Joe B: 5 takeaways from Buffalo Bills practice (10/18/17)

Posted at 12:59 PM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 13:01:33-04

After a day off in between, the Buffalo Bills resumed practice for the week leading up to their contest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Era Field on Sunday. And just as it was on Monday, the most recent practice for the Buffalo Bills was one that instilled some optimism in the potential return of a starting offensive player.

What did we learn during Wednesday’s practice? Five notes from the day of work: 

1) Jordan Matthews… so you’re saying there’s a chance
- After starting to do a little bit more on Monday and getting the improved status of “day-to-day” from Bills head coach Sean McDermott, wide receiver Jordan Matthews took another step forward on Wednesday. The wideout was cleared to participate in practice and did so on a limited basis during Wednesday’s practice. While he was out there, we saw Matthews go through individual drills and actually catch passes with his thumb injury — the first time we’ve seen that since his injury.



With McDermott usually speaking in a rather vague manner when it comes to injuries, I asked him point blank if the possibility existed for Matthews to play Sunday vs. Tampa Bay. His response: “It does.” It would be a big win for them to have their top wide receiver miss only one game after undergoing surgery on his right thumb. He has been, by far, their most consistent receiver — even if his statistical production isn’t on par with other top receivers around the league. His presence will be big for them on Sunday if he’s able to play. The big question is how much he’ll be able to trust that freshly repaired thumb, and what happens if he takes a hit directly on it. The Bills have to be smart and weigh all their options with the receiver, but this is no doubt another great sign. Even if he sits out on Sunday, you’d have to imagine he can get back for either the Week Eight game against the Oakland Raiders, or the following Thursday night game against the New York Jets.

2) Cordy Glenn nearing a return, but what does that mean?
- Ahead of practice, the Bills declared that offensive tackle Cordy Glenn would be a full participant at practice — to which he was. Glenn has been trying to get all the way back to full health since suffering an injury to his other foot early in the season. In a bit of an odd twist, Glenn was active for the Cincinnati Bengals game but did not take a single offensive snap during the loss. Instead, rookie Dion Dawkins played the whole game at left tackle, which of course was Glenn’s normal spot. McDermott said they believe Glenn is getting close to being back where he was, but my main question is, what exactly does that entail? As we’ve seen by countless roster decisions in 2017, this is a new staff with a new set of principles to adhere by, and you have to at least wonder where Glenn factors into the offensive line equation. He could step right back into his spot at left tackle, and we saw him take some reps at left tackle, but I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Dawkins starting at left tackle, even though Glenn took reps there Wednesday — especially if they believe he can be their long-term starter at the position. If that’s the case, would Glenn be a candidate to supplant Jordan Mills at right tackle? With all that said, here’s how the Bills lined up for the few reps we did see on Wednesday:



How the Bills handle Cordy Glenn in the next two weeks will be quite interesting for one specific reason…

3) Are the Bills trying to trade a tackle?
- The NFL trade deadline is on Tuesday, October 31 at 4:00 pm — and usually it passes by without much of a whimper, a trading just isn’t a common event normally. However, since the day he walked in the door, Bills GM Brandon Beane has had no problem in making multiple trades of players that don’t fit into their long-term plans. Between the start of training camp, and the start of the regular season, the Bills had traded away Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, and Kevon Seymour — capitalizing on the value they had in the eyes of the other team. Here we are, on October 18, and the Bills now have a surplus of offensive tackles on the roster. Count ‘em up: they’ve got a total of five, where teams normally carry three — maybe four. Usually, where there’s a surplus, there is either an injury a team is dealing with, or, it could be the signal that a move might be on the horizon. Of the five on their roster, the one that would make the most sense to trade is none other than Cordy Glenn. He is a proven starter in the league, the Bills have gone out of their way to say and show he’s healthy again while not actually using him in a game just yet, and he would likely command the most value from a team on the way back. After all, McDermott did stress that offensive tackles are tough to find in the NFL — and he’s right. That fact, itself, could help facilitate a trade ahead of the deadline if the price is right for the Bills. And if they have no immediate plans in the short-term for Glenn and want to stick with Dawkins also for long-term reasoning, why wouldn’t they? Maximize the value of the assets you have, and try to get another team to take the contract off their hands while he still has that value. I’m still an advocate for Glenn, don’t get me wrong. I think he needs to get fully healthy, but he’s still a good player — and one that could certainly help this team. Personally, I wouldn’t trade him. However, if they want to move on, get all that you can for him. It’s really that simple. Like I wrote earlier, these next two weeks will be quite interesting for that group.

4) Deonte Thompson’s role
- On Tuesday, the Bills made the move to add another wide receiver to the roster — a move that fans have been clamoring for since the start of the season. The team added Deonte Thompson, a veteran receiver that has starting experience for the Chicago Bears over the last two years. He also provides an element that the Bills don’t have from another experienced player on the roster: speed. It was the first thing Sean McDermott pointed out when asked about the team’s new receiver, which means the Bills clearly felt they were lacking in that area. Kaelin Clay is a fast player but really doesn’t have the experience necessary as the Bills passing game continues to drown in their own ineffectiveness. Having a huge impact on Sunday will be asking a bit too much from a player that just got to Buffalo, though he might get a handful of offensive snaps if he takes to it well enough over the week of practice. However, given the fact that he’s an experienced receiver and has that quick-twitch and explosive nature to his game that the rest of the receivers are lacking, he could factor in quicker than most free agents signed off the street.

5) Encouraging news on cornerbacks
- The Bills will have their hands full — regardless of who the quarterback is for Tampa Bay — with the receiving duo of Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, which puts a premium on their starting cornerbacks being healthy and able to play. Just as it was on Monday, starting cornerback E.J. Gaines was a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice due to a groin injury. However, this is good news. Gaines had to sit out from the team’s last game against Cincinnati, which was partially a catalyst to A.J. Green having a humongous day. The injury to both him and nickel corner Leonard Johnson during that game left the Bills exposed with only rookie Tre’Davious White, veteran Shareece Wright, and undrafted rookie Greg Mabin operating at cornerback. If it happens, Gaines being back is a huge win for this matchup — and the Bills may even have shown they were confident he could play, too, when they released Mabin to make room for Seantrel Henderson. Gaines has played extremely well in his first four games with the Bills, so his ability to play will mean a lot for them. It’s not as much of a big deal, but Johnson also practiced on a limited basis due to his hamstring injury. With only four cornerbacks on the active roster, it certainly seems like its trending toward both Gaines and Johnson playing Sunday.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia