One day of practice is in the books and the Buffalo Bills still have a long way to go before training camp is over and done with, and for the regular season to get here.
Following the morning session at St. John Fisher College, Rex Ryan made his daily address to the reporters on hand. My five takeaways from what Rex Ryan had to say on Saturday following Day 1 of camp:
1) Karlos Williams must be careful
- An atrocious offseason for Karlos Williams — having gotten a suspension and showing up to minicamp overweight — has led to questions about something that never seemed to be in doubt when the 2015 campaign ended. Williams was all set to be the team’s backup running back and complementary option to LeSean McCoy, and then it all started to go downhill in June. Now at training camp, on the non-football illness list and suspended for the first four games of the season, does that mean a big opportunity is up for grabs even when he comes back in Week Five? Rex Ryan didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement:
“ Well I think the big thing is he has to stay up to it mentally and physically get ready to go, but anything can happen, Rex started. “So you never know. Opportunity comes. Sometimes adversity for the other comes opportunity for the other people so we’ll see what happens.”
He also added that he’s confident in Williams’ ability, but the obvious point is that he needs to get back on the field. The running back believes he’s close to his ideal playing weight, but he’s still on a non-practicing reserve list. Meanwhile, Mike Gillislee and James Wilder, Jr. are gobbling up tons of time on the field along with McCoy.
2) Rex loves him some IK Enemkpali
- Without Shaq Lawson and Manny Lawson at the start of training camp at least, the unquestioned next man in to the starting lineup at outside linebacker is IK Enemkpali. The former New York Jets player was brought into Buffalo during training camp last year, and hung on as a defensive end in the team’s hybrid defense. Now, Enemkpali is plugged in as a linebacker, and that’s where Rex Ryan want him all along, saying he’s “playing the position they envisioned” at right outside linebacker. That’s all well and good, but his lack of athleticism in coverage is a major question in my mind. He’s a bit stiff-hipped, and that could be a liability in extended appearances on the field. A lack of Lawsons will also provide opportunities to players like Lorenzo Alexander, Eric Striker, and even undrafted rookie Bryson Albright.
3) Duke Williams embodies the “all in” mantra
- This time last year, Duke Williams was auditioning for a starting job at safety but failed to really grasp the defense, and subsequently fell out of contention and way behind Corey Graham. Undoubtedly sensing some urgency about his status with the team, Williams made sure that he was going to give it his best shot according to Rex:
“But he really is a young man that I even had a conversation with about it’s really about being “all in.” There’s no ands or buts about it. And he understands how I feel. Man I’ll tell you what. He’s the man that’s bringing in the coffee. That’s how much time he spends in here. So he wants it bad. And I see a different player. I see a player with way more confidence. Not something that is going to be handed to him. He’s going to have to earn everything he gets and he’s ok with that right now. So I think it’s great to see him that way.
And so far, it’s working for the fourth-year safety: he’s working with the second unit at safety as camp opened. It will be a battle for positioning all camp long in that grouping.
4) Wilder, Jr. impressive in a necessary area
- When the Buffalo Bills signed running back James Wilder, Jr., he knew that this could be a huge opportunity to finally crack an NFL roster, and he could have never envisioned the offseason breaking his way with two other runners finding themselves in the news for negative reasons. Wilder, Jr. has impressed Rex Ryan so far, and in order for him to make the roster, special teams will be a humongous factor. They haven’t been able to hit just yet, but Rex Ryan cited the team’s scouts saying what an accomplished special teams player he was. He’ll need to continue to prove it, but Wilder, Jr. is doing all the right things as camp opens up.
5) Rex on 2016 training camp “Let’s be smart”
- Following one training camp with the Bills, Rex Ryan has learned a few lessons. By his own admission, he had his team go full speed ahead at camp and had quite a few unfortunate events happen. Most notably, the hamstring injury to LeSean McCoy changed the course of his season in the early going, and he wasn’t the same until he got a significant amount of rest for it. Rex Ryan is trying to avoid that this year by giving his players ample rest, and by instituting a 10 pm curfew for training camp. The hope for him is that the players start to peak when they get to the regular season, as opposed to wearing them out in camp and the preseason. With 16 practices and four preseason games to go, we’ll see how the revised strategy works out for him.