Safety Donte Whitner was the player of the night Friday as a full crowd of several thousand turned out to watch C.J. Spiller's first practice with the Buffalo Bills.
Whitner had two big pickoffs in the practice. The first came at the start of 11-on-11 work off Trent Edwards. Whitner stepped in front of a short pass intended for Stevie Johnson and sprinted for what would have been a touchdown. Whitner's second pickoff came at the end a two-minute drill in the end zone. The starting offense had driven 55 yards from its own 35 to the opposing 10 in the final 1:10 thanks to a slant pass to Lee Evans, an out to Johnson and a turn-in pass to Donald Jones. A false start pushed the offense back to the 15 with 5 seconds left. On the last play, Edwareds had to unload into the end zone, and his desperate throw was picked off by Whitner. The second-team offense, directed by Brian Brohm, was stopped after three plays of its two-minute drive when a Brohm pass over the middle bounced off Jones' hands and into the arms of safety Bryan Scott.
Spiller drew some oohs and aahs from the crowd on his first good gainer off tackle. He worked into the offense behind Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. He fielded some punts. On one off-tackle run to the right, he gained 12 yards, and linebacker Donovan Woods only was able to rip off a piece of Spiller's shirt-tail as the running back blew past him.
"He's got a lot of catching up to do, not only mentallly but physically, so we're going to work him in slow," said coach Chan Gailey. "But you can see the explosiveness that he's always had."
Overall the offense looked shaky in 7-on-7 work just because it should look sharp with no pass rush involved. Nevertheless, near the end of that session, Edwards did hit Lee Evans on a nice corner route that might have gone for a touchdwon. Then Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Felton Huggins on a 30-yard sideline throw vs. Leodis McKelvin.
The offensive play of the night was a pretty 70-yard bomb from Edwards to Evans for a score in an 11-on-11 session. Receiver Chad Jackson looked pretty good, making several catches and looking strong. He did, however, have the ball popped out of his hands by linebacker Arthur Moats after a catch. Moats has done that a couple times to receivers.
Aaron Maybin looked good in one-on-one pass rush drills. Roscoe Parrish had to leave early with a leg injury but Gailey said it was not serious. Gailey said Parrish might miss a few days.
"It was good to see some big plays. We've got to eliminate the bad plays," Gailey said. "We're doing a pretty good job with fundamentals. We've got to take care of the football better. That'd be the only thing. But our defense is getting turnovers, so that's a good thing."