There is an unfamiliar buzz in the air at One Bills Drive this year. It’s a feeling of the team actually becoming better and finally getting over that playoff hump, and it all started today.
Today we saw the first Bills practice for Vince Young, Mark Anderson, and prize free agent acquisition Mario Williams. All of them looked like they were ready to jump right into a game, but more on that later.
We’ll start with the quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vince Young, Tyler Thigpen, and Brad Smith. First off, yes Brad Smith was wearing the red QB shirt today. I’ve said it all offseason, I think he will still work primarily as a quarterback, but when it comes time to give the league the official roster, he will be listed as a receiver.
Fitzpatrick looked sharp in his first official workout of the offseason. His throws looked crisp for the most part, and he seemed to add extra zip to the ball today. The one thing he said that he still needs to work on his is cross body throws, and new QB coach David Lee has been working with him all off-season to help him get better.
Fitzpatrick threw a few deep balls and they all looked good. The big question in that regards is how will they look when he has to throw them with pads on.
Vince Young also had nice zip on his passes today, and looked like he was there not as the backup, but as the a guy trying to compete for the top spot. Now that’s a nice problem to have.
Said Fitzpatrick of Young, “I don’t have all the tattoos that he does, but we have similar personalities.” He continued by saying that he feels the team has a real good QB group.
When it came to the team’s top two running backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, there was no doubt that both looked ready to go from the start.
Jackson was dominant in every aspect, breaking away from tacklers and constantly finding the open holes. Spiller used his speed nearly every time he touched the ball and was able to outrun everyone on the field time and time again. He looked motivated, and for the first time that I can remember, 100% confident. It was a nice sight.
With Stevie Johnson out recovering from the groin surgery he had earlier in the Spring, the other receivers on the roster will be given a big opportunity to step up and prove their worthy of a roster spot during the OTAs and mini-camps. The receivers doing first team reps today were rookie WR T.J. Graham, Derek Hagan, Marcus Easley, and David Nelson.
Graham showed off his speed right away burning the Bills corners a few times. The one that stands out is when he flew by Leodis McKelvin, but let a perfectly thrown Fitzpatrick pass fall right through his hands. Graham’s speed is impressive, but if he gets jammed at the line his route running isn’t solid enough for him to be able to use his feet to fake a defender off of him. He’ll need his speed to get open while he works on his routes.
Easley, the oft-injured third year receiver our of Connecticut, looked strong on the ball in his first day of practice. He has big hands and can go up and grab the ball wherever it is around his body. The obvious question with him though is will he actually see the field this season.
With Eric Wood and Erik Pears among the inactives at the practice, the first team offensive line looked a bit different. Second round pick Cordy Glenn took reps at Left Tackle while Chris Hairston, who looks to have added on weight, manned the right side. Colin Brown worked at center in place of Wood who is still recovering from a leg injury.
The line looked alright, but Glenn and Hairston have a bit of work to do if they want to be long-time starters in this league. Then again, going against a guy like Mario Williams every snap will help them get that way sooner rather than later.
Make sure to check back later today for a full report on the defense’s first day of OTA’s under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, including quotes from Kyle Williams and Mario Williams.