At 7-6, the Buffalo Bills need at least a couple of wins over their final three games to have a legitimate chance at making it to the playoffs this season. It starts on Sunday with their final home game of the regular season and a divisional contest against the Miami Dolphins.
On Wednesday, the Bills stepped foot on to the practice field, and along the way received some much-needed clarity on the quarterback position for this coming weekend. What did we learn from today’s practice?
Five notes from the first day of work this week:
1) Tyrod Taylor takes major step towards starting
- Head coach Sean McDermott certainly had some outs this week to go with rookie Nathan Peterman if he wanted to. However, on Monday, he once again declared that Tyrod Taylor would be the starting quarterback if he was healthy enough to play. It appears — based on what was seen on Wednesday — that Taylor should be healthy enough to play Sunday against the Dolphins. While it was expected that Taylor would be listed as a limited participant from how McDermott described the situation Wednesday ahead of practice, it seemed the quarterback felt so good that he went through with the entire session. The Bills officially designated him as a full participant in practice, which means that barring any setbacks, it’s a big indication that he’ll likely be able to play on Sunday — especially since his step forward came during the first practice of the week. The Bills are trying desperately to sneak into one of the two Wild Card playoff berths, and getting Taylor back gives them a lot less volatility at the quarterback position. It’s the right move for the Bills to start Taylor, and despite some deficiencies with the passing offense, he’s the player at the position that consistently gives them the better chance to win the game.
2) Peterman progressing from concussion
- Unlike with Taylor, the Bills didn’t have Nathan Peterman as a full participant at practice on Wednesday — but they had him out there for as much as they could have given his status. Still working through the concussion protocol, Peterman was a limited participant during Wednesday’s session — which is also a positive sign for the rookie quarterback. The last phase of the protocol is for the player to return to practice on a limited basis, and then after successfully going through the session, he’s then checked by team physicians and an independent doctor, who would then have to clear him to resume to practice in full. As long as there aren’t any setbacks, Peterman could be ready to serve as the team’s backup on Sunday, as long as he’s a full participant on either Thursday or Friday of this week. Until then, Joe Webb remains the second-string quarterback, though the Bills have to feel good about having Peterman on Sunday based on today’s results.
3) Benjamin appears to be very limited Wednesday
- Not only did the Bills have questions about their starting quarterback, but their top wide receiver on the roster had to exit from the win over the Colts twice after re-injuring his right knee during the game. Kelvin Benjamin was a big part of the game plan even though the weather severely limited the passing attack, but in his first game back from suffering a torn meniscus, Benjamin’s pain flared up once again. To start the practice week, Benjamin was listed as ‘limited,’ but if there would have been a ‘very limited’ designation, Benjamin would have gotten it. During the individual drills, Benjamin took one, maybe two reps of the first drill with the wide receivers — and that was it. The rest of the time, he was working along the side with the athletic training staff and didn’t run a single route with the quarterbacks on Wednesday. The Bills are clearly being careful with Benjamin, not trying to overload the knee with too much of a workload. However, if he doesn’t ramp it up at some point this week, that lessens his chances of potentially playing on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
4) Milano proclaimed the starter once again
- This time last week, I first made the observation that it appeared rookie linebacker Matt Milano had passed by Ramon Humber on the depth chart, given how they were doling out the reps during positional drills. That ended up holding throughout the week, and into the game on Sunday in which Milano made his first start since Humber returned from a thumb injury that kept him out for three games. The rookie played incredibly well, and has even shown to be the best linebacker on the team in the reps that he’s been on the field — and the coaches can no longer keep him off the field. While McDermott said that Humber has handled the demotion with class, he added that Milano will remain the starting player this week as well. It’s the right move, and even though it took about two or three weeks longer than it probably should have, the Bills have come to their senses to get the exciting rookie on the field in a prominent way. He’ll have a tall task ahead of him on Sunday helping to stop a running back like Kenyan Drake, who is playing incredibly well over the last two weeks.
5) Glenn sits, Miller returns
- As of last week, left tackle Cordy Glenn took a step in the right direction by returning to the practice field on a limited basis for the first time in about a month. The Bills didn’t feel comfortable enough to make him active for the game on Sunday, but he was at least working towards getting healthy. To start the practice week, Glenn missed another chance to get a day of practice in — but this time it wasn’t because of the longstanding injuries to his foot/ankle. Glenn is dealing with an illness and wasn’t on the practice field in any capacity on Wednesday. His foot/ankle will ultimately be what determines he can be active on Sunday, but by missing any amount of time — and with how much they like rookie Dion Dawkins — any missed time makes it that much harder for him to return to the lineup. The Glenn situation continues to be one of the most perplexing on the team. For the past nine games, guard John Miller has been inactive — with the last few of those being due to an ankle injury. For the first time since he sustained that injury in practice, Miller returned to practice in full on Wednesday. It likely doesn’t do anything for the Bills as long as everyone is healthy because he is clearly at the bottom of the depth chart. However, should they have any injuries to either of the starting guards, he’ll be there to move into an active reserve role in the next game. Miller, who has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, is likely a trade chip the Bills could use in the offseason.