During the Bills' May mini-camp, their offense looked ahead of the defense. But when the June mini-camp opened Tuesday, the defense clearly had the upper hand.

Part of the reason was that in the earlier camp, the offense worked on a lot of running plays, against a suspect defensive line. This time, the team's strong cornerbacks and linebacking corps caused trouble with the offensive passing game.

Another reason was that backup quarterback Alex Van Pelt wasn't there because he was attending a family member's funeral. Number three QB Travis Brown was not sharp at all.

The result was a low completion percentage, including some interceptions and passes broken up. The defense would have had more interceptions, except that the Bills reverted to an old pattern and dropped some. In early drills, Kevin Thomas and Jason Bostic dropped back-to-back potential picks.

As it was, in 11-on-11 work, Billy Jenkins picked off a pass from Drew Bledsoe that Nate Clements had tipped, and Pierson Prioleau went high to take a ball that Brown threw short of Eric Moulds.

The offensive struggles were not, however, caused by the absence of John Fina, the 10-year left tackle released Monday.

Gregg Williams and offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek insisted that the Bills would go with their five best linemen. For now, they are, from left, Trey Teague, Ruben Brown, Jonas Jennings, Jerry Ostroski and Mike Williams. Neither coach would say that Fina might have been back if not for his $4.4-million salary-cap figure. Said Vinklarek, "I can't really speak to that. John did a great job for us for a long time."

In Fina's absence, Brown and Ostroski, the two up-front Bills of longest standing, recognized a bigger role in working with younger players. Ostroski was noticeably more vocal in giving pointers to backups Marques Sullivan and Jon Carman.

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