The Buffalo Bills have been relatively lucky throughout training camp in not having to deal with inclement weather. There was one close call when the team had to be moved inside because of lightning. Other than that though, it's been clear skies and sunshine at St. John Fisher College.
That is, until Sunday afternoon.
A little over halfway through the practice, a grey cloud rolled overhead and the Bills were sufficiently soaked as team drills took place.
I say this only because I had an umbrella and stayed dry, but it was good to see the team practice in less than perfect conditions. Who was able to battle through and have a good practice?
Here are some of my observations from Day 13:
- Practice MVP: HB Fred Jackson. Head coach Chan Gailey declared on Saturday night after practice that this week would be dedicated to getting the run game going on offense. As we all know by now, the running backs did not get a carry when the first team offense was on the field. Out of 14 plays that counted, 14 were passes. On Sunday, Jackson took MVP honors during the live drill on the goal line. The first team got three reps, with all three of those being a carry for Fred Jackson. How many of them ended up in the end zone? All three.
- Practice LVP: G/C Mark Asper. It was a tough day for the rookie interior lineman. He hasn't had the best of camps and is likely going to find himself amongst the cut-list. I was lucky enough to be close enough to the offensive linemen being coached up by Joe D'Alessandris, who coincidentally is my favorite coach to listen to during practice. Asper didn't do a drill to D'Alessandris' satisfaction, and the coach showed Asper how he wanted it run. Asper took another rep, and didn't get it straight once again. D'Alessandris dismissed him from the drill, telling Asper that he was wasting his breath on him, and brought Chad Rinehart in to do the same exercise to which he perfected it. D'Alessandris then looked at Asper and asked him why he couldn't do that once out of the five reps that he had. Asper also went on to struggle in the 1-on-1 drills.
- Fourth-round rookie cornerback Ron Brooks continues to make a steady improvement each day at camp. He's come a long way since things started at St. John Fisher College, and is making plays on the ball almost daily. Brooks intercepted a pass on Sunday that he returned for a touchdown, and also had the interception against Washington. Of course, he's done it against the second team offense, but signs of improvement this early on is a welcomed addition to a cornerback group that has a lot of questions.
- The more I watch Marcus Easley struggle in practices, the less shocked I'll be if they elect to cut him when we get to that point of the season. He has not shown the consistency Chan Gailey has looked for, and has been passed on the depth chart by both Derek Hagan and T.J. Graham. For Easley to make this team, he'll have to convince the Bills' coaching staff with solid play that they need to keep six receivers. Don't count out Ruvell Martin or David Clowney for that, either. They're right in that second-tier with Easley. If you had to ask me right now if he makes the team, I'd probably say yes. In no way am I confident in that statement, however. He has much to prove.
- One of the men that has passed Easley is rookie T.J. Graham. He had the play of the day on a post pattern. He got in behind both his defender and the safety, concentrated after the throw was deflected in the pouring rain and brought in the reception. He turned it up field and took it to the end zone. His biggest challenge will be knowing the playbook inside and out, but the raw talent is there.
- A player lost in the shuffle at linebacker is Danny Batten. The third-year pro out of South Dakota State is battling it out with the third team as an outside linebacker, his first time playing the 4-3 linebacker role. Batten is a liability in coverage, and doesn't make up for it with instincts to stop the run. He's one of the players that might be a casualty in switching back from the 3-4. That looks likely at this point.
- Tight end Fendi Onobun has everything you would like from a tight end in terms of size and speed. However, the instincts, recognition, catching ability and blocking leaves a ton to be desired. Prototypical size and speed don't appear to be enough to save Onobun. If it's down to keeping either him or Dorin Dickerson as a third tight end, Dickerson would win that battle in my opinion.
- No changes in the non-participants for the Bills on Sunday. Justin Rogers, Josh Nesbitt, Mike Caussin and Kevin Brock were the only four not to suit up. Despite suffering a shoulder injury on Saturday, Spencer Johnson did do individual drills. He sat out of team drills, however.
- Derek Hagan was shaken up on a long pass play that resulted in both an incompletion and him hitting the turf awkwardly. He got up limping and was escorted to the end zone by the trainers. They wrapped up his right knee and he got back in to action. It appeared to be a big cut caused by the fall, because shortly after getting it wrapped there were noticeable blood stains showing through before he even took another rep. He finished out practice.
- On the goal line drill, which happened while it was raining, Eric Wood did not take reps. However, Erik Pears did take part in the set of three plays.
The Bills continue practice on Monday afternoon at St. John Fisher College at 3 pm. The session is open to the general public.