both. The starter let a would-be interception hit him right in the numbers and fall to the ground, but then got right back in to it and broke up a pass to Derek Hagan during 7-on-7's. It will be a learning process for him just because of the volatility of the position. A solid first day overall, however.
- T.J. Graham made the nicest catch of the day. Graham ran down the sideline on a fly route against cornerback Justin Rogers. The pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick was underthrown, allowing both Graham and Rogers to fight for it. Rogers tipped it in to the air as both players started falling to the ground. The ball went in the direction of Graham who tipped it once while falling, and then corralled it in to his hands as he was laying on the ground. An adventurous way to make the play, but the rookie made it.
- On Wednesday, Chan Gailey said they wouldn't force Eric Wood in to doing too much, too fast. Gailey held true to his word on Thursday, holding Wood out of team drills during the first practice. Without him, Kraig Urbik shifted over to center and Chad Rinehart entered as the right guard. Right tackle Erik Pears did most the work at right tackle during team drills, but Sam Young replaced him for one series. Pears is recovering from minor off-season surgery.
- Separately speaking with the offensive line, Chris Hairston was the opening day left tackle. That trend will likely not continue tomorrow, though. Gailey said the two will switch it up every day as they continue to evaluate who will be the opening day left tackle. Rookie Cordy Glenn will likely get the first team reps on Friday.
- A lot like with the wide receivers, there are a lot of moving parts to the linebacking group as a whole. Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett are the two main starting linebackers. However, also getting reps with the first team were Kirk Morrison, Bryan Scott, Arthur Moats and rookie Nigel Bradham. That seems to be the contingent of linebackers the Bills have the most faith in. What that potentially means for third-year player Danny Batten has yet to be seen.
- Along the same lines of left tackle, the Bills will alternate between Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young on who gets the second team repetitions during a practice. Today was Thigpen's day, and it was one to forget. Thigpen constantly had a noticeable wobble on most of his passes and was missing very easy throws.
Friday's practice gets started at St. John Fisher College at 3 pm. Be sure to keep checking back with WGR Sports Radio 550 and WGR550.com as camp continues.