Buffalo Bills

Training Camp Notebook: Day 2

Cliff note observations from day two of Buffalo Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher College.

Offensive Philosophy

The Bills ran two staples of the Patriot’s offense yesterday, 12 and 22 personnel. Today, according to Cover 1 Buffalo, they went in a completely different direction and utilized formations featuring empty backfields, and plays featuring jet sweeps. This seems to mesh well with a theory I have been discussing on previous episodes of The Bills Guys Podcast. The Bills do not have a “bell cow” running back, nor do they have an “alpha” receiver. They do not have a guy they need to justify force-feeding the ball to. That means they can run an offense whose identity changes week to week based on the opponents we face.

Playing a poor pass defense Week 1? Okay, let’s run air raid and empty the backfields utilizing our 4 wide receivers. Playing a poor run defense Week Two? Okay, let’s run 12 and 22 personnel and take it to the opponents on the ground. The Bills offense appears like it has the ability to be multiple, and look different from week to week depending on the match-up.

Early Favorites Emerge

The Bills practices in shorts for weeks in OTAs, and they have practiced the first two days of camp in shorts as well. I say this because when the pads come on you typically see changes in the pecking order for reps. Some players look great in shorts and cannot produce once the pads come on. The opposite can be said for others. From all accounts, David Sills has done nothing special in camp thus far. Players like he and Duke Williams may struggle in shorts but excel with the physical nature of the game once the pads come on. 

As of this moment, the Bills seem to have decided upon their “frontrunners”. This all could change once the pads go on and the Bills see different things from different players. Daboll pulled the following players aside when installing a new offensive concept today:

  • Josh Allen
  • RB: McCoy, Gore, Singletary
  • WR: Jones,  Brown, Beasley, Roberts, Foster, McCloud
  • TE: Knox, Sweeney, Smith
  • OT: Dawkins, Ford, Nsekhe
  • IOL: Morse, Long, Spain, Feleciano

The surprising name on this list has to be Ray Ray McCloud, but it shouldn’t be. The Bills invested draft capital in him and he had a real connection with Josh Allen on the third team last preseason. A late injury in the preseason apparently nagged him throughout the entire regular season. A fully healthy McCloud appears to have a leg up on the last Wide Receiver job.

The surprising snubs from this list are La’Adrian Waddle and Wyatt Teller. If Ford wins the Right Tackle job that leaves Ty Nsekhe as the Swing Tackle and could land Waddle on the trading block. The same goes for Teller. Long and Feleciano have Guard/Center flex, Teller does not. If he cannot do something to outright pass Quinton Spain on the depth chart the Bills could look to see if they can sneak him onto the practice squad. 

Quarterbacks

What I was looking for… 

  • “Can Josh Allen keep progressing?”

Josh Allen looked just as comfortable and confident as he did in yesterday’s session, however, he continues to miss on 4-5 passes a session that need to be completed. Those passes range from 5-10 yards outs to plays further down the field. His best work today came working the middle of the field, zipping multiple passes into receivers streaking between the Linebackers and Safeties.

The defenses were mixing coverages and showing new looks, they were not leaving much room on the outside. It is nice to see Allen have the physical ability to adjust and make these types of throws. His predecessor Tyrod Taylor had plenty of success on the outside and couldn’t replicate that down the middle of the field.

When speaking to John Murphy on One Bills Live, Allen told host John Murphy that “decision making” was the most important thing that he had to work on. He appears to be improving. Allen stated his best play of the day was a 3rd and 2 where he slid the coverages to one side of the line and then hit Frank Gore in the flat for the easy first down. He hit Gore in the flat on multiple occasions today and even had a few throwaways. That could spell much-needed improvement from Allen who missed too much of the easy stuff and made some head-scratching throws last season when he should have thrown the ball away.

Running Backs

What I was looking for… 

  • Will Singletary start working in with the 1s/2s?

Devin Singletary did in fact mix in with the first and second teams today. LeSean McCoy was once again the lead back and all of his reps came with the first unit. Gore and Singletary worked with the second unit while rotating in with the first. TJ Yeldon and Marcus Murphy split the load with the third team. It is looking more and more like it will be a three Running Back stable for the Bills this season but I cannot stress enough that the pads haven’t gone on yet, a lot can change. However, these two days illuminate for the fans where the Bill’s coaching staff minds are at in regards to the pecking order of each player. TJ Yeldon is no lock for this roster. He may need to go off in the preseason to even get into the mix for carries with the first unit. 

Wide Receivers

What was I looking for…

  • Does Robert Foster get worked in more, or does he stay relegated to the 4th option? 
  • Who emerges in the battle for WR #6?

Sean McDermott said today some of his players are on a “pitch count”, and let’s hope for his sake that Robert Foster is one of them due to his injury from OTAs. Andre Roberts was the number four Wide Receiver today based on reps, getting more run and making more plays than Robert Foster. This is something we will want to monitor closely as the summer rolls along.

