The Buffalo Bills got back to practice on Wednesday to start the week and even before the session began, head coach Sean McDermott said something that was fairly interesting in regards to getting to see their young players around this time of the year.
"That’s big-picture perspective and that’s what we’re doing. To sit here and say ‘hey, come in and sit on your hands and get through the year and be at ‘X’ point’ and say ‘okay, where are we, how are we better after the season than when we came in?’ The goal of it is, or one of the many goals, is to say after this season that we are better as an organization [and] we’re further along; that this scale has moved down the line so that we can say we know where we are and what we have to address moving forward. That’s really a part of the overall plan."
And we might just have seen that taken into consideration with some of the events during the session in Orchard Park. Five notes from practice as I saw it:
1) Still no decision on the starting quarterback
- Well, at least the publication of that decision, anyway. The Bills didn’t give much information about the status of Tyrod Taylor’s knee injury on Wednesday. The only definitive thing we know about it at this point is that he did not participate in the first practice of the week, but nothing about if he could get back on the field either on Thursday or Friday of the week. He’s “day-to-day” in the minds of the Bills, “when healthy” he’s the starter “this week,” and that’s what they’re sticking to. The one insight that we received about the potential decision is when McDermott was asked how much Taylor’s mobility being potentially limited weighs into their decision on whether or not to push him through the injury to starting Sunday:
"It’s certainly of consideration. To say that it’s not wouldn’t be accurate. At the end of the day though, it’s ‘can he execute and play the position?’ just like any other position."
If part of the “execution” of the version of the offense for Taylor having some run elements mixed in, that quote at least puts some doubt on the usual starter playing this week. With that said, the Bills went into the week of work with Nathan Peterman taking the starter's reps, and considering Taylor missed the first practice of the week, there is an ever-improving chance that Peterman makes the second start of his career — and it will continue to improve as long as Taylor continues to sit out of practice. So, with two practices to go this week, the Bills still don’t have an answer as to who their starting quarterback will be, but as time continues to pass without Taylor, the more and more likely it will be that Peterman will be under center on Sunday.
2) Might #FreeMattMilano come true?
- In the three-week audition that rookie linebacker had as a starter for the injured Ramon Humber earlier in the year, he showed that he can play and have an enhanced workload. Since Humber has returned from injury, he was given his starting job back but has conceded an increasing amount of playing time to the rookie in recent weeks, and his performance on the field has really dipped since he got back into the lineup. Against the New England Patriots, Humber took 69-percent of the defensive snaps to Milano’s 31-percent, and the rookie — although playing at just an average level, was far better than Humber. On Wednesday, I saw perhaps the strongest indication that the Bills were cashing in on the youth movement at weakside linebacker to make Milano the starter. During positional drills, it was Milano — not Humber, that was lining up alongside Preston Brown on every single one of the “starters” reps. Meanwhile, Humber worked merely with the backup players. For context, we’ve seen these reps be more of a rotation in recent weeks than what we witnessed today, with both players getting a chance to work with Brown. If the Bills are indeed making Milano the starter, it’s the right move. He’s playing far more effectively than Humber and could become a long-term starter for them if he shows well enough. With the last four games of the season, the Bills can determine if Milano can be that player, and cross off one of the potential needs of the offseason in the process.
3) Kelvin Benjamin returns to practice
- For the first time since suffering a torn meniscus in Los Angeles, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin made the encouraging step forward in resuming practice with the team. Benjamin went through and took every single one of the positional reps during the open portion of practice for media viewing. More than anything, optimism should come from Benjamin being able to participate in practice on the first day of the practice week, as opposed to just sneaking in at the tail end of the week. If his knee reacts well to the workload and he’s able to practice again on Thursday and Friday, the Bills might just get one of their starting wide receivers back on the field Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
4) Cordy Glenn practices, but Dawkins still ahead
- The Bills have been without left tackle Cordy Glenn for half of their games this season because of an ankle/foot injury that has consistently been a problem for him since the spring workouts when we first saw him in a walking boot. Glenn was able to return back to practice on Wednesday, after weeks of not being able to participate, and was labeled by the Bills as a ‘limited.’ Though, during positional work, the term ‘limited’ is appropriate. When working with the offensive line, Glenn didn’t do much. In fact, it was all Dion Dawkins lining up with the first team at left tackle — which is a likely indication that the Bills are being extra cautious with Glenn. If he’s able to do more on Thursday, it could improve his odds to play on Sunday. However, if he does the same amount as what he did on Wednesday, it would likely be a stretch for him to play significant snaps for the Bills against the Colts.
5) Tre’Davious White makes a promising step forward
- After the illegal hit Rob Gronkowski put on starting cornerback Tre’Davious White after the play, it left White with a concussion and complete uncertainty if he’d be able to play in the next game. However, the Bills might just be in the clear for Sunday’s game — going against the general odds players face when sustaining a concussion the previous week and being able to get back for the following contest. White was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, and while still in concussion protocol, he has at least passed the initial baseline tests to resume on-field workouts. If he goes symptom-free for a couple of practices, White has the potential of getting through the protocol with the ability to play Sunday against the Colts. It would be a huge addition to the Bills, especially with the likes of speedy wide receiver T.Y. Hilton coming to town and being a challenge for the defense. White has been a big reason why the Bills have been able to be as successful as they have in the secondary this year, and a rookie or not, has been one of the team’s best and most consistent players this season.