Following Tuesday’s night practice, the Buffalo Bills are now almost one quarter of the way through training camp practices. The Bills were also greeted on the field for the first time by their brand new running back, Reggie Bush.
Who stood out in the first night session of the summer? My seven observations from the evening of work:
1) Tyrod was off during team drills
- On Monday, Tyrod Taylor shook off a slow start and dominated team drills in the red zone to the tune of three touchdowns and near perfect throws. On Tuesday night, Taylor could not quite capitalize on the success from the previous day. The quarterback was off on his throws, and at one point near the end of practice, actually showed a hint of frustration over missing a pass — something we normally never see. Over the final two team drill sessions — one spanning the whole field, and the other in the red zone, Taylor completed only two passes out of 11 drop backs, and only escaped the pocket for a gain once. His throws were behind his receivers, and likely should have been picked off had it not been for Duke Williams slipping in coverage as he was eyeing up the ball. This has not been a good start to training camp for Taylor, but, it’s still early August and there’s plenty of time to correct the errors. Perhaps a day off from the field will serve him well.
2) Bush’s slow start, flashy finish
- Reggie Bush, the newest member of the Buffalo Bills, and the man branded by Rex Ryan as the answer to the problem that they have at punt returner… and quite possibly at kick returner as well. So when he took one of his first reps as a punt returner, well, the rust was apparent.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) August 2, 2016
Oops. Even though he combined that with a dropped pass early on in the practice, he came back and performed at a fairly high level for someone practicing for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus in 2015. He showed some chops in the receiving game, and even flashed some burst up the field by planting his foot in the ground and turning it up field. That last instance drew some “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from the crowd in attendance at St. John Fisher College. He was also getting some work in with the first team, which should serve as big of a message as any that the backup job very well could be his, too.
3) Striker rising up the depth chart
- It’s a feel good day for one undrafted rookie, because he got the opportunity that he’d been dreaming of. The biggest first-team switch since training camp got underway, linebacker Eric Striker was moved up to the top unit on defense in place of the struggling, and less athletic IK Enemkpali. Through three days of camp, Striker had been showing flashes of big ability, using his speed to disturb the backfield — and the coaches were taking notice.
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) August 2, 2016
Once inserted into the lineup, Striker clearly took the opportunity and was as motivated as we’ve seen. He was unable to be blocked when going up against running backs, and then again clearly won both of his reps in one-on-one against starting right tackle Jordan Mills. Striker has speed and the ability to bend, but the only thing he lacks is size for the position at 6-feet and 221-pounds. He’s versatile, and is carving out a spot for himself while Shaq Lawson is away from the team while recovering from shoulder surgery.
4) Meeks makes a play again
- While there is a three-man competition to be the fourth safety on the roster, one player seems to have taken a bit of a step forward with his playmaking ability. For the second straight practice, fourth-year safety Jonathan Meeks came down with an intercepted pass during team drills. He picked off EJ Manuel on Monday, and then rookie Cardale Jones tossed one Meeks’ way during Tuesday’s night practice. The race is between him, fellow fourth-year player Duke Williams, and Colt Anderson. All three have gotten time with the second unit alongside Robert Blanton, but through four practices, Meeks appears to be ahead.
5) Salas showing well
- While Marquise Goodwin, Dez Lewis, Greg Little, Leonard Hankerson, and others are all vying for the No. 3 wide receiver role, Greg Salas has been quietly impressing the coaching staff. Following his fantastic play in one-on-one’s versus cornerbacks, the ‘quiet impressions’ were no more.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) August 2, 2016
Salas is certainly on the short list to be the team’s third wideout due to his skill set, how well he’s performing at training camp, and the fact that both Rex Ryan and Sanjay Lal are comfortable with and confident in him as a player. He has shown great hands so far and along with Marquise Goodwin, has been the most consistent wide receiver not named Robert Woods at training camp so far. He’s not a flashy name, but he’s dependable, and sometimes that’s what it takes to earn a role in the NFL.
6) Kicking competition isn’t over yet… but it’s close
- The Buffalo Bills kicking competition seemed to be over when the team released undrafted rookie Marshall Morgan on Monday, but, not so fast. The Bills once again went into a field goal portion of practice and Dan Carpenter wasn’t the only kicker getting an opportunity at some attempts. Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay was allowed to throw his hat in the place kicking ring on Tuesday night. In limited opportunities during practices that have been open to the media, Gay’s attempts have been a bit all over the place. However, to his credit, he did pretty well in practice by hitting 5-of-7 attempts, and missing only from 35 and 50 yards out. However, Carpenter was simply on fire, and might just be ending any doubts that he would be the kicker in the 2016 season. Carpenter went 10-of-10 on his field goal attempts Tuesday night, including two makes from 50 yards out. He raised his conversion percentage to 86.9-percent (20-of-23), and seems to have shaken off a slow start.
7) The good and the bad from OL/DL 1-on-1s
- While the skill players on the Bills roster took part in 7-on-7 drills, the offensive line and defensive line left the field inside Growney Stadium and jogged over to the grass field just a little ways away, and it essentially served as a battle arena for those two units. The intensity of this drill was quite noticeable and you could tell the night session brought out just a little bit more in most of the players along both lines. Among the standouts, Eric Wood and Richie Incognito were both stalwarts, easily thwarting attempts from Corbin Bryant and Jerel Worthy. Both Wood and Incognito have looked incredibly impressive at training camp this year. On the defensive side of the ball, Striker, Justin Zimmer, and Lavar Edwards had solid reps in a drill that was mostly dominated by the offense. The newly signed defensive lineman Casey Walker struggled to get by backup guard Cyril Richardson, and got so worked up that he had to be told to go take a lap by defensive line coach John Blake. Third string offensive lineman Jamison Lalk also struggled to hold his ground in his lone rep.
Day 4 MVP: LB Eric Striker
- He showed athleticism, won his one-on-one matchups, and got bumped up to the first unit at right outside linebacker. Yeah, I’d say that’s an MVP-worthy day.
Day 4 LVP: HB Boom Herron
- During team drills, Herron was the least explosive back of all those taking part in practice, and was stuffed at the line even in a mostly non-contact practice. He appears to be at the very bottom of the depth chart
Not Practicing: TE Charles Clay, LB Jamari Lattimore, 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), EDGE Manny Lawson (Non-Football Injury), WR Kolby Listenbee (Non-Football Injury)
Up Next: The Bills have Wednesday off. They’ll get back to work on Thursday, August 4 from 10 am to 12 pm. Practice is open to the public, and a ticket is not needed for entry to the session.
Miss a day of practice? Catch up with my daily observations:
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