Gailey eager to get the pads on
Per NFL rules, teams can't use full pads until the third day of training camp.
That meant Bills coach Chan Gailey, as old school as they come, couldn't wait to get through the first two days of shorts and shells at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y.
"When you can put pads on, that starts camp," Gailey said. "This other stuff is good and important. It helps us. But you really start to find out about your football team when you put pads on. We'll find out a lot more (about our team) in the next week."
Gailey found out a lot of things about his revamped defense on the first day the popping began.
With the additions of free-agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, along with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the team's impressive first-round draft pick, the Bills defense that gave up a club record 5,938 yards last year has had an extreme makeover.
The personnel additions come with a switch to a 4-3 scheme under well-respected new coordinator Dave Wannstedt.
During the first 11-on-11 work in full gear, Buffalo's offense didn't complete many throws down field and the line struggled containing the constant pressure the defense applied. Led by Williams' steady pressure, the defense disrupted the offense's flow the entire session. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't complete a pass his first five attempts due to throwing incomplete under pressure, being forced to scramble and on one occasion, a dropped pass.
"I thought the defense dominated the practice," Gailey said. "We have a lot of work to do on offense to be at their level of play right now. It is a little bit different than it has been and it is good for our football team. They have some good players (on that side of the ball). They work hard, they play hard, they are good leaders. It is a solid group up there."
Indeed, the newcomers seem to complement some talented holdovers that couldn't do it all by themselves last season. Players like defensive tackles Kyle Williams, a former Pro Bowler coming back from foot surgery, and Marcel Dareus, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft. Williams, who is practicing fully, had a would-be sack (quarterback's can't be hit in practice) and Dareus should prosper with better players around him.
Meanwhile, in individual one-on-one and two-on-two drills, Mario Williams has been almost unblockable.
"I came here for a reason - to help turn this thing around," Williams said. "I came here ready to work and to buy into the system. Keep your mouth close and listen to how they want things run and retain it. Then go out and be able to put it back on the field."
As expected, the Bills are rotating starters at several positions early on until things settle out.
At right defensive end opposite Mario Williams, the coaches are looking at veteran Chris Kelsay as well as Anderson.
When the team is in full pads, Gailey is making sure his offense gets quality work in the running game. That's a part of the game that has suffered in recent years with the elimination of two-a-day practices and an emphasis on passing. In order to run the ball well, teams need to develop a "mentality." For the Bills, it means making sure Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller get to feel the pop of the pads and the linemen drive bodies backwards.
"If you look at the statistics over the past couple years it's been growing the number of passes we throw percentage-wise each year," Gailey said. "So obviously a lot of people are not spending time on the running game. I think we can get the job done. We've got the time and we've got enough pads practices and enough preseason games to get where we want to get to. I don't have an issue about that."
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