Marcell Dareus was back and in fine form in his first practice of the 2014 Buffalo Bills training camp.
Unofficially, Dareus played 21 snaps in 11-on-11 sessions of the workout, held before a full house of more than 4,000 at St. John Fisher College. He made the most of them.
On his second play, he stuffed C.J. Spiller on a run to the right. On his third play he helped the interior defense stuff another run. On his fourth play he penetrated into the pocket and forced quarterback EJ Manuel to scramble. Manuel made about 10 yards on the play.
On Dareus’ second series, he cast tackle Erik Pears aside and wrapped up Manuel for a sack. On his fifth series he chased Manuel to the sideline after the QB escaped the pocket. Manuel threw incomplete on the play.
Dareus declined to answer questions after the practice. He looked like a guy happy to be on the field.
“He’s a big part of our puzzle, and it’s good to have him back and getting in the swing of things,” said fellow defensive tackle Kyle Williams. “You can look to your left and your right and see guys that can win one-on-ones, make plays and can change the way an offense approaches things.”
Williams was referring to playing between Dareus and defensive end Mario Williams.
“I’m happy to have him back,” coach Doug Marrone said.
Marrone, however, has been answering a lot of questions about Dareus the past week and wasn’t making any bold proclamations about Dareus’ performance going forward.
“I take it day by day,” the coach said. “Every day we get here, just like with a lot of the players, take it day by day and just try to focus on football.”
Dareus’ offseason included a drug-related arrest in Alabama in May and a car crash in Hamburg in May, in addition to his failure to initially pass the team’s physical conditioning test upon reporting to camp.
The defense generally got the better of the offense on the night. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz unleashed some creative blitzes. Mario Williams had a would-be sack on one play. Manuel beat the blitz on the next play for a sharp pass to Sammy Watkins on a hitch. But on the next play, Schwartz sent the house. Manuel's pass over the middle was tipped by Keith Rivers and batted into the arms of cornerback Nickell Robey, who returned it for a touchdown. Jerry Hughes beat left tackle Seantrel Henderson cleanly for a pressure late in the session.
No. 2s lackluster: Neither Jeff Tuel or Thad Lewis had a very good night in 11 on 11 work. Any offense that was produced was by Manuel. Duke Williams had an INT off a poorly thrown deep ball by Tuel late in the session. Kamaal McIlwain also picked off a deflected pass thrown by Tuel.
The quarterbacks gave the crowd some things to cheer about in 1-on-1 pass work. Cornerback Michael Carter, who had a miserable night, got beat by Mike Williams deep on a pass from Tuel. Manuel hit Kevin Elliott, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin on good deep balls. Lewis hit T.J. Graham and Watkins deep. Corey Graham was strong much of the night and had a pickoff of Tuel down the sideline.
Carter had glaring pass interference penalties after getting beaten cleanly by Watkins and Chris Hogan.
Injuries: Fred Jackson walked off after tweaking his lower left leg. It didn't appear serious. Tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Kenny Ladler went off after tweaking hamstrings.
Hit of night: Brandon Spikes put a lick on RB Bryce Brown.
Mr. Automatic: Kicker Dan Carpenter looks fantastic. He booted a 51-yarder and, unofficially, is 21 of 22 at camp this week.
Serenade: At the end of practice, the players sang a chorus of "Happy Birthday" for Doug Marrone. He turned 50 Friday night.