On a day that was mostly marred by reaction from the team about the four-game suspension to Marcell Dareus, the Buffalo Bills still conducted their final morning practice of training camp in 2016. The Bills went through another hot and humid day of work to start off the day, and a familiar name imposed his will on the practice.
Seven observations from the day of work:
1) Stephon Gilmore establishing dominance once again
- It’s been a pretty common theme at St. John Fisher College. Throughout all the weeks, Stephon Gilmore has remained a constantly impressive player during practice, and he’s doing it against really anyone he’s lining up in front of. Now 14 days into practice, Gilmore picked off his fourth pass of the summer as the first-team defense was working against the scout team offense. The pass wasn’t on point, Gilmore read the receiver, turned his head, and came down with the turnover. Later on in the day, he also came incredibly close to adding his fifth interception of training camp — and this play might have been more impressive than his previous interception. Robert Woods ran a fairly deceptive out route, Taylor thought it was sure thing and sent it Woods’ way. However, Gilmore was playing the player, read the route, put his cleat in the ground and propelled himself forward to jump the route. Gilmore got his hands on the ball and likely should have caught it, which would have been an easy interception return for a touchdown. However, in terms of reading the play and reacting against the two of the better playmakers on offense, that’s a pretty solid job by the Bills’ top cornerback.
2) Kouandjio earning praise, but is it deserved?
- Appearing on WGR Sports Radio 550 early Wednesday morning, Bills general manager Doug Whaley said he’s been impressed by how Cyrus Kouandjio has played so far at training camp, and that would be a welcomed addition for a Bills team that doesn’t have much offensive line depth to speak of. Kouandjio has had to fill in at left tackle for Cordy Glenn since the starter injured his ankle during the team’s scrimmage a week-and-a-half ago, so how has he looked with the praise from the team’s GM? I kept a close eye on him through all the team drills, and for the most part, Kouandjio kept his side of the pocket pretty clean. The only time he struggled was on a speed rush by Bryson Albright that just blew right past him, but he really was able to execute the assignments against some stunts by the defensive linemen. His size has never been his issue, just his overall balance and consistency at the position, and he played well at left tackle all day Wednesday. Perhaps he’s more comfortable on the left side than the right side because he’s played much better since the switch. However, the Bills would need him to fill in at either tackle spot in the event of an injury to either Glenn or Jordan Mills. His play has shown signs of encouragement, however.
3) Didn’t take long for Lawson to mix in
- The Bills said after Tuesday’s practice that they didn’t want to put too much on outside linebacker Manny Lawson too quickly, and that was the reason they kept him out of all 11-on-11 team drills that day. On Wednesday, the Bills were singing a bit of a different tune, and they put the veteran linebacker out there for multiple reps in all the different 11-on-11 situations, whether it be during the two-minute drill or in just normal practice routines. It’s probably too soon to expect Lawson would be ready for Saturday’s game against the New York Giants, but, with his recent and rapid progress, it’s starting to look like he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season from an injury perspective. Additionally, new outside linebacker Kroy Biermann started mixing in with the second-team defense, and was getting reps ahead of Bryson Albright, Eric Striker, and Max Valles.
4) Eric Wood blows up
- It wasn’t an ideal day for wide receiver Walt Powell on Wednesday. The Bills have been impressed with his performance during both training camp and the first preseason game of the year, and that has earned him some time with the first-team offense in a practice setting. Powell was in there during the team’s two-minute drill — and that’s when his day went from good to bad… in a hurry. Powell was blocking for a LeSean McCoy reception and got into it with starting cornerback Ronald Darby. It got a little physical, both players took exception, and the started to scuffle. Remember, this was in a two-minute drill where both time and yardage were precious commodities, and Eric Wood ran over to Powell like a bat out of hell and quickly voiced his displeasure. While I won’t give you the full quotes, just know that they were full of obscenities, and that Wood stressed to Powell that it was indeed a two-minute drill and those mistakes can’t be made. I don’t think Powell will be making that mistake again, especially since his head coach Rex Ryan backed up Eric Wood’s actions once the practice was said and done.
5) Cardale off all day, even with a heightened chance
- Rookie quarterback Cardale Jones has made steady progress through the summer, and perhaps that was the reasoning for him to get a big chance at practice today. The Bills only ran two versions of the two-minute drill. Of course, Tyrod Taylor got the first of those chances, but Jones — not EJ Manuel — got the second one. It didn’t go exactly according to plan, however. The first play was a bad incompletion thrown into double coverage to Jarrett Boykin, then there was a delay of game, followed by another incompletion. Jones managed a 10-yard completion, but then the Bills got pegged for a false start, and Jones was sacked on fourth down to end the drill. Jones was off throughout the day as well, which is a bit of a surprise considering the strides he’s made. Perhaps it was just a down day for the rookie quarterback. Later on in the practice, EJ Manuel took the rest of the team drill reps with the second-team offense.
6) Duke Williams in position to make the team?
- The safety position has had a hearty little rotation past the starting duo of Corey Graham and Aaron Williams. Early in camp, Robert Blanton was getting second-team reps predominantly, and the trio of Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks, and Colt Anderson were rotating into the fourth spot. Things have started to shift since the first preseason game of the year, and with Aaron Williams having been out of practice due to a concussion, Blanton might have been passed by Duke Williams. Williams, for the third straight day, was running with the first-team defense ahead of Blanton. The Bills raved about his performance during Saturday night’s preseason game, and Williams has gotten a heightened chance. It was first thought that Blanton was a guarantee to make the roster, but with the ascension of Williams this past week, perhaps it wasn’t as sure of a thing as it once was.
7) Jordan Gay falls behind even more in kicking competition
- The Bills still haven’t given the field goal kicking competition to Dan Carpenter, even though he has been the best kicker by far this summer. On Wednesday, Jordan Gay once again got the chance to make it more of a competition, and it started off really well. He hit all three of his chances in the first round, and then Carpenter matched him. After that, it did not go well for Gay, as he missed three of his next five attempts, ending the day 5-of-8 with misses from 37, 52, and 53 yards out. On the first miss, Danny Crossman yelled out, “Gotta have those, gotta have those. Every kick. Every kick we’ve gotta have.” Carpenter ended up hitting 5-of-6 attempts, with his only miss from 45 yards. This is clearly Carpenter’s job.
Day 14 MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore
- Another interception, another almost interception, and great reads against the run give him the clear MVP honors for the day.
Day 14 LVP: WR Walt Powell
- Getting chewed out by one of the team’s leaders on a day that he was given an opportunity to run with the first-team offense during the two-minute drill? Yeah, not a great way to go about your business for the day.
Not Practicing: CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (ankle), G Richie Incognito (ribs), LB Reggie Ragland (knee), OT Cordy Glenn (ankle), S Aaron Williams (concussion), WR Greg Salas (hamstring), WR Marcus Easley (PUP), EDGE Shaq Lawson (PUP), OT Seantrel Henderson (Non-Football Illness), EDGE Manny Lawson (Non-Football Injury), WR Kolby Listenbee (Non-Football Injury)
Up Next: The Bills next practice on Thursday, August 18 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Practice is open to the public, but a ticket is needed for entry.
Miss a day of practice? Catch up with my daily observations:
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