Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- With the addition of the word 'mandatory' to the current crop of practices for the Buffalo Bills, the team officially starts their final on-the-field preparations before they break for training camp on July 28.
It's not much different from the Organized Team Activities that took place through the final three weeks of May. Players still can't wear pads, there isn't contact allowed and not much can be learned from some of the positions that require the physicality of the game.
However, there were some noticeable facets of Tuesday's practice that featured all 88 of the Bills players currently under contract. Here are some brief takeaways from the first session of the week:
1) Day 1 D
- Now that mandatory mini-camp is here, I wanted to take a special notice on how the defense was aligned with respect to the individuals that lined up at certain positions. Even though both Manny Lawson and Alan Branch were in attendance, they did not take first team reps on Tuesday. I would imagine that's more due to other players earning reps based on their work at OTAs than the duo's actual standing with the coaching staff. With that said, here's how the first-team defense was aligned: Defensive Line (from left to right): Alex Carrington, Marcell Dareus, Jay Ross Outside Linebackers: Mario Williams, Marcus Dowtin Inside Linebackers: Nigel Bradham, Kiko Alonso Cornerbacks: Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks (in nickel sets, shifted inside and Justin Rogers lined up outside) Safeties: Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy
2) Legursky getting worked in
- In his first practice with the team, Legursky took mostly second-team reps at left guard. That was until the final set of 11-on-11s, where he and Colin Brown swapped spots along the depth chart. Legursky figures to be an immediate combatant for that left guard position, considering he has over eight times the starting experience that Brown brings to the table. I would assume the pair starts splitting first-team reps before too long.
3) Pough pressures
- Undrafted inside linebacker Keith Pough is someone I thought had a chance to maybe even make the roster outright, but was forced to sit out a few of the sessions throughout OTAs. During the first day of mini-camp, however, Pough flashed with some very impressive blitzes up the middle to break up a pair of plays. With the lack of depth at inside linebacker, there presents a chance of one of the young linebackers to have a shot at making the roster. If Pough can string together some impressive days like Tuesday during training camp and show a presence on special teams, he could fit in to that role.
4) Byrd's fill-in makes a big play
- In the absence of Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, former second-round pick Aaron Williams has been getting plenty of time to learn the nuances of playing safety in the Bills' newest defense. Once again Williams took the first-team reps at free safety, playing opposite strong safety Da'Norris Searcy. The one thing that has never been in doubt about Williams' game is his ball skills, and he showed them off on Tuesday. Mike Caussin came across the middle of the field about 15 yards down the field, and Kevin Kolb threw it behind him badly. Williams contorted his body and secured the catch, returning the interception back up the field. In the five off-season practices the media has been allowed to see, that was the first interception.
5) Tough day for the offense
- Whether it was pressure up the middle, pressure from the edges, the stuffing of runs or poorly thrown passes, the offense did not have a very successful day against Mike Pettine's defense. It seemed as though defenders were constantly getting in the backfield, throwing off the timing of the offensive plays or forcing the quarterback to make an errant pass. The defense even concocted a complete mismatch, getting Mario Williams a one-on-one matchup against Mike Caussin, in which he won for a sack. The most successful play of the day for the offense was a zone-read keeper by Kevin Kolb in which they took advantage of the defense's aggressiveness. Other than that, it was a day to forget.