The Buffalo Bills are scratching and clawing their way to their very first preseason game of 2017. On Sunday afternoon, the Bills had to deal with injuries — in their most significant way since the start of training camp in late July.
Now with only two practices remaining before their game against the Minnesota Vikings, who stood out on Sunday? Seven observations from Day 9 of Bills training camp:
1) There’s McCoy… and then everyone else
- It’s pretty easy to see — on a daily basis — that when LeSean McCoy is at full health, there just aren’t many others that even come close to his talent level during team drills. When McCoy makes one cut and has a little bit of space in this zone offense, it’s a thing of beauty to watch him in the open field in making defenders look foolish. The Bills haven’t been using McCoy and only McCoy with the first-team offense, so even in limited opportunities, he was able to fly around the field on multiple occasions and for big gains. There is no doubt, at least not to me, who the most important member of the team is for the upcoming season. As McCoy goes, so does this offense — especially considering how well he could fit this offensive system.
2) Sammy Watkins scare
- Bills fans in attendance and on social media were expecting the worst when wide receiver Sammy Watkins gingerly walked to the trainer’s tent to get looked at. It seemed like an innocuous play — a routes vs. air rep, and a comeback route for Watkins. When the wideout went into his breakdown, he took his two steps… and then it looked like his feet were basically in concrete, to where he had to lean back and catch the ball one handed. It drew a huge applause from the crowd, but then once he started walking off the field, you could hear some groans from fans in attendance. Luckily for the Bills, it was nothing more than just a tweak of the ankle — or so Watkins said. He came back later on in practice to take a few reps in team drills but was mostly held out after the scare. The ankle injury is on the same leg as the foot surgery, though he said today’s scare has nothing to do with the long-standing injury. We’ll see how the Bills handle Watkins on Monday and Tuesday for practice — and if he’ll be able to play on Thursday night.
3) Cordy Glenn returns to practice… now what?
- On the positive side, the Bills saw the return of left tackle Cordy Glenn — at least to a similar degree to how much he had been practicing before his two days of rest. Glenn took some reps in team drills throughout the day — but not all of them. And he still, at least not to my knowledge, has yet to take a single rep in the one-on-one battles against defensive linemen. With him back on the field, and with a second opinion on his ankle in their back pocket, now they have to see how Glenn’s injury does after the day of practice. In an effort to get him fully ready for the start of the regular season, I’d guess that more rest — on tactical days — is on the way for Glenn in the month of August.
4) Is Rod Streater moving up?
- Near the beginning of free agency, the Buffalo Bills made a move to sign a veteran wide receiver that they hoped would provide some depth for the team. That man’s name is Philly Brown. However, what they might not have expected is for Brown to have been outplayed by another veteran free agent signing — especially because that player was brought in much later in the process. Rod Streater, who you’ll remember most notably from his time in Oakland, has put in consistently good practices almost on a daily basis. While he has struggled with some concentration drops at times, his route running and length really makes him stand out from some of the other players on the roster. And even now, we’ve seen him work ahead of players like Philly Brown and Walt Powell — two players that certainly have a good look at the 53-man roster as well. Streater is even drawing the praise from head coach Sean McDermott, but now, he must transition the practices into making plays during the preseason games. If you’ll recall from a few years ago, wide receiver Chad Jackson was catching just about everything thrown his way during his summer with the Bills — and it really seemed like he was on the cusp of making the team. But with a quieter preseason, Jackson ended up being released, and never to be heard from in Buffalo again. To avoid that fate, Streater must show up in the four preseason games.
5) Nathan Peterman firmly the third QB
- Through the first nine days of camp, on one day early on, we saw the Bills work rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman in with the second-team offense. It was an alarming development because it made it appear as though the backup job was up for grabs between Peterman and veteran T.J. Yates. Since that day, though, the competition appears to be a bit one-sided. Peterman has not taken many if any, reps with the second-team offense since that day. On top of that, he’s also struggling with his accuracy a bit, which has led to some missed opportunities for the rookie to show that he should be taken seriously in this part of the backup competition. He’s even got some not so endearing interceptions to his name, including another one today that was almost an interception by two separate defenders on one play. They just need to see Peterman making some strides through the summer — to which he is in bits and pieces. The consistency just needs to be there a bit more for him to actually think about overtaking Yates for that backup job.
6) Adolphus Washington bounces back
- It’s been an up-and-down ride for Adolphus Washington at training camp so far this year. Starting off with the second-team defense, he then even filled in for the first-team defense when Marcell Dareus had to sit out for a couple of days. Just days after that was over, Washington found himself down with the third unit — the likely result of poor play throughout training camp to that point. Now, Washington is mostly back with the second-team defense but is behind Jerel Worthy, which makes it important to win at the point of attack and to take advantage of his opportunities against starting players. He did just that on Sunday in one-on-one drills against Eric Wood. The starting center has had a really strong start to training camp, but Washington finally used all that raw ability and size to his advantage and rushed right through Wood on two consecutive opportunities. Now, considering his draft status and the lack of depth behind both Washington and Jerel Worthy, it doesn’t appear that there’s any immediate danger for Washington to not make the team. However, if he wants to contribute, he needs to capitalize on more practices like he did on Sunday.
7) The Jonathan Williams ebbs and flows
- On the nightly 7 Camp Cast over on Facebook, someone asked me just how involved Jonathan Williams will be in the offense this season. To me, there are two factors for the running back. The first? Whether or not LeSean McCoy stays healthy — that’s the easy one. The second? It depends on him, and how he takes to this offense. The opportunity is there for Williams to grab a hold of. Now the Bills are just hoping for a bit more consistency from Williams — even in practices. A problem that I’ve spotted with Williams as early as the spring, and still now in training camp (even if it is less frequent), is some indecisiveness from the second-year player when carrying the ball. This offense, and running scheme calls for the runner to see the space, plant their foot in the ground, and get it up the field in a hurry. Quite a bit, I’ve seen Williams keep going wide, and then only cutting it up the field because the sideline is there — and it usually goes for a minimal gain. This is where he’ll need to show the most in the preseason games because when he does it, both the power and speed he possesses are on display. However, he just needs to do it more frequently, because you can clearly see there is some talent there.
Day 9 MVP: RB LeSean McCoy
- Quite simply, he made it look easy on Sunday.
Day 9 LVP: WR Philly Brown
- Once working with the first-team offense, now Brown seems to have dropped down behind Rod Streater on the depth chart. He also dropped a pass that him right in the hands that would have gone for a big gain. Not a great day for the veteran wideout.
Up Next: The Bills practice on Monday, August 7 for Day 10 of training camp. The practice will be open to the public.