ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) - Now with one win in their collective pocket, the Buffalo Bills will hit the road for the first time in 2017 to take on a team just two years removed from the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the Bills will be up against the Carolina Panthers in a homecoming game for head coach Sean McDermott.
On Wednesday, the Bills kicked off their practice week as they continue to get themselves prepared to try and start the season 2-0. As the day went along, some Bills storylines presented themselves heading into the upcoming game.
At the conclusion of practice, five takeaways from the first day of the practice week:
1) The Dareus snap count conundrum
- After the conclusion of the New York Jets game, the snap counts came out and it became public knowledge that Marcell Dareus was on the field only 59-percent of snaps. Head coach Sean McDermott has been known for his belief in rotating his defensive linemen to keep them fresh, and he continued that with the Bills in Week One. However, considering Dareus’ pay structure with the organization, it was a bit jarring to see him getting that little play time while fellow starter Kyle Williams received 74-percent of defensive snaps. Some fans wondered if Dareus’ hip injury had something to do with it, a theory that McDermott shot down on Wednesday. He went on to say that he doesn’t take player salaries into consideration when doling out play time, which I believe and now expect the trend to continue. However, it is fair to wonder if a player with that kind of contract — and with that low of a snap percentage — is truly worth to keep around from a value standpoint past this season. The Carolina Panthers just rewarded defensive tackle Kawann Short with a Dareus-level contract, but he’s been right around 70-percent of snaps of each of the last two years while blossoming into one of the best defensive tackles in the league. If they’re taking him off the field in key, third down situations — an area that he has thrived throughout the course of his career, it calls into question what value they place on him, and how important that actually is to their overall defensive scheme. It’s only one game, and it needs to be said over and over again that we need to let it develop and see if Week One was an anomaly or a trend. If it’s a trend, those questions about Dareus will linger.
2) Cordy Glenn has taken “a step forward”
- As the spring and summer wore on, the Bills kept having to stop themselves with left tackle Cordy Glenn. An ankle injury has defined his offseason and preseason, to the point where he wasn’t able to participate in much of it. However, the Bills kept working with Glenn near the end of the preseason, and they wound up getting him to play on 73-percent of snaps against the New York Jets. Though, to my eye, he didn’t look like the same, normally athletically gifted player we’ve come to know over his time in Buffalo. However, that does not seem to be the case with the Bills who pronounced that Sunday was “a step forward” for Glenn in his battle back from the ankle injury. If that’s the case, Glenn conceivably should be nearing 100-percent of snaps against Carolina and beyond, and in turn might be able to free up rookie Dion Dawkins to have a little more freedom during practice. However, during practice, I did not spot Dawkins working over at right tackle in any capacity. Granted, we are only able to watch the individual portion of practice, but it appears that the Bills are either content with Jordan Mills as the starting right tackle, or just want Dawkins fully prepared to take over for Glenn if need be in the event that his ankle acts up again. If the Bills are serious about playing Dawkins in the starting lineup, he’s going to need time in practice to get fully acclimated to the right side — because it is a bit of a tough transition to make if you’ve only been playing one side for basically your entire career. The snap counts for Glenn will be an interesting marker this weekend.
3) EJ Gaines expected to play
- Once the Bills announced that to make room for their newest free agent signing, they released one of their five cornerbacks, it seemed like the Bills felt quite comfortable in the outlook for starting cornerback EJ Gaines on Sunday. Gaines injured his shoulder against the Jets, which was called a contusion on Monday — a good sign in itself for the cornerback. On Wednesday, Gaines was pronounced a limited participant at practice, and when asked if the cornerback is expected to play, McDermott said they believe he’ll be ready — at this point anyway. This is good news for the Bills because there seems to be a bit of a drop-off from Gaines to backup Shareece Wright. However, with only four cornerbacks on the roster, the Bills are playing with a bit of fire if a couple of injuries occur. In that situation, you’d likely see Micah Hyde shift down to one of the three cornerback spots, and backup safety Trae Elston would likely come in as Hyde’s replacement. As the game begins, though, they won’t have to worry about Gaines.
4) What will the role be for Jelani Jenkins?
- On Monday, the Buffalo Bills brought in yet another linebacker to put on their active roster in Jelani Jenkins. With the addition, the Bills now have seven linebackers on the team, and before the Jenkins arrival, the Bills had a severe lack of regular season experience past their starters. The big question, though, was all about Jenkins’ possible role in Buffalo. The Bills were without a true answer as a backup middle linebacker, and Jenkins has experience playing both the outside and inside linebacker spots in his NFL career. On Wednesday, Sean McDermott relayed the information that Jenkins — even though they don’t have a true backup at middle linebacker — would be used as an outside linebacker in the Bills defense to start things off. Given his skill set, it’s likely his best fit for the McDermott defensive scheme. He’s clearly someone that has the ability to start, so he’s a name to keep an eye on if there are any individual struggles as the season continues. This was a strong in-season signing — that has potential — for the Bills regardless of where they line him up.
5) Still no Jerel Worthy
- During Wednesday’s practice, all players were on the field for at least the individual portion of practice except for one man: defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. He suffered a concussion during the Bills’ preseason finale against the Detroit Lions and hasn’t been on the field for practice in any capacity since. That again calls into question his potential availability for Sunday, because players in concussion protocol have to get on the field for at least a day — just to see how they come away from it — in order to finally pass through all five stages. If Worthy doesn’t get on the field on Thursday, that likely signals another week without the solid rotational defensive tackle. The Bills did see the return of rookie linebacker Tanner Vallejo to practice, but it’s unclear how close he is to a potential return to game action.
Bills Wednesday Injury Report
Did Not Participate: DL Jerel Worthy (concussion)
Limited Participation: CB EJ Gaines (shoulder), TE Charles Clay (shoulder), LT Cordy Glenn (foot), S Colt Anderson (foot), LB Tanner Vallejo (knee)
Full Participation: RB LeSean McCoy (wrist), RB Mike Tolbert (knee)