As the Buffalo Bills went through their fourth practice of training camp at St. John Fisher College, they’ve reached the first “break” of camp. The players will have Monday off from practice, but that didn’t stop another important day of work on Sunday morning. First impressions are starting to be formed now that the pads are on, and we’ve seen some developments based on the first few days of practice.
With that written, my seven observations from Day 4 of Bills camp:
1) Tyrod off the mark
- Through the first three days of training camp, Tyrod was solid but unspectacular. There haven’t been many times where you notice the team’s starting quarterback for good or bad reasons. He was just kind of there… which can be explained by everyone on the offensive side of the ball trying to get acclimated to a new offensive scheme. That said, Taylor was just flat missing the things that he could control during Sunday’s practice. There were some throws, with only a minor degree of difficulty, that Taylor either through it behind his receiver, low, or making them contort their bodies against their route in order to bring it down. During a long training camp, not every day is going to be your best… sometimes you’re just a bit off. That was the case with a normally steady Taylor, who will need to put this practice behind him.
2) The Tre’ & Zay show
- Cornerback Tre’Davious White and wide receiver Zay Jones were not only the Bills first two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but on Sunday, they were two of the best players on the field for the Bills. White bounced back from a bit of a down day on Saturday and was in the hip pocket of Bills receivers all practice long. It just seemed like whatever he decided to do, he was on it, and within a half a step of picking off a pair of passes and bringing them back all the way for a defensive touchdown. He did it to Zay Jones a few times, too, but the rookie wide receiver turned into a bit of a go-to option for Tyrod Taylor near the end of practice. On the first play of a hurry-up scenario, Taylor lofted a pass up to Jones about 25 yards down the field — and the throw was off. It required Jones to stop all the momentum of the way that he was running, contorting his body back to the way he was coming from while twisting to secure the catch before he hit the ground. He did so for the most impressive catch of the day. The Bills were using Jones a bit as a slot receiver as well, so they’re trying to build him into a versatile receiver for the offense — perhaps as early as this season.
3) WR struggles
- While Zay Jones had a great day… the same could not be said for a pair of veteran players that have a similar history. Rod Streater and Andre Holmes were both teammates in Oakland, and on Sunday, they both struggled to secure catches they easily should have roped in. It’s frustrating to watch with Streater. Besides Sammy Watkins, he’s probably pushing to have the second-best feet of the wide receivers at training camp. The way he runs routes and sets up defenders is such an asset to his game and has been what has kept him in the NFL. However, through camp, his hands have failed him from time to time… and once again it was on display on a slant pattern that he easily won, but the drop prevented a big gain up the middle of the field. As for Andre Holmes, he’s not as explosive a player as Streater, so securing contested catches is a big part of his game. He had multiple drops, and that has become a bit of a story with him to start camp. You can be the best route runner or the tallest wide receiver in the world, but if coaches start to think your hands can’t always be trusted, that doesn’t bode well for a potential role in the upcoming season. There’s a lot of training camp to go, but both players have to step it up if they want to have a role in the offense, or if they want to make the team at all.
4) A Seantrel Henderson come back?
- Once the Bills were through their practices in the spring, I thought to myself: “This summer might be it for Seantrel in Buffalo.” It seemed like he was way lighter than normal, and he was really struggling to keep the pocket clean even in those unpadded practices. With Cordy Glenn, Dion Dawkins, and Jordan Mills all conceivably ahead of him, a spot for a fourth offensive tackle — once Henderson’s suspension lifted — didn’t seem like a luxury the Bills could afford to have. However, through the first four days of camp, Henderson is looking as athletic and confident as I’ve seen him. Maybe it’s just the start of camp, but he is going toe-to-toe with Jerry Hughes on almost every one of his first-team reps (as Cordy Glenn continues to have reps limited) and he is flourishing at left tackle. Hughes will get his wins throughout any given practice because that’s just the player he is, but Henderson is more than holding his own against him. If he keeps this up, the Bills will gladly keep Henderson on the reserve/suspended list to start the year, and then when the decision needs to be made, perhaps he supplants someone like Jordan Mills on the roster. He has been a pleasant surprise at training camp thus far, considering everything he’s been through.
5) Big opportunity for a pair of backups
- The Bills, throughout the first four days of training camp, have been quite cognizant of the number of reps they’re giving some of their starting players. Today, we saw tight end Charles Clay get a maintenance day, while Lorenzo Alexander had some of his first-team reps limited likely just to keep him a bit more fresh. Without those two, we saw a pair of sleeper players get some time with the first-team offense. At tight end, Logan Thomas (or #FreeLoganThomas, if you will) was getting some opportunities in two tight end sets with Nick O’Leary, and he showed off his pass catching ability and athleticism. He’s an intriguing player with a raw skill-set to work with, but if he hits, the Bills could have a pretty solid developmental tight end to add and to even contribute offensively from time to time. For Alexander, it was Tanner Vallejo — the rookie and sixth-round pick out of Boise State — that got the opportunity to work with the first-team defense. It was a clear statement by the team that they’ve really liked his camp to this point in time, and by early depth chart indications, it appears Vallejo might be thought of a little more highly defensively than fifth-round linebacker Matt Milano. Milano has been bouncing back and forth between the second and third-team defense, whereas Vallejo has only been with, at worst, the second-team defense.
6) Tolbert showing some burst
- It took a few days, but on Sunday we got to see a glimpse of what Sean McDermott liked so much about running back/fullback Mike Tolbert. Through the first three practices, Tolbert looked slow, prodding, and it just didn’t seem like he was a great fit for the offense — as a runner, anyway. But Sunday, Tolbert was running with a pep in his step and got to a gear that we hadn’t previously seen. He was showing some burst, solid vision, and with a bit of a bruising style to go with it. Although it’s clear that the Bills have publicly backed Jonathan Williams as the number-two running back at every turn, the second-year player has to earn it. Without a proven option past that, if Tolbert has more days as he had on Sunday, he could factor in as the third running back on the roster.
7) Bills cross-training Jordan Mudge
- One player, I’ve really liked at the start of training camp has been offensive lineman Jordan Mudge, who has been working with the second-team offense at guard through the early stages of the summer workouts. He’s tough to move for a defensive lineman and moves a lot better than you’d expect from someone with his frame. The Bills have also liked what they’ve seen because on Sunday, they started to cross-train Mudge at a new position — hoping to see if he can be a versatile option along the offensive line for them. Sprinkled in throughout the day, Mudge worked at center with the third-team offense — along with his normal duties as a guard on the second-team offense. Keep your eyes peeled for Mudge. If the Bills pull a surprise cut or two, more good practices could make him into a player that could sneak on the 53-man roster. At worst, I think he’s a great practice squad candidate.
Day 4 MVP: CB Tre’Davious White
- The rookie and first-round pick bounced back from Saturday and was all over his assignments when the ball was thrown against him. He’s getting closer and closer to “lock” status as a first-year starter.
Day 4 LVP: WR Andre Holmes
- Multiple drops throughout the day and a lack of separation from cornerbacks lead me to put Holmes as the LVP for the day. It’s a long camp, and we’ve seen him perform a lot better than this during the spring.
Up Next: Tuesday, August 1 at 8:45 am for Day 5 of training camp. The practice is open to the public.
Watch the beginning part of Sunday's practice below!