The Buffalo Bills are now only three days away from their big showdown with the New England Patriots, and the Bills have gotten some encouraging signs from a couple of their players. Now two days into the practice week, the Bills have only one day more before they head out for their fourth game of the season.
Some takeaways from both head coach Rex Ryan and the last two days of practice:
1) Cordy Glenn trending up
- For the first time since the Bills’ Week One loss to the Baltimore Ravens, starting left tackle Cordy Glenn was on the field for both days of practice to start the week. Glenn re-injured the same ankle that kept him out for the entirety of the preseason, but seeing him on the field Wednesday was an important first step. Just as important, Glenn’s ankle must have checked out well enough to warrant another day of practice. And on both days, he worked with the first-team offense during the media viewing portion of practice. If Glenn can return, it would be a potential huge upgrade, because his immediate backup Cyrus Kouandjio has missed both days of practice with his own ankle injury.
2) Watkins trending down
- No news is good news regarding Sammy Watkins. The Bills top wide receiver has now missed five straight practices since having his foot stepped on at the beginning of last week. Watkins was spotted on Wednesday walking through the field house and into the weight room, but that was the last the wide receiver has been seen. He hasn’t done anything on or around the field since Monday of last week, which puts his status for Sunday very much in jeopardy once again. It all stems from his surgically repaired foot, and the pain that the wideout has in it. It started bothering him in Week One against the Ravens, he was able to play on it in Week Two versus the Jets— although he didn’t look quite right, and then of course was shut down for the team’s third game against Arizona. Without even having been working to the side with members of the training staff, things do not look good for Watkins this week. Of course, Friday is a new day, and if he can practice it would improve his chances quite a bit, but Rex Ryan even admitted that it’s a “strong possibility” that he would not participate. They’re still holding out hope that he plays, even saying that Watkins would travel to New England. At this point, though, the odds do not appear in the Bills’ favor.
3) Darby improving
- Against the Arizona Cardinals, perhaps the Bills biggest loss wasn’t Watkins — it was starting cornerback Ronald Darby, especially considering the matchup. The game plan the Bills employed was one that was good enough to mostly shut down the Arizona passing attack, but Corey White didn’t play well in Darby’s place. The usual starter had to sit out due to a hamstring injury, and one that he was moving quite gingerly while a limited participant at practice. This week, Darby is still limited but is moving around on the injury much better than last week. His official practice designation on Thursday was also limited, but it seems like Darby is moving well enough and possibly nearing a return to game action.
4) Your starting left tackle: “Oh what’s his name”
- Earlier in the week, the Bills signed free agent offensive tackle Michael Ola due to the injury status of both Cordy Glenn and Cyrus Kouandjio, and when initially talked about by head coach Rex Ryan, was known as “oh what’s his name”:
"We actually signed a young man today---is that that thing out yet? Okay, what’s his name? I’ll never forget, ‘oh what’s his name.’ Yeah, so we got that dude."
Ryan was actually asked about Ola today by name, and said he probably wouldn’t have remembered his name had it not been said in the question. Even though there is relative anonymity with Ola, if both Glenn and Kouandjio can’t play, the Bills starting left tackle will be the newly signed free agent. The role would have likely gone to Seantrel Henderson, but he’s serving the last game of a four-game suspension this coming weekend… which puts the Bills in dire straits. Ryan Groy isn’t the ideal option, so they’d rather go with a street free agent. But, if it comes to that, the comforting part about Ola is that he has plenty of experience working with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer in the past. However, that’s about it. The Bills will hope that Glenn will be ready to play, that way they don’t have to resort to playing Ola in his first week.
5) John Miller earning a rave review
- Okay, this one is actually from one of Rex's assistants... but second-year right guard John Miller has come a long way since his rookie season. In 2015, he was battling both through multiple injuries, and the sudden loss of his mother in the middle of last season. His play near the end of the season really took a turn for the worse, and he had trouble acclimating to the game due to all of the adversity. In 2016, however, Miller has been one of the best players on the Bills — not just one of the best offensive linemen. In my All-22 review, Miller is graded as the fifth-best player on the entire team for players with at least 50 snaps. His offensive boss is taking notice, too:
“I think John Miller’s making big strides. He’s one of the top guards in our game, I believe. And he’s still young, and has tremendous upside.” - Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn
Miller has been one of the team’s better run blockers this season, and has shown the ability to pull with some speed and athleticism to get to the defender and spring a big run. If Miller can continue his positive play, the Bills have a steal of a third-round pick.
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