For the first time ever, the Buffalo Bills held a practice with their brand new franchise quarterback taking snaps. As rookie minicamp began, so did Josh Allen’s official on-field start to his young career.
While it’s tough to really draw conclusions about these players just from their first day on the job in a brand new environment — along with new coaches and a new playbook — you can glean some things based on where they line up, how they’re being coached, and if there is a standout player or two.
So, what were the main takeaways from the first day of minicamp? My five from the Friday of work:
1) Daboll attached to Allen’s hip
- Since the Buffalo Bills used the seventh overall selection on Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, they have alluded to a specific plan they have for him as they try to develop him into the franchise quarterback they hope he can become. Phase one of that plan is centered around offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who did not walk farther than eight or ten feet away from Allen the entire practice. As a big believer in technique and the power of drills with the right technique, head coach Sean McDermott had to have loved what he witnessed when Daboll wasn’t letting any slip in technique slide. Automatically, if there was something Daboll wanted to impress upon him, he was in Allen’s ear immediately telling him what he wanted. Those corrections were common, as was the positive reinforcement when he did things the way Daboll, and thereby, the Bills wanted him to. I was specifically interested to see how Allen’s footwork would look on the first day. If you read my comprehensive breakdown of Allen earlier this week, I pointed out that on intermediate throws to the left sideline, the quarterback had the tendency in college of opening up his hip — to which it decreased both his velocity and accuracy. When there wasn’t any pressure from defenders, the opening up of his hip wasn’t nearly as pronounced on these throws, though it didn’t look like he was fully comfortable with it. However, during 9-on-9 drills when there was allowed to be a pass rush, Allen reverted to opening up his hip like he did in college. Instantly, Daboll darted over to Allen and corrected it immediately, so as to not let it become habit. The Bills have identified that specific area of his footwork as something that they’d like to correct, and it seems like they are going to continue to drill him on it on a daily basis — which is exactly what is necessary if Allen is going to take the step that they want him to. Outside of that, Allen showed off his arm on a few pretty deep passes that dropped in the hands of each receiver, and just past the trailing defender. All in all, the Bills’ initial plan for Allen on his first weekend was noticeable — and centered around Brian Daboll.
2) The plan for Edmunds has been revealed
- Immediately after the Bills drafted Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th overall pick, the question about where the linebacker would play in Sean McDermott’s defense came to the surface. McDermott, rather than identifying that specific position for Edmunds right away, kept it more general and just listed the things he believed the linebacker can do. The question really was between middle linebacker and strongside linebacker, given that the Bills have a crying need in the middle but his height and athleticism could indicate he’s more of a strongside guy. However, just after the Bills went through stretching and individual drills, McDermott ran over to the far field with Edmunds, and began to give him a one-on-one teaching session while the rest of the team went through special teams drills. And with it, McDermott had Edmunds lined up at middle linebacker, practicing how he attacked running plays through specific gaps. Once they got to 9-on-9s, Edmunds once again played the middle linebacker spot — which means that what we thought all along is now a reality. The Bills are slotting Edmunds into the middle linebacker spot — and given that he towers over just about every defender on the field — it’s going to be fascinating to see if McDermott can create him into the menace at linebacker that all his potential indicates that he can be.
3) Phillips powers through
- Like Allen and Edmunds, Phillips didn’t participate in team drills (11-on-11s), which if I had to guess, was because those are the three draft picks that remain without their rookie contracts signed — which is probably smart for all parties. However, Phillips did partake in 9-on-9s, and when he did, it was hard to ignore his power against 1-on-1 matchups. There were a few times where Phillips marched his man right back, and that’s his game. When he can use his power, he can be a handful — even in a non-contact setting such as this one. He’s going to go against much tougher competition as the spring and summer go along, but it was a solid first day for Phillips.
4) Taron Johnson’s initial role
- With the rookie class of 2018, the only player that has a perceived lock on a starting job right out of the gates is middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, but if there was hope that they could find one or two more, fourth-round cornerback Taron Johnson would be in the conversation. Johnson is likely best suited to play at nickel corner, where his main competition for that role is veteran Phillip Gaines. However, on his first day, the Bills had him lined up exclusively at left cornerback. Now, this could be just to get his feet wet in the NFL and teach him from the outside first and then eventually he’ll move inside — or, they just didn’t have enough bodies at cornerback for the rookie minicamp to do anything extravagant. We’ll see what they do once the veteran players get to town for Organized Team Activities next week, but that was the initial spot the Bills put their fourth-round pick.
5) Proehl’s route running stands out
- You always look for something that stands out during practices like these, especially when it’s so far removed from the finished product of the game of football. However, you can sometimes see some little traits that will translate into the real game, and what stood out most to me was the route running ability of seventh-round selection Austin Proehl. On many reps, Proehl’s ability to stop on a dime and turn his route from the inside out was enough to gain him quite a bit of separation from the defender. While we’ll have to see what he can do in pads, it was hard to ignore his quickness and route running — especially for a position that needs those two traits as much as the slot receiver. Now, he is listed at what looks to be a generous 5-foot-9, so his lack of height could be something that holds him back. However, if you had to ask me for a standout from the first day, my answer would be Austin Proehl.