PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus worked with strength coaches for the duration of practice. Coach Doug Marrone had no indication of when Dareus may re-take his conditioning test -- that's up to the strength coaches, he said -- but the Bills have a large gap between practices this week. They aren't back on the field until 6 p.m. Friday, which could give Dareus time to pass the running test. Another player who didn't pass the test? Defensive tackle Alan Branch, who is on the active/non-football illness list. We're told that Branch needed to be put on that list because of a technicality. Branch and Dareus worked out together on the sideline Wednesday.
Is the Bills' starting right guard spot up for grabs? Asked that question Wednesday, Marrone simply said, "Yes it is." Incumbent Kraig Urbik struggled in Tuesday's practice, leading Chris Hairston to get more reps with the first team Wednesday. Hairston has been plugged in along the line -- including both at left tackle and right tackle -- since returning this spring from a year-long absence. Urbik has cap numbers of $3.375 million, $3.675 million and $4 million in the remaining three years of his deal, which the Bills extended in 2012. While former general manager Buddy Nix inked the deal with Urbik, it would be a disappointment for the team if he lost his starting job.
How about right tackle? At the beginning of OTAs, Marrone said he wanted to throw second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio into the mix with the first team, leading to reps with the top unit. Those dwindled by the end of spring practices and we've seen Erik Pears exclusively with the first team so far in camp. Asked if that was a reflection more on Pears or Kouandjio, Marrone said it was a "little bit of both," adding that "Cyrus is coming along. Again, the closer you are to the ball, the tougher it is to play in this league." Pears started 16 games last season but dealt with an injury. At 32, his job appeared to be in jeopardy this summer but he's been holding off Kouandjio to this point.
Safety Aaron Williams stepped away from an early portion of practice and met with the team's medical staff on the sideline. Williams, who is coming off shoulder surgery and was eased back into action during spring practices, had his shoulder/arm area examined by a team doctor. He returned to the rest of practice and didn't appear to have any issues with that arm, but it's something that bears watching as the Bills progress through several more padded practices and preseason games. The team gave Williams a large extension this offseason and if he misses time, they have a drop-off on their safety depth chart. Besides starter Da'Norris Searcy, none of the other six safeties have playing experience on defense at the NFL level.
Sammy Watkins continues to show off his eye-opening talent and Wednesday was no exception. He made an impressive catch in a routes-versus-air drill that was captured by WGR 550's Sal Capaccio. You should check it out.