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(WKBW) - On Thursday, the Buffalo Bills concluded their third and final practice of mandatory minicamp, which officially put an end to all of the scheduled offseason workouts on the calendar. The Bills will now go into about a six-week off period, and then reconvene for the start of training camp on July 27.
However, what about the final day? Who stood out as minicamp wrapped up? Seven observations from the day of work:
1) Tyrod Taylor has his sharpest day yet - Through six workouts that the media has been able to view during the spring offseason sessions, the best day we’ve seen from starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was saved for the last day of school, so to speak. Taylor started off slowly with an interception, but after that, he was as sharp as could be. He was hitting his receivers in stride, sensing the pressure of the defense to find the bust in coverage, and firing the ball into his targets. This was a good sign for Taylor, especially considering that the other five workouts we’ve seen has featured him really playing at an average to below average level — and that can be attributed to a number of different things, too. He’s working in a brand new offense, he’s working with receivers he hadn’t met before a couple of months ago, and a host of other issues, too. Now, he can pocket a great performance on the final day of minicamp and will look to continue that into the start of training camp. For the Bills to be at all competitive this year, they’ll need Taylor healthy and to be playing at a similar level to last year at least.
2) Tre’Davious White getting huge praise — and backs it up - Ahead of the third and final practice of minicamp, Bills head coach Sean McDermott met with reporters and could not help himself when it came to rookie cornerback and first-round pick Tre’Davious White. The rookie, who has been taking all the first-team reps throughout the offseason, has drawn high praise from McDermott:
Really, I’ve had to sit back in my office up there and ask myself why haven’t I noticed Tre’Davious, in terms of why am I not concerned about him, right? As a defensive coordinator I was a lot closer to the defense at times, so I’ve been asking myself is it because of that or is it because he’s just integrated himself so smoothly into the NFL and what we do. He’s mature beyond his years, really, what we thought he was coming out of LSU – He’s made plays on the football, he’s shown up in that regard in a positive light and when I look out there I’m looking at a player that – He plays like a second or third year player at this point.
White, just as he has for much of the offseason, stood out again on Thursday by being the man to pick off Taylor early on in the practice. It’s really early in his first year — and he has to prove himself as they get into the more physical training camp and preseason — but it’s hard to have asked for anything more from their late first-round pick.
3) Sammy Watkins ramping up - The last two days, the Buffalo Bills have been slowly working top wide receiver Sammy Watkins into the mix during team drills — a sight that we hadn’t seen until this week. And on Thursday, Watkins was able to work himself for more than the pre-prescribed five snaps that we saw him do on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Watkins seems to be moving quite well given his offseason foot surgery, and the Bills are hoping to get him back in full by the start of training camp in late July. He was working into a double-digit amount of reps, which is another definitive step forward for the wide receiver. Now as long as he continues being smart with his foot during the week-long break, the Bills have to be very happy with how he’s progressed to this point.
4) Cardale Jones doesn’t even get a chance - Minus the slip earlier in the day from Bills head coach Sean McDermott, when he didn’t mention the name of Cardale Jones in relation to the backup quarterback race, the second-year quarterback was forgotten about in a different sense during practice, too. On Wednesday, Jones received only one snap during the team’s two-minute drill — one that resulted in him throwing it directly to a linebacker for an interception. When the Bills were going through a similar exercise on Thursday, Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates, and Nathan Peterman all got a drive of their own — and then practice ended. Cardale Jones didn’t get the chance to take one of his own — which is a pretty jarring thing for the young quarterback. He received minimal reps in other team drill exercises, clearly showing that his current status with the team is as the fourth quarterback out of four. It’s going to take a big effort in training camp to make this team this year for Cardale Jones.
5) Zay Jones learning as he goes - On Wednesday we saw Zay Jones go through some hardship in his first extended period of time with the first-team offense. He didn’t run an out route deceivingly enough, to where cornerback Ronald Darby read him like a book and jumped it — nearly picking off the pass. Immediately, wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan called Jones over to go over his missteps. On Thursday, we saw the rookie learn from that mistake. Early on in the practice, Jones again ran an out route against Darby, to which the rookie ran the route as McGeoghan wanted him to, had the ball delivered to him, and he turned it up the field for a huge gain. On the job back, McGeoghan couldn’t control his excitement. He extended his arms out wide and exclaimed: “You see the difference?!” The coach continued to congratulate him for the big play. It will be those small little steps that will mean everything for Zay Jones, and it certainly helps that they have a positional coach that knows exactly what to do to get through to him.
6) Milano gets second team reps along with Vallejo - The Bills have been trying to work their young linebackers into the swing of things the last two days, and on Thursday Matt Milano started to get some opportunities on the second-team — and even in nickel situations. On Wednesday, we saw Tanner Vallejo work in that instance, but it was Milano’s turn today. What’s also interesting is that Gerald Hodges, the free agent brought in to compete for a potential starting role, still hasn’t gotten much of a look with the second-team defense to this point. Perhaps the hope is he can work into the rotation once he’s fully acclimated with the playbook, but so far it’s been the two rookies and Ragland making up the second-team defense at linebacker.
7) Henderson’s struggles continues - As minicamp has gone on, it’s been increasingly noticeable how much fourth-year player Seantrel Henderson has been struggling — even in just the practices where there is minimal contact. He’s slow off the block, and there are numerous times where his slower feet can’t keep up with the pass rusher, and the play gets blown dead. From my count, I saw it happen two more times during Thursday’s practice, and that’s just on top of all the times it has happened over the course of OTAs and in the first two days of minicamp. Henderson needs to find the form that he showed in his first year, or he could be in grave danger of not making the team at all.