By Mark Gaughan
PITTSFORD -- So far so good for Bills defensive end Shawne Merriman.
The former Pro Bowler, trying to come back from four straight mostly injured seasons, worked with the starters in Thursday’s practice due to the fact Mark Anderson and Chris Kelsay were rested. Merriman got a ton of snaps, and coach Chan Gailey liked what he saw.
"It's not just the last couple days," Gailey said. “He had the nicked ankle [on Tuesday]. But before that and since then he's given great effort. It looks like he's got some quickness to him, and his stamina's good. Hopefully he'll make the season and things will go well for him. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do when we get it really live."
A crowd of about 600 watched Thursday’s practice.
The offensive highlights were two deep posts completed by Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the 11-on-11 session. The first traveled 50 yards in the air to Derek Hagan, who made a catch just behind George Wilson. The second, about 40 yards, went to Stevie Johnson, who got just behind Leodis McKelvin. Overall the defense had plenty of good moments. Mario Williams blew up a play. Linebacker Nigel Bradham had a would-be sack of Fitzpatrick on a blitz. Merriman had a would-be sack on the next play, getting around Chris Hairston. The Bills did a good amount of running for a third straight day.
Gailey was not thrilled about the offense getting over the top of the starting defense.
"Dave [Wannstedt] and I were talking after practice," coach Chan Gailey said, referring to his defensive coordinator. "Even if it's not your good day, you can't give up the big plays. They may have some creases here and there. But you've got to make sure you keep pushing and don’t give up the big play."
Both backup quarterbacks showed a little bit of an uptick. Tyler Thigpen hit nice deep balls to T.J. Graham and Marcus Easley. Other good plays: C.J. Spiller got wide open on the sideline for a throw from Fitzpatrick on a busted coverage by the defense. Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson on a crisp slant pattern. Vince Young showed some good ball fakes. Naaman Roosevelt had a good diving catch on the sideline on a throw from Thigpen, who recovered from a bad shotgun snap on the play. Center Eric Wood got about 10 or 12 live snaps again. Marcell Dareus looked good in one-on-one work against the offensive line. So did Dwan Edwards. Hairston had a couple good snaps against Merriman in one-on-ones. Overall, however, the young tackles were up and down.