The Buffalo Bills have officially gotten through the warmup round at training camp, now that the first two practices are all said and done. The Bills will shift into padded practices for the first time in 2016 on Monday.
Before they do, they went through a rather lackadaisical session of practice Sunday for Day Two. So before we can get to the contact practices, we must first review the day that was.
Seven observations from Day Two of training camp:
1) Tyrod with another mediocre day
- For the second straight day, we witnessed a version of Tyrod Taylor that was totally unlike what we saw from him during the team’s mandatory minicamp. In June, his passes were crisp, he was hitting receivers over the middle of the field, and he was completing tight window throws that we didn’t see a lot of during the 2015 season. On Day Two of training camp, Taylor had just another ordinary day. Like Saturday, Taylor was flat out missing receivers. On deep routes, he served up an underthrown pass to receivers that made them have to come to almost a complete stop to make a play on the ball. One of those were successful with Robert Woods making a fantastic play on the ball, but he had cornerback Ronald Darby beat way before the ball slowed him down. On top of that, Taylor wasn’t seeing the middle of the field as he was in June. There was a play where the safeties were playing up and the middle was wide open, and wide receiver Walt Powell broke open on a deep post and would have had at least a huge gain. Taylor didn’t see it, and instead opted to check it down to a safe. Then again in a red zone drill, he stared down his target and threw it right into the arms of safety Aaron Williams. The efficiency just wasn’t there for Taylor, and it’s been missing through the first two days of training camp.
2) Darby’s down day
- During the first day of training camp, we saw cornerback Stephon Gilmore really own the day and make a bit of a statement as the team opened up camp. On the second day, his teammate and fellow starting cornerback Ronald Darby had a day to forget. Darby’s just couldn’t get a handle on receivers during team drills, having gotten beaten multiple times by players like Robert Woods (on the aforementioned play above), Greg Salas, and his final rep of the day… a touchdown given up to Greg Little. Darby served up a bad beat on Saturday during Day One, too, so it’s been a bit of a slow start for the second-year player. It is only two days into training camp so it’s best not to jump to any conclusions, seeing as how he started quite slowly last year as well. However, he’ll need to pick his game up sooner rather than later, and perhaps he will once the practices start to get a little more physical.
3) Sloppy Sunday
- Rex Ryan surely couldn’t have been happy with the way the second training camp practice of the year was conducted. It was a sloppy effort that produced a lot of lost opportunities in the process. Passes were inaccurate, some accurate passes were dropped, and the penalties were voluminous. On one snap in particular, Tyrod Taylor dropped back in half speed due to the intended receiver ran at half speed, while the receiver on the opposite side put everything he could into the route. Things were clearly not on the same page for the offense, which led to Rex Ryan declaring that the defense had won the day. While a few players did well for themselves, the level of efficiency the offense ran with on Sunday was not at all exemplary. The offensive players weren’t the only ones committing penalties, the defense was just as guilty. All around, the day was one to forget and one that was full of rust from the offseason.
4) A switch for Hughes in 2016
- When the Buffalo Bills enter the 2016 season, Jerry Hughes will have more of a switch than just the title of his position. While he’s going from defensive end to a more typical 3-4 outside linebacker, that’s not the only change he’ll have fully in 2015. Now, Hughes will be moving from the right side of the defense to the left side — which makes all too much sense. The last few years, Hughes has been attached to the right side of the defense because Mario Williams preferred the left defensive end spot, and of the two, likely would have done worse on the right side against more athletic left tackles. Now without Williams, Hughes will make the switch to mostly line up on the left side against bigger, and less athletic right tackles. They’ll likely use him a little bit of everywhere, but in a base setup, that will be his home, and he’ll be able to use that speed of his to put his mark on the game.
5) A safety rotation?
- On Saturday, Rex Ryan revealed that he had been impressed with the work that Duke Williams was putting in through the last few months. With that, Williams was rewarded with the opportunity to line up as a safety on the second unit on Saturday. However, that changed on Sunday, as fellow fourth-year player Jonathan Meeks got his turn to line up next to Robert Blanton on the second-team defense. Unless something went awry in a matter of less than 24 hours, this could be the start of a potential rotation as the Bills look for the fourth safety. If that does in fact continue, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit to see free agent pickup Colt Anderson lined up with the second unit in the next few practices. However, the one thing we do know about the safety group is this: For now, Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, and Robert Blanton are the top three, and the ones that will actually have playing time on the defense — unless an injury occurs.
6) Some depth guys shine
- With the majority of the starters already decided upon, the big battles in this training camp are all about the depth players at each position. Training camp is the time for these guys to make an impression on the coaching staff, and three depth players really flashed with an impressive play during Sunday’s workout. Inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore really showed off his athleticism in one-on-one coverage drills, showing the ability to turn and run at an impressive level to stick with his opponent and to break up the play. Defensive lineman Justin Zimmer also broke through the line of scrimmage on a couple of occasions to break things up in the backfield. Zimmer has an uphill climb to unseat one of the defensive lineman for a roster spot, but he’s certainly doing his part to get at least an invitation to the Bills practice squad. Lastly, outside linebacker turned middle linebacker Randell Johnson showed fantastic instincts and recognition on a screen play to a running back out in the flat area, getting to him before the blockers established their territory, and stopped the play behind the backfield. Johnson is battling Lattimore, Zach Brown, Eric Striker, and Kevin Reddick for a spot on the roster as depth behind Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland.
7) Cardale Jones has a long way to go
- Before the first training camp practice started, Bills general manager Doug Whaley said they were hoping to use the old school approach with Cardale Jones of stashing him away for the year to let him learn. At this point of his professional career, that’s the smartest play. The only way to describe Jones’ day was with one word: Scattershot. He was missing targets routinely during Sunday’s practice, and it’s fairly clear that the Bills are tinkering with his footwork to try and put a permanent fix to what he was doing poorly at Ohio State. It will be a slow process, and one that will have some growing pains as the practices and preseason goes by, but they’re hoping they can mold him into a backup quarterback by the time 2017 rolls around.
Day 2 MVP: WR Greg Little
- For the second straight day, wide receiver Greg Little made an acrobatic catch deep down the right side of the field that drew the ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ from the crowd in attendance. He followed that up with more solid catches, and of course, beat Darby at the end for a touchdown.
Day 2 LVP: CB Ronald Darby
- Having gotten beaten more times than you can count on one hand, Darby will hope to leave this day behind and come back Monday with a much better performance — and specifically in a practice where he can be physical with the wide receivers.
Did Not Participate: WR Sammy Watkins (PUP), WR Marcus Easley (PUP), EDGE Shaq Lawson (PUP), DL Kyle Williams (PUP), RB Karlos Williams (Non-Football Illness), DL Marcell Dareus (Non-Football Illness), OT Seantrel Henderson (Non-Football Illness), S Jonathan Dowling (Non-Football Illness), EDGE Manny Lawson (Non-Football Injury), WR Kolby Listenbee (Non-Football Injury)
Up Next: Monday, August 1 from 10 am to 12 pm. Practice is open to the public, and no ticket is needed for entry.
Miss a day of practice? Catch up with my daily observations: