And just like that, at a snap of a finger, the Buffalo Bills will go relatively silent through the next six weeks. All three days of the mandatory minicamp are through, and now the next time we'll see the Bills on the field will be on July 26.
On Thursday, it was a relatively brief session. Many of the starters spent team drills off to the sideline, and it was a time for the younger players to get a little bit more run and learn the playbook.
1) Allen ends it on a high note
- As the Buffalo Bills completed their practice after just about 75 minutes of work -- likely to get through the spring without any significant injury -- fans couldn't have been more pleased than when seeing that Josh Allen, the team's rookie quarterback made the play of the day to end it all. Rookie wide receiver Austin Proehl, who Allen has developed severe chemistry with this spring, hit the right seam hard and Allen spotted him immediately. Allen put the ball on the money and in stride about 20-to-25 yards down the field, and there was enough distance between Proehl and the safety -- and of course, the cornerback that he beat -- for him to scoot up the field for all 70 yards and into the end zone. It has been a steady progression for Allen over the four weeks of spring workouts with the full team. He cleared the first hurdle of getting some time with the first-team offense, and now it just remains to be seen until how much they make him a genuine part of the quarterback competition. Given that they gave him some first-team reps this spring, I'd be shocked if they didn't eventually get him more and more involved in the mix with the top unit as the summer goes on. It would make the most sense to me for the Bills to let Allen ease into training camp over the first several practices, maybe even getting him more involved right near the start of August. Now, I will say, he has to continue to show the progress that he's made -- especially over the final two days of mandatory minicamp. However, there's no reason to believe that the Bills are going to shackle Allen to the third-team offense for the duration of training camp and the preseason -- especially not since they've already gotten him some first-team reps in the spring. It's clear that he's the most talented of the bunch, now he has to show the coaching staff enough to earn being a legitimate consideration to win the job outright this summer.
2) Put Marcus Murphy firmly in the battle for a spot
- As the running backs go for the Bills, they overwhelmingly have an identity of the 29-to-30-year-old player that will make up the top two -- and perhaps even the top three spots on the depth chart. The only two players on the roster right now that are on the younger side are Marcus Murphy and undrafted rookie Keith Ford. It is difficult to get a gauge on running backs in the spring, but one thing you can't ignore is usage. Murphy was out on the field quite a bit and all across the board -- sometimes getting some first, second, and third-team run. He's an intriguing name to watch -- especially if they do keep four running backs on the roster. LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory are the clear top two at the moment, and I think Travaris Cadet's ability to return kicks will ultimately win him a spot. However, the Bills will want some youth in the room just in case, and if they keep four, Murphy will just have to beat out Taiwan Jones. It's not a guarantee that they keep four or that he'll do it, but I liked the way he ran this spring and his overall involvement was hard to ignore.
3) Newhouse is the first man in
- As the Bills rested some of their starting players, one of those names was right tackle Jordan Mills. That gives us two indications into their thinking. The first, Mills is firmly entrenched as the starting right tackle -- especially if he's one of the guys they were giving some rest to at the end of the spring workouts. The second, it was our first chance this spring to see which backup offensive lineman was the first man in -- and those honors went to free agent signing Marshall Newhouse. Now, Newhouse is pretty interesting because he's a tad smaller than his height-weight might indicate, and he's shown flexibility along the offensive line that I wasn't expecting. The Bills have moved him around from left tackle, to right tackle, and even inside to guard on some days. So now we know the pecking order as of the spring, and perhaps all of the positional flexibility that's gone on through these practices along the offensive line indicates that they don't want to keep a weighty amount of offensive linemen this year as they did in 2017. We'll get more of a gauge at training camp when the pads go on, but the initial pecking order is undoubtedly essential.
4) A sleeper TE3 emerging?
- The temptation of getting too high on a player after OTAs and minicamp is always something to watch out for, and it's usually the case with offensive skill players more than anything. With that written, one player that continued to catch my eye throughout the spring was young tight end Keith Towbridge. He's on the bigger side of tight ends at 262 pounds, but he was continually making plays all throughout the practices and made himself available to all three quarterbacks. The Bills were without Logan Thomas due to an injury, and I don't think his spot on the roster is a guarantee which could open up room for someone like Towbridge, he outplayed both Jason Croom and Khari Lee this spring. The Bills kept Towbridge on all year last year after placing him on Injured Reserve, and you'd have to think there was a reason for that rather than just giving him an injury settlement and letting him on his way to go to another team. Keep an eye out for that name as camp continues.
5) A backup offensive lineman showing versatility
- To crack a roster as a backup offensive lineman, you usually have to show a certain amount of versatility rather than just playing one position. That, or, you have to be a recent relatively high draft pick that they're interested in developing. However, in the case of De'Ondre Wesley, he's the former of the two instances, and he's shown the flexibility that the Bills covet. Throughout all of these practices, Wesley has taken snaps at left tackle, right tackle, right guard, and left guard as time has gone on which likely speaks volumes for what they think of him. All his reps also came with the second-team offense, so it's not as though they buried him with the third unit. If he's getting that kind of opportunity this early on, you'd have to think that he's at least a consideration for the 53-man roster. If he practices and plays well when the pads go on and things get physical, he could be a sneaky contender for a roster spot in 2018.
6) Don't take too much out of the WR rotations -- except for two things
- Throughout all six practices that the media was able to see, there is only one way to describe the wide receiver rotation: helter-skelter. Every single receiver on the roster, at least at some point, worked with the first, second, and third-team offense to maximize opportunities, and so the coaches could see who could play in different situations. It's always easier to highlight the younger players because they are, the flashier ones, but just like Austin Proehl, Brandon Reilly, Malachi Dupre, and Robert Foster got time with the first-team, so did Rod Streater, Kaelin Clay, and Andre Holmes. The Bills were just on a fact-finding mission this spring without Zay Jones available to practice. The only two constants, Kelvin Benjamin is locked in as a starter on the outside, and it appeared Jeremy Kerley had a pretty firm grasp on the first-team work as the slot receiver. Other than that, everything was up for grabs -- and it'll be interesting to see how they handle it once Zay Jones can practice in full.
7) Breon Borders needs to bounce back
- Just as much as you want to avoid the temptation to get too high on a player after the spring, you have to do the same with a player that struggled. One example of that was cornerback Breon Borders, who went from being firm with the second-team defense, to being bumped down with the third unit and behind undrafted rookie Levi Wallace. Borders is a talented player that the Bills believed in enough to scoop up off of the Raiders practice squad last year, and he showed well during last year's preseason with Oakland. Perhaps Borders is a much better, and more physical player once the pads go on when he can use that part of his game to his advantage. He does, however, have a sour taste in his mouth with the way mandatory minicamp ended because he was the player that Austin Proehl beat for that long touchdown from Josh Allen. He's undoubtedly a better player than that, and that will likely be a motivator for him over the next six weeks to let that not be his lasting impression with the team. Don't count him out just yet. There's some talent there.
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