Bills Rookie Camp: Day One Notes
by Chris Brown, Lead Journalist Last Updated: 5/12/2007 4:16 PM ET
Rookie Camp Opens
Tryout For WNY Native
Day One Observations
The Bills began the first day of their rookie minicamp with their 2007 draft class, last year's practice squad players, 15 undrafted free agents and 15 tryout players Saturday morning.
The coaching staff started with the pure basics right away.
"You start at ground zero which is a good thing for them," said head coach Dick Jauron. "That's good. They're not focused on veterans or looking over their shoulders at somebody else. They're all in the same boat, none of them know the system. And with no veterans here we have an opportunity all of our attention is directed at them. I think there are some real good things about this."
Before the first practice Buffalo made a pair of roster moves. Rookie free agent defensive tackle LaRon Harris was released due to a failed physical. The Bills also signed undrafted free agent cornerback Riley Swanson (Wake Forest). The 5'11" 188-pound Swanson had 179 tackles, seven interceptions and 26 pass breakups in his career with the Demon Deacons.
He played in 47 games as a collegian with 20 starts. Last season he led the team in passes defensed with 14 and had four interceptions including one in the 2006 ACC Championship game against Georgia Tech. His takeaway helped set up the Yellow Jackeets game-winning field goal, and was made while he was covering All-American receiver Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions). Johnson was Swanson's former high school teammate.
Special teams everyone
The practice began with players splitting off into specific special teams groups. Linebackers, running backs and some safeties worked with special teams coordinator Bobby April on punt formations and protection fundamentals.
Assistant coach DeMontie Cross worked on footwork with the receivers, defensive backs and players that are typically gunners or jammers on the punt teams.
Lining up on 'D'
Players later broke off into position groups. Bills second-round pick Paul Posluszny was lined up at the middle linebacker position for the entire practice, and was getting quizzed a lot by linebackers coach Matt Sheldon during the walk-through instructional period. Sheldon would ask questions of other players as well, but prompted Posluszny to answer most often.
Jauron still isn't ready to commit Posluszny to the middle.
"We'll move him a little bit and he'll know more than one (position) anyway because he's very bright and very interested," Jauron said. "He may stay there through this whole minicamp and then we'll get into our OTAs in the next couple of weeks. We're just looking to get him established."
Bills practice squad linebacker Kevin Harrison lined up on the strong side with rookie free agent Thaddaeus Washington (Colorado) playing his familiar middle linebacker spot behind Posluszny in the rotation.
Bills sixth-round pick John Wendling was working at strong safety in the first practice session and was primarily paired with rookie free agent free safety Trevor Hooper (Stanford). Wendling is put together well and has very good size for a safety. He just looked bigger and broader than all the other safeties. The other safety pairing had rookie free agent Stacey Thomas (Texas Southern) at the strong and tryout player J.D. Nelson at the free.
Rookie free agent Reggie Lewis (Florida) was part of the first cornerback pairing with practice squad cornerback Eric Bassey. They were followed in the rotation by rookie free agents Duane Coleman (Clemson) and Riley Swanson (Wake Forest).
There wasn't a lot of defensive line play due to the fact that there was only 7-on-7 in the team portion of practice.
Marshawn Lynch looked smooth catching passes out of the backfield as did fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright. Both made pass catching look natural which has to be positive sign for offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild.
Running plays weren't run full speed, but Lynch and Wright appeared relatively effective in picking the holes. Wright had one good cutback decision in particular.
Quarterback Trent Edwards fared pretty well in light of the fact that it was the first day in a new offense with backs and receivers he's never worked with before.
The majority of Edwards' passes were on the money as he displayed good zip and touch on the ball. Tryout quarterback Perry Patterson (Syracuse) had trouble throwing tight spirals on a consistent basis. He's a left-handed quarterback.
At receiver rookie free agent Jemalle Cornelius (Florida) was first in the rotation on most drills. It's difficult to determine if that means anything this early in the game. Rookie free agents Johnny Quinn (North Texas), Aaron Brown (New Hampshire) and Scott Mayle (Ohio) were next in line.
Cornelius looked quick in and out of his breaks and showed good hands in the first practice. The ball is very quiet when it hits his hands. Mayle is fast as his timed speed indicates (4.38), and he made a couple of nice grabs. Quinn made a couple of good adjustments to some poorly thrown balls.
There weren't a lot of highlights to 7-on-7 in light of the fact that every player on the field with the exception of the six practice squad players is unfamiliar with the offensive or defensive systems respectively.
Mayle made a nice catch on a comeback route. Tryout linebacker Mario Reese batted down a pass at the line that was headed for a receiver on an out route. That was about it for the morning workout.
"They were nervous and they're going to be for a little while because they don't really know what's going on," said Jauron. "It was just exciting for us to see them and meet them and get them on the field. It went okay."
Setting things straight
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell made it clear to the defensive players that if a ball is on the ground it better get picked up and taken the other way quickly.
Fewell got animated when a ball was lying in the deep middle after a ball was bobbled by a receiver.
"Pick that ball up," Fewell hollered. "We're going to get this straight right now! Anything that hits the ground someone better be on that ball immediately. This is pro football!"
Defensive line coach Bill Kollar also had some colorful remarks for his defensive linemen during position drills.
Tryout receiver Joe Konrad and rookie free agent Reggie Lewis (Florida) both suffered hamstring pulls in the morning practice and could not finish. They also missed the afternoon session.
Marshawn Lynch was a little tight at the start of practice and required some assistance from the training staff to stretch his legs out and get him loosened up. Lynch was split wide an awful lot in the afternoon workout. Practice squad back Fred Jackson was also used in that role extensively.
Trent Edwards again looked sharp. He was effective in making decisions and delivering the football. Granted there's no pass rush, but his passes were accurate with good velocity and touch when warranted.
In a non-contact setting the receivers are often the easiest to evaluate in terms of route running and ball skills. Rookie free agents Jemalle Cornelius (Florida) and Johnny Quinn (North Texas) had productive days Saturday. Both made their share of plays in the passing game. Scott Mayle (Ohio) also turned in a couple of plays and is already backing off some cornerbacks with his speed. Mayle got by fellow rookie free agent Duane Coleman (Clemson) so quickly that Coleman slipped and fell leaving Mayle wide open down the sideline. Mayle was slightly overthrown on the play.
In other 7-on-7 work Cornelius caught a nice slant from Edwards on a play that had very good timing. Quinn displayed strong hands throughout the workouts Saturday and showed he could hang onto the ball with a strong fingertip grab over the middle despite tight coverage.
Defensively tryout player Greg Lovely (SW Missouri) had a pass breakup.
The rookies and practice squad players will have a single practice Sunday.