The Buffalo Bills are almost through their second week of Organized Team Activities, and for the second time since the workouts began, head coach Rex Ryan addressed the media after a practice.
During the press conference, we learned a few things about the players that make up the Bills 90-man roster. Five takeaways from Rex Ryan this week:
1) Starting safety competition all but over?
- For the majority of the offseason, the Bills have spoken to the impending competition to find a starter next to Aaron Williams. Last year Corey Graham was the man tasked with those responsibilities, but an average year raised some questions — as did the addition of two free agent safeties in the offseason. Robert Blanton and Colt Anderson both signed with the Bills in the offseason, and with Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks still on the roster, there figured to be a big competition for the starting gig. Well, Rex Ryan changed his tune this week when he was asked about Blanton competing for the starting job:
“Well I’m not saddling him out there as a starter, we feel great about our two safeties with Corey (Graham) and obviously with Aaron (Williams) coming back.”
So much for that competition, it appears.
2) Don’t sleep on Enemkpali
- With the Bills switching to the defense that Rex Ryan has had past success with, the defensive end position as we know it has changed for the most part. Most times, the defensive ends will be played by what we knew as defensive tackles. So for a player like IK Enemkpali, where does he necessarily fit in? Last year, he was a true, 4-3 defensive end — which is his best fit. In the 3-4, his body type (6-foot-1, 261-pounds) dictates that he should be an outside linebacker, which is what he’s listed as. However, in that role, he’d likely struggle a great deal in coverage, but still offer some in the coverage aspect. Or, do the Bills put him as a defensive end in the new scheme, despite being well undersized for that spot? He’s a ‘tweener to the truest sense of the term. Despite not having a true position, Rex Ryan said that IK is showing up in a big way during OTAs:
“I am not sure [where he fits in] but he is pushing, he is pushing hard. He looks pretty good to me. He has really improved from a mental standpoint. You know some of it I think when you come in you are kind of overwhelmed sometimes as a rookie. And making a projections from a defensive end to an outside linebacker is not the easiest thing to do. But I think he is just taking off. He has always had physical ability he can really rush the passer and he is a physical player. So I will be excited now that he let those tools, because sometimes when you are thinking you can’t be physical and I think now it is more of he knows exactly what he is doing and you are seeing a better player on the field.”
If Enemkpali were to make the team, it would likely be to help out Manny Lawson in his role. Lawson, while dependable against the run and in coverage, offers little as a pass rusher — which just so happens to be Enemkpali’s strongest part to his game. So, maybe Enemkpali has a situational role on Sunday afternoons up until rookie Shaq Lawson is ready to make a return.
3) Rex surprisingly mum on Seantrel Henderson
- Besides the always uncomfortable thought of the Bills former starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson needing surgery to get his intestines re-attached, the Bills haven’t offered up much on his football future. Henderson is set to rejoin the team this week, and according to multiple reports now, his representation is quite optimistic that he’ll be able to get back to work soon. That optimism was met with a stop sign from the head coach. Ryan said he doesn’t believe it to be “appropriate” to comment on Henderson’s progress because it’s a medical issue, and instead went with the “we’ll see what happens” line of thinking. It’s smart by the head coach, because, the Bills probably have no idea what they’re going to get with the right tackle. Henderson has been dealing with Crohn’s Disease, and there is no telling what kind of physical toll it took on his body. At this point, it sounds like the Bills are looking at the right tackle spot between Jordan Mills and Cyrus Kouandjio, and if Henderson is ready to help out, it will be found money.
4) Rex has a new first to add to his coaching career
- Rex Ryan has been coaching in the NFL a long time — this will his 20th season to be exact. In those 20 years, he’s seen plenty of signings, releases, trades, retirements, waiver pickups, and everything else personnel related. The one thing he’s never seen? A player having no interest in playing for his team, after the team went out of their way to acquire him, right from the get go. That was the case with Dri Archer, the running back and returner that the Bills claimed on waivers within the past month. The Bills placed calls to Archer, and rather than calling to tell them that he just wasn’t interested, Archer hasn’t called anyone back. The Bills could have used Archer to help out in the return game, where everything is quite unsettled. Instead, they placed him on the Reserve/Did Not Report list, and Rex is still waiting for that call.
5) Retread former second-round pick has clear way to make the team
- One of the Bills acquisitions in the offseason went mostly under the radar in 2016. The Bills signed Javier Arenas to a contract this offseason, and for those that pay attention to the draft, that name is a familiar one. Arenas was a second-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs, and has since bounced around the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and most recently, the New York Jets. Now 28 years old, the days of being a starting cornerback in the NFL are likely behind him, but with a clear weakness at one spot, Arenas has a clear opportunity to cease a roster spot.
“Well he knows he has to be our punt returner. For him to really make our football team, he’s got to be our punt returner and that’s what he tell him. I don’t care if you catch 100 balls, 1,000 balls, whatever it is. He was telling me today that he’s got a guy even when he goes on vacation that he’s catching punts with and all that stuff, so he knows how important that is to him.”
At this point, his main competition that we’ve seen is wide receiver Walt Powell, but not everyone has been at OTAs. Marquise Goodwin, Kolby Listenbee, and others could potentially factor into the race as well.