Brown and Beasley continue to separate themselves as the two “alpha” receivers of this group. Both appeared to have a leg up on all the others in terms of the crispness of their routes. As I mentioned above, McCloud is getting first-team chances as well and thus far making the most of it. Until something changes, he appears to be the frontrunner for the sixth Wide Receiver spot. 

I stated on last week’s The Bills Guys Podcast that Nick Easley could be a sleeper pick. In my opinion, he’s a lock for the practice squad and could very well work his way onto the 53 man roster with his play in the preseason. He is a quick-twitch athlete who can play special teams. He’d fill a role behind Beasley and contribute to the coverage units. According to Matthew Parrino of NYUpstate and Dean Kindig of the Bills Mafia Blog, Easley has had a quietly impressive couple of days with the third unit.

All other bottom half of the depth chart receivers have been quiet thus far, with Aaron Quinn of Cover 1 Buffalo going as far as calling David Sills’ play through two days “disappointing”. John Murphy mentioned on One Bills Live that Dukes Williams made one impressive acrobatic catch, but that his skills won’t be on full display until the pads come on.

Tight Ends

What I was looking for… 

  • Can Dawson Knox win the starting tight end job? 
  • Will Croom work in more when fully healthy?

Dawson Knox continues to flash potential and athletic ability through two days of practice. However, he was called out by Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll today after he dropped an easy catch over the middle of the field for the second day in a row. 

Jason Croom was held out of practice today due to his lingering hamstring issue. While the Bills have invested a good amount of time in his development over the past two years, McDermott values players who can stay on the field. If this injury lingers, Croom could see himself on the outside looking in of a very open Tight End competition. 

Offensive Line

What I was looking for…

  • Is the offensive line combinations the same tomorrow?

The Bills made only one change to their offensive line today, and that was inserting Spencer Long into the lineup ahead of John Feleciano. As practice went on Feliciano was re-inserted into the lineup at Right Guard and Long shifted over to replace Quinton Spain at Left Guard. It appears as if Spain, Feleciano, and Long are the front runners while Wyatt Teller is on the outside looking in. 

The biggest news of the day was Cody Ford holding his place as Right Tackle for the second day in a row. Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic even opined that it was his best of practice at the position, including OTAs. This may have been the reason for Ty Nsekhe shifting and playing a lot of Left Tackle with the second-team offense. If Ford locks down the starting job and Nsekhe is the swing, as stated above La’Adrian Waddle could be on the outside looking in. 

Defensive Line and Linebackers

What I was looking for…

  • Does Mike Love continue to act as DE #4?
  • How long until Ed Oliver passes Jordan Phillips on the depth chart?
  • Didn’t see any news today on LBers, want to see how the depth lines up.

Not much news today in regards to the front 7. Mike Love continued to work as second-team Left End and made a nice move to get around LaAdrian Waddle. Eli Harold had to run a lap for jumping offsides. Oliver made a nice play pushing Ty Nsekhe all the way back into Matt Barkley, but continues to run with the 2’s behind Jordan Phillips. Matt Milano looks healthy, making a couple of pass breakups. This section and the defense, in general, should start to get more action once the pads go on.

Secondary

What I was looking for…

  • Did Gaines or Johnson’s performance get them a shot at #2 CB reps?
  • Will Siran Neal get reps ahead of Kurt Coleman?

Day two brought some excitement to the battle for the #2 Cornerback spot opposite Tre White. Levi Wallace split first-team reps with Kevin Johnson. EJ Gaines got in with the first unit as well, but he did so by filling in for Tre White opposite Levi Wallace. Gaines and Johnson appeared on my Twitter feed often today making numerous pass breakups. Gaines and Siran Neal saw looks at Nickel Corner behind Taron Johnson. 

In an interview with One Bills Live after practice, Josh Allen credited Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer for being “very good” and disguising their looks. I continue to feel like these two are in for breakout seasons that will draw national attention. 

The Bills really want Siran Neal to make this time. While mostly playing with the third team, Neal played Nickel Cornerback, Safety, and even some Linebacker today. He has been the gunner with the first unit Special Teams for two days straight now as well. He may not surpass Kurt Coleman on the depth chart at Safety, but I continue to feel his versatility makes him almost a roster lock. 

Punters

Per various people on my Twitter feed Cory Carter has struggled through two days while Cory Bojorquez has shown some flashes. 

Injuries

  • Other than Jason Croom’s hamstring soreness, no injuries to report. 

What I will be looking for during tomorrow’s practice…

  • If there is an influx of defensive news once the pads go on.
  • How McCoy, Gore, Singletary complement one another.
  • Cody Ford & Ed Oliver’s starting status.
  • Josh Allen & Dawson Knox’s search for consistency.

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