With the first two days of training camp practice now over and done with for the Buffalo Bills, they’ll now advance into the next phase of the summer workouts: padded practices. Over the past two days, the Bills have built a base, and we’ll now see the intensity of the sessions increase. Even still, there were some clear standouts and things to take away from the team’s second practice of the summer.
My seven observations from Day 2 of Bills training camp:
1) Lawson has himself a day
- The Buffalo Bills are coming into the 2017 season with a lack of depth at defensive end and the hope that they’ll get a huge output from the second-year player and former first-round pick Shaq Lawson. The defender really spent the first half of 2016 on the shelf due to a lingering shoulder injury and then he was in a defense that didn’t best fit his skill-set when he actually did play. Now with Sean McDermott as the head coach, Lawson is back as a 4-3 defensive end — a role that really suits what he does best as a player. On Friday afternoon, Lawson showed up and had his best practice — at least that the media could see — since he’s become a member of the Buffalo Bills. Lawson was consistently in the backfield and kept the quarterbacks and offensive linemen on their toes. To my count, he registered three sacks during team drills. Now, to keep things in perspective, the pads haven’t gone on yet and it’s only one day of work at training camp, but Lawson certainly showed a lot of ability in the Bills’ second practice of the summer. It’s a great start to camp, now he just has to capitalize on it because they need him to perform well in a bad way this year.
2) Backup job not in the bag for Yates?
- The Bills have been fairly consistent saying that all jobs are up for grabs, but that isn’t exactly true for most positions. When the Bills selected Nathan Peterman in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the general thought was that he would spend the year as the third-string quarterback while veteran T.J. Yates was the backup. However, perhaps that’s not as much of a slam dunk as it once was. On Friday, Peterman — for the first time since being drafted by the Bills — was mixing in with the second-team offense. Now, we haven’t heard from head coach Sean McDermott since this latest development, but it’s not as though Yates is a hurdle that’s unable to be cleared for Peterman. This is a player that was out of the league until about December of last year, so the opportunity is there for Peterman. He responded well, completing a couple of great passes along the sideline and shaking off the nerves from his first practice. Stay tuned, this could become an under-the-radar competition that no one was expecting.
3) John Miller gets the early leg up on Ducasse
- Speaking of competitions that not many expected, the battle for the starting right guard position is underway between John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse. For the second straight day, the duo split first-team and second-team reps evenly in an effort to try and find the best man for the starting job. Through the first two days, I really like how John Miller has responded to this point in time. Miller showed a consistency during team drills, and then during one-on-one’s versus the defensive line, he shined. He had two reps: one against Kyle Williams, and the other against Marcell Dareus — which is the toughest assignment you’ll find on this Bills roster. Against Williams, Miller stood up the longtime standout up straight and didn’t surrender any ground to the defender. Then four reps later, he did the same thing to Marcell Dareus. Ducasse, on the other hand, was easily beaten by Jerel Worthy during his lone one-on-one rep, giving Miller the early advantage. The intensity will increase with the pads going on, but Miller is off to a good start.
4) A differing day for two offensive tackles
- It’s been a bit of a struggle over the first two practices for second-round draft pick Dion Dawkins, who is also playing right tackle for the Bills for the first time since being drafted. He again evenly split the first-team reps with veteran Jordan Mills, but Dawkins had a tough time getting his bearings. This is a player with a lot of talent, great size, and solid athleticism… and to me, has everything you’d want for a solid starter in the league. However, perhaps he’s overthinking things a bit. Take his two reps in one-on-one’s, for example. His first, against Lorenzo Alexander, the rookie had a great jump off the snap. However, rather than mirroring the defender, he surrendered way too much ground before contact was even made, allowing the savvy Alexander to simply do a one-step cut right by him for an easy win. He learned from it in his next rep against Max Valles, waiting for the defender to come to him and then he rode him clearly outside of the pocket without any ground gained. The shakiness, though, permeated throughout team drills. There will a few examples of him getting beat by his man — the most prominent of which coming when Shaq Lawson beat him clean for one of his sacks. On the flip side, I really liked the performance from backup left tackle Seantrel Henderson on Friday. He played confidently and didn’t surrender anything major in either team drills or one-on-ones to my count. He even got a clear win against normal training camp practice standout Jerry Hughes. He’s going to have to have a great camp to make the team either as a fourth offensive lineman or over someone like Jordan Mills.
5) Jonathan Williams shows some burst
- The Bills have been building up former fifth-round pick Jonathan Williams as the man to be the main backup to LeSean McCoy, which is a tremendous opportunity for him, and a sink-or-swim style test for his NFL career all the same. Perhaps where he was hesitant during the spring workouts, I saw a much more decisive runner in Williams during team drills — particularly on a few reps where he busted it up the middle of the offensive line. I also really liked his burst today, showing a speed element to go along with his power — an attribute that starter LeSean McCoy alluded to on Friday as well, and one that I've been waiting to see form him in the practices I've seen this year. It’s a much different ball game once the Bills start to take live reps with their running backs, but it’s clear the Bills are giving Williams every opportunity to be the main backup.
6) An early camp sleeper?
- Straight out of the ‘take it for what it’s worth’ department, there has been one name I’ve written down in my notebook repeatedly for positive plays, and no negative plays to speak of. His name? Eddie Yarbrough. A third-string defensive end that usually lines up against the right tackle, Yarbrough has gotten into the backfield quite a few times, has showed poise against the run, and didn’t fall for a play-action fake that resulted in him completely disrupting a rollout pass attempt to fullback Patrick DiMarco that otherwise would have been wide open. The Bills need players at the bottom of the roster to step up during camp and preseason, and two days in, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Yarbrough.
7) #Puntalytics: Schmidt’s first day of punting
- After Stephen Hauschka took every field goal attempt possible during Day 1’s practice, the same could be said for Colton Schmidt with the punt team on Day 2. My initial reaction was, well, then what is undrafted free agent rookie Austin Rehkow’s role in camp, without receiving a single rep in either of the days? Perhaps he’ll get some opportunities as camp continues, but today was totally Schmidt’s day — and he took advantage. The ball was exploding off Schmidt’s leg, setting the tone for the rest of camp. As for the hang time of his punts? Now, keep in mind that I was using my own stopwatch so this is completely unofficial, but over his 13 punt attempts, he had an average hang time of 4.47 seconds. His best was saved for last, where he connected for a moonshot that hung in the air for 4.97 seconds. His worst was his sixth attempt — a low liner that hung in the air only 3.45 seconds. Over his 13 punts, he had a hang time above 4.5 seconds nine separate times. It was a solid start for Schmidt this summer.
Day 2 MVP: DE Shaq Lawson
- His best practice as a member of the Bills, Lawson certainly looked the part on Friday.
Day 2 LVP: OT Jordan Mills
- While rookie Dion Dawkins didn’t have the greatest of days, Jordan Mills was the weakest offensive lineman of the day in my opinion. During team drills, he was beaten on a few separate occasions — one of which ended with him tumbling to the ground well behind the line of scrimmage.
Up Next: Day 3 of practice on Saturday, July 29 at 8:45 am. The session will be open to the public.