After a disappointing stretch to start the season, the Buffalo Bills have strung two wins in a row together and sit just one game out of the AFC Wild Card with a 2-2 record. Next up, the Bills have a date out west with the Los Angeles Rams.
On Wednesday, the Bills got back on to the practice field and head coach Rex Ryan delivered some remarks with the week ahead in mind. Five takeaways from the head coach and Wednesday’s practices.
1) Dareus is back, but to what degree is unknown
- On Wednesday, the Bills officially welcomed back one of the most talented players on the roster back to the practice field. Marcell Dareus, fresh off his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, returned to on-field work and got plenty of reps during positional work. Though he wasn’t going through the drills with the same ferocity as normal, that’s part of the welcoming back process the Bills have to go through with him. Dareus has been away now for around six weeks of practice. He hasn’t practiced with the team since before the team’s third preseason game, so the defensive lineman is going to take some time before being in full-on shape to play his usual amount of snaps in a game. The way Rex Ryan was making it sound, is that he is eager to get Dareus on the field this weekend against the Los Angeles Rams. However, it would be fair to expect his normal workload will be practically cut in half — or maybe a little less than half — for the upcoming contest. They don’t want to put too much on him too quickly.
2) Cordy Glenn sits out Wednesday’s practice
- Rex Ryan revealed ahead of the day of work that the Bills thought they were going to be without normal starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, which would have meant that Michael Ola would have gotten the start. Ola, who had all of two practices under his belt with the Bills at that time of the week. This week, the left tackle position might be a little dicey once more. Glenn, who played all but three offensive snaps against New England, sat out of Wednesday’s practice and was spotted working on the stationary bike with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches. Cyrus Kouandjio, his primary backup, sat out against New England with an ankle injury and also didn’t participate — though the Bills said he’s making quick progress. Plus, even though Seantrel Henderson is back from suspension, they aren’t sure if he’ll be ready to play as early as this week. So if all else fails, that means Ola will get the start. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills give Glenn another day off on Thursday just to rest the ankle even more, and then try to ramp him up on Friday. It was pretty clear that Glenn wasn’t playing 100-percent against New England, and wasn’t able to move around as well as he normally does. The outcome of this storyline is a big one, because whoever starts will be going up against the super athletic Rams pass rusher Robert Quinn.
3) O’Leary drawing high praise
- Tight end Nick O’Leary’s season looked to be headed for a similar result to the one in his rookie year: getting cut at the end of training camp by the Bills. However, once Chris Gragg suffered a season-ending injury, O’Leary took advantage of a huge opportunity in the preseason finale against Detroit and hasn’t looked back since.
#Bills HC Rex Ryan: Nick O'Leary's hard work is why you're seeing him elevate.
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) October 5, 2016
The hard work Rex is referring to is most notably in the mental side of the game. We always hear the cliché that the game ‘slows down’ for some players, but that really does seem to be the case for O’Leary. He is now the number two tight end on the roster after the Bills released Jim Dray on Tuesday, and will play quite a big role for the team moving forward into 2016.
4) Woods has a real chance to shine — and to get paid
- Without Sammy Watkins for the foreseeable future, and perhaps the rest of the season, Robert Woods is the clear-as-day top wideout on the team’s roster. On Wednesday, his head coach referred to him as a “complete” receiver. Woods has a wide ranging skill-set, yes, but the “complete” tag is a bit hyperbolic at this point, because he hasn’t had a huge opportunity to show that as the top guy on the depth chart. Woods is solid at route running, has good hands, and is a quality blocker in space. However, now he has the opportunity, which is the most important part to this equation. It’s great timing for him, too, considering he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season — and a statistically comparable receiver like Mohamed Sanu received a rather lucrative contract this past offseason. This is Woods’ first true chance to shine in Buffalo.
5) Practice Report: Gilmore checked on by trainers, limited
- The Bills were without both Cordy Glenn and Cyrus Kouandjio at practice, but that isn’t the only potential important injury of note. Starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore, at the tail end of the media viewing portion of the day, was brought over to the athletic trainer’s table and had right ankle/foot region checked on by the team’s head athletic trainer, and the shoe was off. After practice, Gilmore was listed as a limited participant on the field today, which means it’s a situation worth watching as the week continues. In addition, the Bills were without tight end Charles Clay, wide receiver Greg Salas, and cornerback Corey White during Wednesday’s practice. Clay has been following a similar practice routine the past several weeks, usually resting on Wednesday before ramping back up on Thursday and Friday. I would expect that to continue. White sat out with a shoulder injury, meanwhile Salas is still a question mark after having missed the last two weeks with a groin injury. Reserve offensive lineman Patrick Lewis was also unable to participate on Wednesday.
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