The Buffalo Bills are officially back at the University formerly known as St. John Fisher College for training camp!! I was fortunate enough to attend the opening day of Bills camp. It was what you would expect from the first day of practice: little physical contact, players running three-quarter speed (besides Taiwan Jones, who was full-on sprinting on the side). Even so, there were some interesting occurrences and tidbits from today’s activities that I’d like to share with y’all. So, let’s dive in…
1.) Gabriel Davis & Isaiah Hodgins stand out
The Buffalo Bills 2020 WR draft class stood out for the right reasons. Gabriel Davis may be bigger, but he still made those lovely sideline and toe tap catches we have come to love, including one in the end-zone. (In other words, he’s the same, but thiccer, but still same!)
Meanwhile, Isaiah Hodgins did his best Davis impression at camp today, making some nice sideline grabs. However, he also had a drop on an out pass from Case Keenum. As the WR room currently stands, it’s going to be hard for Hodgins to make the roster. So every mistake may be amplified.
2.) Slot WR battle update
Speaking of WRs, we already knew that the slot receiver battle would be lit (as the kids say) and feature copious amounts of zoomies. That’s it (no “but” or ”however”). Isaiah McKenzie got the first-team snaps in the slot, Jamison Crowder worked with the second-team, and Khalil Shakir took the third-team reps. They all did well with their reps. This could end up being one of the tightest position battles of the preseason.
3.) The Rookies showed up
Some of Buffalo’s most notable 2022 draft picks had a pretty good debut at training camp. Kaiir Elam almost had an interception (it would’ve been picked if they practiced at full speed). James Cook showed off his speed and shiftiness as a runner and receiver in 11-on-11 drills, scoring a couple TDs. Terrell Bernard had a goal-line pass breakup against Dawson Knox. Matt Araiza did Punt God things (as I will expand upon in the next section). Khalil Shakir had a couple nice catches, including a TD from Case Keenum, and looked good making cuts while running routes.
4.) The Punter battle is… a battle?
Since the NFL Draft, Bills fans have all but anointed Matt Araiza as Buffalo’s starting punter. He likely will beat out Matt Haack, but it might not be as easy as anticipated. Today, Haack and Araiza exchanged some booming punts. However, Araiza consistently had returnmen back-peddling, while Haack kept them waiting for the elevator (metaphorically speaking) at times. The only thing about Araiza that may raise questions is that he doesn’t produce a ton of hang-time, so he could (theoretically) out kick his coverage. (Maybe that’s why Taiwan Jones was sprinting along the sideline?)
5.) Jordan Poyer in the (Rosen)haus
I make no apologies for the pun. It was right there. So too was Jordan Poyer, who not only forwent a holdout to practice with his teammates, but received a warm, loud ovation from the crowd. It cannot be understated how important All-Po is to the Buffalo Bills secondary and how crucial it is for Brandon Beane to address his contract situation as soon as possible. (Perhaps, with Drew Rosenhaus on campus, something gets done in the next couple weeks?)
6.) Reggie Gilliam works with TEs
With all the recent talk of the fullback position by one BF writer, it was interesting (though not unexpected, given his positional versatility) to see that Reggie Gilliam worked a lot with the tight ends today. He did pass-catching drills, ran end-zone routes, and even saw a couple plays in 11-on-11 drills at TE. TE3 is a question mark on this team, specifically if they’ll even keep a third TE at all. Or do they opt to use Gilliam as a hybrid FB/TE?
7.) The OL Shuffle
The Bills OL depth will be put to the test in the early days of training camp. Rodger Saffold is now on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list after suffering “some rib” injuries in a recent car accident. Meanwhile, Ike Boettger is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and Spencer Brown was limited (with the second team) in practice today as he continues to recover from offseason surgery.
Cody Ford and David Quessenberry took the first-team reps in Saffold and Brown’s stead. The fact I don’t have much to say about the OL today either means they did a good job or there was minimal contact, so not much happened. (It was more of the latter.) I’m sure fans will be keeping a close eye on both Saffold and Brown’s status as well as how their backups do going forward.
8.) Tre’Davious White update
While Tre’Davious White is starting camp off on the PUP list, he still got some light work in on the bike during today’s practice. I’m not a medical expert (that’s Thigh Doctor’s domain), but seeing White doing even light work seems to be an encouraging sign.
9.) Dane Jackson gets CB1 reps
Speaking of CBs, everyone has their eyes on the Bills CB2 battle between third-year Pitt product Dane Jackson and 2022 first-round pick Kaiir Elam. Today, Dane got the CB1 reps, lining up against Stefon Diggs (and even covering him well for a play), while Elam lined up against Davis. There wasn’t much to report today (that I saw), but it’ll be interesting to see how this battle progresses throughout camp.
10.) Play of the Day: Tim Settle INT
This play was so spectacular that Tim Settle received a roaring ovation from the crowd. Sal was spot on with his comparison (even if it was partly in jest). Hopefully, Settle can replicate this during the season.
11.) Josh Allen updates
Of course, I saved the most important developments for last. Josh Allen… still looks good in shorts. He also professed his love of Rochester and the Fisher dining hall (specifically their turkey burgers). As an alum of SJFCU (Class of 2018), I can confirm their dining hall food is elite.
Stay tuned for more live coverage from the 2022 Buffalo Bills training camp from our other writers. And check out my full Day 1 thread on Twitter (@zvaughn2712)!!
Featured Image: Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP Photo