Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- For the second straight day at One Bills Drive, mandatory mini-camp was dominated by one side of the ball. The Buffalo Bills went through yet another day of practice, attempting to ready the team for their first training camp under Head Coach Doug Marrone.
Here are some brief observations of what stood out on Wednesday, and yes, it all revolves around the defense:
1) Defense reigns supreme… again
- It wasn't a complete shutdown by the Bills' defense on Day 2 of mandatory mini-camp, but that side of the ball was getting the better of team work for the majority of the practice. So far I've been able to see six practices when you combine OTAs and mini-camp, and I've seen a total of four interceptions. Three of those were today. In addition, the offensive line continued to struggle with unique blitzes coming from seemingly everywhere. At one point during the 2-minute drill with Kevin Kolb at the helm, the defense had four straight sacks. If they're counting mini-camp as a Best of Three series between the offense and defense, the defense would already be advancing to the next round.
2) Stephon Gilmore displaying ball skills
- One of the three interceptions on the day belonged to second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and it was a pretty one. Covering T.J. Graham on a deep post, Kolb hung the ball up in the air a bit too long. Gilmore capitalized and contorted his body, met the ball at it's highest point and came down with the interception as he tumbled to the turf. That's really the only part of his game he was missing during his rookie season. If he can build off of plays like that, he could be a very dangerous weapon in the defensive backfield. It needs to happen a lot more consistently, however.
3) Cornerback injuries
- Even though interceptions were a big part of the day, three of the men that were competing for the starting cornerback job opposite Gilmore had to leave the practice prematurely with an injury. Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks and Crezdon Butler all exited the field with a trainer. With Leodis McKelvin already not taking team reps because of his off-season surgery, there was some valuable time to be had by some of the long-shots to make roster like Kip Edwards and Jumal Rolle. If those injuries linger you may see someone familiar lining up at cornerback to start...
4) Aaron Williams versatility
…And that player happens to be safety Aaron Williams. Last year's starting cornerback to open the season, Williams didn't take many safety repetitions even when Rogers, Brooks and Butler all were still participating. Rookie Duke Williams was getting first-team reps, while Aaron Williams only filled in every once and again. Once the trio left the practice, Williams took some reps at his old home at corner and looked good doing it. He even picked off a pass down the left sideline intended for Marquise Goodwin, which resulted in a frustrated Goodwin tackling Williams to the ground. That's his second interception in as many days.
5) Jerry Hughes continues to flash
- The off-season deal that may end up paying big dividends for the Bills could be the one that shipped inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to Indianapolis for outside linebacker Jerry Hughes. Seeming to finally relax and start to play within his game last season in Indianapolis under new head coach Chuck Pagano, Hughes is having a similar start to his off-season work with Buffalo. In most of the practices seen by the media, Hughes has made at least one play where he beats Cordy Glenn clean. In the four-play stretch where the defense had sacks on each of the reps, Hughes accounted for two of them. He could be a valuable situational pass-rusher, something that Mike Pettine's defense sorely needs.