If you can believe it, the Buffalo Bills have now gone through with over half of their training camp practices at St. John Fisher College. The Bills completed Day Nine of 17 practices, and the depth of the roster is already being tested.
One of those depth players even stole the show on Tuesday. Seven observations from the day of work:
1) Zach Brown fills in admirably for Ragland
- With Reggie Ragland sitting out the past three practices due to a knee injury, Zach Brown has been inserted into the starting lineup at weakside linebacker. To sum up his performance on Tuesday: he was a man playing like his hair was on fire. No matter the drill: positional work, 1-on-1s versus blocking running backs and tight ends, or even in team drills, Brown was all over the field making plays.
Zach Brown, who will likely replace Reggie Ragland, isn't having too much trouble with the RB's & TE's #Bills @WKBW pic.twitter.com/rcnShTVSnL
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) August 9, 2016
Brown was only successfully thwarted in the drill you see above, and then added tackles versus the run, a sack on a blitz up the middle, and great coverage on a tight end in the flat. Not having Reggie Ragland out there is a major blow for the Bills, but if Brown has those types of days more often in practice and in games, the drop-off won’t be as bad as initially thought.
2) New ILBs showing some game, too
- Along those same lines both Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne, the two inside linebackers that the Bills added on Sunday, each showed some flashes of ability during Tuesday’s practice. With Spikes, he put a spin move on James Wilder, Jr. during 1-on-1 blocking drills that left the running back lunging into the air. After watching him during the 2014 season, I personally never saw Spikes move as quickly as he did on that rep. As for Hawthorne, he flashed during the team drills with a solid run stuff up the middle on Jonathan Williams, and then added a sack on a blitz up the middle later on in the day. It’s a bit telling that Spikes and Hawthorne are getting the second-team reps at inside linebacker over both Randell Johnson and Jamari Lattimore, who have been with the team since training camp began. If that trend continues, the Johnson/Lattimore duo is in trouble of making the team outright.
3) OL concern grows
- The Bills were without both Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito at practice on Tuesday, but that isn’t the big issue here. I’m not going to make that bigger than it is., because both those injuries aren’t expected to keep the starting left side of the line out for very long. The concern, though, is about what happens to the Bills solid offensive line if they do suffer any injuries. Past the five starters, the depth has not been good this summer. While Cyrus Kouandjio has shown some flashes at left tackle, he’s also shown that staying balanced is a bit of his issue against some quicker edge rushers. The options along the interior, Ryan Groy (first-team left guard on Tuesday) and Fernando Velasco, haven’t performed particularly strongly and leaves some concern heading into the season if any of Incognito, Eric Wood, or John Miller go down with an injury. Even starting right tackle Jordan Mills has struggled during training camp, which all plays to the same thought. The Bills simply cannot afford any injuries to their starters along the offensive line, and that’s becoming more an more apparent each day.
4) The Shady & Sammy Show resumes
- The Bills have gone through over half the practices at St. John Fisher College, and sometimes camp days can get a little long, which necessitates some fun every once in a while. So why not some fun between two of the best players on the team? LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins have been pretty close since last season, and they were conferring over something ahead of practice really kicking into gear. Then, McCoy jokingly didn’t like Watkins walking away from him, and decided to do this.
So LeSean McCoy threw a football at Sammy Watkins today #Bills pic.twitter.com/EqYaxvvJFI
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) August 9, 2016
Just Lesean McCoy casually hitting Sammy Watkins in the head with a football #BillsMafia #squadgoals pic.twitter.com/xlLnPIIPSE
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) August 9, 2016
Both of the players laughed after the fact, so it wasn’t serious. It was just a bit of a funny moment to break up camp. As for Watkins, he didn’t participate in the team drill portion of practice per the request of the coaching staff. Watkins was given a rest day after his first practice back from offseason foot surgery.
5) Gilmore collects another INT
- The great training camp for cornerback Stephon Gilmore continued along on Tuesday morning, after he provided yet another example of a burgeoning playmaking ability. Near the end of the practice in the team’s red zone drill, Tyrod Taylor reared back to pass, only to get bumped into by his right tackle Jordan Mills. The ball floated in the air a bit, but Gilmore — who had his back turned to the ball at first — read the receiver’s eyes and hands, turned his head around, and changed his body’s momentum to dive for the ball and completed the interception. This is now the third interception for Gilmore in nine days at training camp, but now he’ll need to show he can actually do the same thing in the games. It’s the only thing that’s been missing to his game so far, and if he can do that, perhaps he’ll get paid in the offseason like his represents believe that he can — whether it’s by the Bills or by someone else.
6) No. 3 wideout update: Dez, Salas, Goodwin
- The Bills still have quite a decision to make as to who will be the third wide receiver, but it’s looking more and more like Marquise Goodwin will not only make the team, but have a legitimate role in the offense — as long as he stays healthy. Goodwin has consistently been with the first-team offense throughout camp, and has made a great deal of plays all throughout. Goodwin’s main competition to this point has been Greg Salas, but the normally dependable Salas just did not have a good practice on Tuesday, having dropped a pass and by muffing a punt during a special teams portion of the day. Goodwin, in totality of training camp, has been a more imposing receiver to the defense. As for the minicamp darling Dez Lewis, he has struggled for the most part with contested catches, but actually made a couple of those on Tuesday with defenders draped all over him. Later on, he even recovered Salas’ fumble on a punt and positioned himself well as a gunner to knock down a punt that was heading for the end zone. Since the pads have gone on, this was Lewis’ strongest day. I think it’s likely that he makes the roster, but I don’t think his play in camp to this point has warranted a significant role in the offense.
7) Reggie Bush does a no-no
- Tyrod Taylor threw back-to-back interception in a red zone drill near the end of practice, and neither of them were his fault. The first interception was by Gilmore, and brought on by Jordan Mills being pushed back into his quarterback, which then changed the trajectory of the ball. The second was the fault of Reggie Bush. The running back was running a slant route towards the end zone, and the throw was behind him. Bush tried to catch it by popping it straight into the air, and it became a “gimme” for linebacker Preston Brown, who corralled the interception as it floated nicely into his breadbasket. Under no circumstance should he pop it up like that -- either knock it down if you can't catch it, or let it go. While the throw could have been more accurate, it's also on Bush to not let that exact situation occur. Taylor came back on the next play and threw a touchdown to Robert Woods from four yards out, which put an exclamation point on his day, and then proceeded to win the fans over with his final rep of the day:
Tyrod Taylor, after a rep, just handed the ball off to this little guy outside the field. #Bills pic.twitter.com/FIMyDRfSD7
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) August 9, 2016
Day 9 MVP: LB Zach Brown
- It wasn’t even close as to who the most impressive player on the field was. Zach Brown was that good today.
Day 9 LVP: OT Jordan Mills
- Multiple beats during 2-on-2s with the defensive line, a lap for jumping on a false start, and getting pushed back into Taylor by a defensive player to bring on an interception.
Not Practicing: G Richie Incognito (ribs), TE Jim Dray (ankle), LB Reggie Ragland (knee), OT Cordy Glenn (ankle), DL Jerel Worthy (medical), CB Corey White (knee contusion), DL Casey Walker (undisclosed), WR Marcus Easley (PUP), EDGE Shaq Lawson (PUP), RB Karlos Williams (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 will practice on Wednesday, August 10 from 10 am to 12 pm. Practice is open to the public, and a ticket isn’t needed for entry.
Miss a day of practice? Catch up with my daily observations:
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