PITTSFORD, NY (WKBW) - Don’t look now, but following the conclusion of Wednesday’s practice at St. John Fisher College, the Buffalo Bills have officially completed 40-percent of their practices. We’re getting to the point where first impressions have been made and players are building off those into camp, as players continue to jockey for position to try and make the 53-man roster.
Who stood out during Day 6 of training camp? Seven observations from Wednesday’s practice:
1) Zay Jones keeps improving
- It feels like almost on a daily basis now, I’m writing that “this was Zay Jones' best practice to date,” and then the next day, he raises the bar just a bit more. That’s the type of improvement you hope to see from young players in their first training camp and rookie year, and it’s what we saw yet again on Wednesday. What really stood out was his route running ability, and where some receivers loaf through breakdowns ahead of their cuts, Jones has seemingly thrived. It’s within the intricacies of route running that players that aren’t the most physically gifted to win with speed, can win all game long. That was Stevie Johnson’s game when he was working as the Bills’ top target, and it’s what kept him as a productive player until injuries derailed his career. Jones has that type of ability, and he’s clearly getting open against cornerbacks during training camp. Plus, they’re training him as both an outside receiver and in the slot. Now, the big questions are this: Can he do it during games, and eventually, in the regular season? That’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when the opportunities present themselves, but Jones has done just about as well as you could have wanted him to through the first six days of training camp. To me, he is winning the battle for the second wide receiver spot as it stands today.
2) Tyrod has solid two-minute drill, but QBs lacking substance this camp
- The last two days, Tyrod Taylor hasn’t looked his best in my opinion. He was missing throws he normally makes, and really just seemed a bit off. That continued through the first portion of Wednesday’s practice, with some throws that were missed — one of which going directly into Eric Wood’s back, and a bad overthrow that resulted in an interception (more on that in a bit). However, he kept with it and started making some more solid throws. It broke open for him with a beautifully thrown 15-yard out to Sammy Watkins that allowed the receiver to catch, and toe tap in bounds with a cornerback all over him. Then into the two-minute drill, Taylor was effective enough, moving the ball down the field to at least attempt a field goal with one second to go. The other two quarterbacks, though? Yeah, not so great. With the second-team offense, T.J. Yates was sacked three times in a four-play stretch, and his only completion was a telegraphed throw over the middle of the field that the safety, Trae Elston, should have been able to jump, but was caught flat-footed and slow to react. With the third-team offense, Nathan Peterman completed a nondescript three-yard out to Brandon Reilly and followed it up with a *bad* interception into the arms of cornerback Leonard Johnson, in which the throw was completely behind the intended target. At this point, we’re really waiting for one of the two non-starting options to step up and have a great day of practice for the Bills because the backup job is still completely up for grabs.
3) 34-year-old Kyle Williams isn’t close to slowing down
- The years just keep going by for Kyle Williams, and the guy simply doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. At times, he gets into the backfield and it doesn’t even seem like he’s trying. Throughout the practice, Williams provided a few flash plays — which have become commonplace with every passing day at St. John Fisher College. He started off the practice in team drills by stuffing LeSean McCoy in the backfield on a run, with it taking only a second to get past his man and to make the play. Later on in the practice, he ripped through the offensive line for a sack of Tyrod Taylor. It’s clear, even at the age for 34 and in the final year of his contract — and possibly even in the final year of his career — Williams is one of the best players on the team.
4) A demotion for Adolphus Washington?
- Let’s rewind back to the weekend, shall we? It was Day 3 and 4 of training camp. The pads just went on, Marcell Dareus was dealing with a tweaked hamstring, which left a huge opportunity to someone to fill in with the first-team offense. Those duties were given to former third-round pick Adolphus Washington, and in those two days, really failed to discern himself against the top unit. When Dareus returned on Tuesday, Washington again faded into the background of camp without making a big play to warrant his presumed lofty status as the first defensive tackle on the depth chart behind the starters. It appears safety is no longer guaranteed for that role. It’s been as clear as day to me, but Jerel Worthy has simply outplayed Washington on a daily basis, and we saw some evidence of that during team drills on Wednesday. When the second-team defense trotted on to the field, Washington was nowhere to be seen. Worthy was joined by defensive end Ryan Davis as the two defensive tackles in the 4-3 defense. Washington then took his reps with the third-team defense. A couple of takeaways from this development… First, Davis getting a chance to cross-train at both defensive line spots makes him even more valuable in the eyes of the Bills, and second, the fact that they were giving him those reps ahead of Washington shows that the second-year player has some work to do.
5) A scare for Micah Hyde after a great play
- When summarizing Tyrod Taylor’s day, I alluded to an interception — and that’s where Micah Hyde came into play. Taylor badly overthrew his target on the play, to the point that the rangy Hyde made his way all the way over to the left and made a highlight-worthy diving interception. It was, by far, one of the most impressive plays of training camp… but he paid for it. Immediately after making contact with the ground, he started rolling around on the ground in pain, which is when his teammates to immediately call for the medical staff. After about a minute or so, Hyde hobbled off the field and went to the locker room. Shortly thereafter, Hyde rejoined his teammates along the sideline with his helmet on but didn’t take another rep during Wednesday’s practice. It was a scare, but it appears disaster was avoided. We also so the depth at safety in the event of an injury, and, well, Bills fans should hope that the two starters stay healthy this year. The first man in for Hyde? Shamiel Gary, who is a mostly unproven player trying to make his way in the NFL with some years under his belt. That remains one of the thinnest positions on the roster.
6) #FreeLoganThomas strikes again
- After seeing the charter member of the #Free club through the first six days of training camp, that first preseason game can’t get here soon enough to see if this just another version of ‘Fool’s Training Camp Gold,’ or if there’s actually something to intriguingly athletic tight end. Thomas made one of the most memorable plays of the day, high pointing a throw about 15 yards down the field with his long frame, getting sandwiched by two defenders, and then not even flinching or falling, and continuing on to gain even more yards. Thomas’ blend of size, speed, catching ability, and athleticism just makes me want to see what he’ll do in a preseason game. There’s a lot to like here.
7) Eddie Yarbrough keeps making big plays
- One day removed from getting a bump up to the second-team defense and ahead of Max Valles on the depth chart, Eddie Yarbrough once again made his presence felt on the practice field. This time working against Jordan Mills as the right tackle with the second-team offense, Yarbrough ripped past him with a speed move out wide to force a sack and a dead play during team drills. Then again during T.J. Yates’ two-minute drill, Yarbrough walked the offensive lineman (unclear if it was Mills or rookie Dion Dawkins) on the play into the backfield and helped basically the entire defensive line to get the play called dead before there was even a pass attempt. There is a clear opportunity for someone like Yarbrough to make an impact,
Day 6 MVP: WR Zay Jones
- I can’t stress enough how much I liked his day of practice on Wednesday. I eagerly await to see when Jones hits the rookie wall — because it happens to most first-year players during training camp and the preseason — and how he responds to it because his training camp has been very good so far.
Day 6 LVP: DT Adolphus Washington
- As a former third-round pick, going from the first-team defense to the third-team defense in the matter of just a couple of practices isn’t ideal. He needs to pick up his play in the practices to follow.
Up Next: Day 7 at St. John Fisher College, practice begins at 8:45 am. The session is open to the public.