On Monday, the Buffalo Bills opened their doors to the players that make up their roster for the first session of Organized Team Activities. Just a day later, they opened up the doors to the media to view practice with this new team for the first time in 2016.
And with the practice in the books, it’s our first opportunity to learn about what the 2016 roster brings to the table, and maybe some of the decisions the Bills are making on the depth chart.
My seven observations from the first week of OTAs:
1) Tyrod struggles
- Before reading this, you must first realize that this is only the second day of practice, and there is a considerable amount of rust to shake off — still with a long time to do so before the start of the regular season. With that said, Taylor’s initial performance in front of the media was quite average, and in parts, even below average. During team drills, and even in 7-on-7 work, the starting quarterback threw a noticeable amount of passes that were inaccurate. He was throwing it late sometimes and throwing behind some players as well. The most glaring error came on a throw over the middle, where he eyed down his target and Corey Graham stepped in front of the ball for a pick-six interception. There were also signs of life, that will likely get back in order once he continues to work with the receivers more and more, such as a pretty deep pass to Robert Woods that barely missed his outstretched arms. At this point, I would chalk up his performance to a simple case of rust.
2) Jordan Mills, your first-team right tackle
- It’s been a popular conversation amongst Bills fans: Who will start at right tackle in 2016? The early answer to that, before the competition really gets into the swing of things at training camp, is Jordan Mills. Head coach Rex Ryan confirmed with a nod of the head that Mills was taking the first-team reps at right tackle throughout the practice, and he was backed up by former second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio. At this point, there is no real update on Seantrel Henderson’s health status, so at this point, the competition is between only Mills and Kouandjio. With his experience not only as a starter, but with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, Mills is the clear front-runner to land the starting role in 2016.
3) No Gilmore? A surprise first-team CB
- Stephon Gilmore, as it was reported earlier in the week, was not in attendance during the first week of OTAs, which created an opportunity for one player to step up and get some time on the field. Not surprisingly, Ronald Darby took all the first-team reps, but the man lined up on the other side of the field was a bit of a shock. Following in the footsteps of Darby, sixth-round selection Kevon Seymour took all the first-team reps on Tuesday. The former USC cornerback has the size and speed that the Bills want from the position, but never put it all together last season and fell in the draft. This is a humongous opportunity not only for Seymour to take advantage of an unsettled cornerback depth chart, but to even cement himself as the go-to option in case of an injury this season. Seymour couldn’t have asked for a better start to his professional career as a sixth-round selection.
4) Young ILBs stand out in team drills
- In addition to Seymour, two more rookies were able to shine in one of their first practices with the whole team — and they’re both players that plenty of fans have been asking about. Reggie Ragland, playing the role as the weakside linebacker with the starting unit, got into the backfield and brought down the quarterback — in a non-contact, two-hand touch way, of course — on two different occasions during team drills. Ragland showed off what the Bills bragged about after they drafted him: His versatility to do a little bit of everything. In addition, undrafted rookie Eric Striker made some flash plays during Tuesday’s practice. The Bills are once again lining up the college edge rusher up at an inside linebacker position, just as they did at rookie minicamp, to familiarize him with a different spot on the field. Striker can change directions and react to a play quickly, which got him in good position to make a play during OTAs on more than one occasion. He’ll be one to keep a close eye on over the next few months.
5) A banged up WR group gives a glimpse of the depth chart
- The Bills were without four players that will ultimately be trying to compete for a roster spot this summer, and their top wide receiver (Sammy Watkins) was on crutches, but it did provide a little a look as to who might get a chance to get some time on the field. Robert Woods was on the field quite a bit, and the two players that received the most time with Tyrod Taylor outside of Woods were veteran players Jarrett Boykin and Greg Little. Between the two, Boykin, the former college teammate of Taylor at Virginia Tech, had the strongest day and made some plays during team drills. At least for one day, Leonard Hankerson was left behind in the race of the veteran wideouts trying to revamp their career, but it’s still early in the competition.
6) Corey White makes positive first impression
- Signed to just a one-year deal by the Bills in the offseason, cornerback Corey White was brought into Buffalo to try and compete for a roster spot this season. While there is still a long way to go and plenty of impressions to make, White took one of his first reps to jump a route along the sideline, caught an EJ Manuel pass, and returned it to the opposite end zone for a pick-six. White, Sterling Moore, Mario Butler, and Kevon Seymour will all fight for positioning on the depth chart behind both Gilmore and Darby.
7) Notable absences
- During the Bills second OTA session of 2016, the Bills were without a few of their more important players. That list includes wide receiver Sammy Watkins (there, but injured), defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (absent), defensive lineman Kyle Williams (there, but did not participate), outside linebacker Shaq Lawson (injured and not seen), tight end Charles Clay (there, but injured), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (absent), and right tackle Seantrel Henderson (absent). In addition the Bills also didn’t have wide receivers Marquise Goodwin (absent), Greg Salas (injury), Marcus Easley (injury), and Kolby Listenbee (injury) available to them during the session. Overall, the Bills had a great turnout, but still had to use a lot of subs with their top units during the practice.