Now a full seven days of practice into training camp at St. John Fisher College, the Buffalo Bills have worked all the way up to their first natural break of the summer. They’ll still have practice on Friday, but they’ll do so within the confines of New Era Field in Orchard Park — leaving Pittsford for a couple of days before returning on Sunday.
The highest riser of training camp so far once again made waves on Thursday. Who else stood out? Seven observations from the seventh day of training camp:
1) A new member of the #Free club
- I’ve written about him a few times now, but one player has gone from obscurity to become one of the nicest stories at training camp thus far. Defensive end Eddie Yarbrough started training camp with the third-team defense and made multiple big plays on each one of the first four practices. The Bills rewarded him on Day 5 by bumping him up to the second-team defense, and Yarbrough continued to make splash plays over the next two days. And on Thursday, when they wanted to give Shaq Lawson some rest near the end of practice, Yarbrough got an opportunity few saw coming when camp first started — he was working with the first-team offense, and he once again made big plays. Right on cue, Yarbrough read Taylor’s eyes, got himself in the throwing lane, and timed his jump at the line of scrimmage to bat down the pass attempt. When with the second-team defense during the rest of practice, he showed the ability to get to the quarterback — and best yet, he showed football intelligence by being the only player to sniff out a play action rollout to the opposite side, and stopped the player before it even started. He’s been fantastic throughout camp, and his extended opportunities have shown the Bills are happy with him, too. Now, he has to show he’s not a training camp hero. If he can put together some good work during preseason games, he’s putting himself in a fantastic position to make the 53-man roster outright as the fourth defensive end. With all his positive play, Eddie Yarbrough has been admitted to the #Free club, coming to a tweet near you.
2) Should there be some concern about Cordy Glenn?
- The Bills have tried to work starting left tackle Cordy Glenn back into practice slowly since the start of training camp. After sitting out the majority of the offseason workouts, the Bills have been careful to not overload his ankle injury. But in the first six days of work, he just didn’t look right. He was getting beaten during team drill reps far too easily, after years of being one of the most consistent players on the team. The Bills made the decision to keep him out from practice on Thursday, citing “foot soreness” for the left tackle. Later on, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said to expect plenty of rest for Glenn as they try to get him ready for the regular season. At this point, don’t go jumping to conclusions by any means with Glenn. We’re still incredibly early into the preseason, which makes for a lot of time for Glenn to rest his ankle. If he’s still unable to participate in practice in the week leading up to the fourth preseason game, then it might be time to worry about his outlook for the start of the year. At the moment, it’s still too premature. However, this couldn’t have been the setback the Bills wanted to hear about.
3) Nick O’Leary: quietly consistent
- Over the first six days, you’ve heard an awful lot about Logan Thomas due to his freakish size and athletic ability. However, he’s still third on the depth chart behind Charles Clay, and one of the most consistent training camp performers that no one is talking about. Nick O’Leary certainly doesn’t do anything in a flashy way, and you aren’t going to go home after watching practice saying to your friends, ‘Did you guys see Nick O’Leary?!’ Even still, what the Bills haven’t gotten is one of the steadiest performers on the offensive side of the ball. He’s always where he needs to be, he’s served as a consistent target for his quarterbacks, and of the players on the team, he’s probably the best blocking tight end they have. He is firmly in the second tight end spot. However, if anything happens to Charles Clay, I think Logan Thomas would probably jump into the “move” tight end role, while O’Leary stays in the second spot that seems to have been a perfect fit for him a week into training camp.
4) Taiwan Jones working in immediately
- The Bills, for the first time since training camp has begun, added a player to their roster. That man’s name is Taiwan Jones, and he should be thought of as someone that will challenge for a spot on the 53-man roster. The Bills worked him into the kick return rotation immediately on Thursday, not even a full day after signing him to a contract. Jones will have to make the team as a special teams player, but he should be thought of as a direct threat to the longevity of Cedric O’Neal, Joe Banyard, and Jordan Johnson past training camp. That trio really hasn't done anything to stand out, which creates a void for someone who can offer some versatility, and maybe even some chops in pass catching if they ever need him on offense. Jones working right in, even with the third-team offense, is a great sign for him moving forward.
5) Bills cross-training Ryan Davis once again
- On Wednesday, the Bills started a bit of a new responsibility for free agent acquisition Ryan Davis — who is normally a defensive end. Davis spent a substantial amount of time during team drills working from the interior of the defensive line at defensive tackle, which is a good sign for the role that they envision for him. On Thursday, that trend continued once again, with him getting work both at end and tackle during the session. Head coach Sean McDermott craves versatility from his defenders, and the more Davis can show he can handle, the more valuable he becomes to being a core member of the defensive line rotation. The Bills are lacking depth along the defensive line in a big way, so if Davis can fill the role of two players to keep people fresh, that’s one more potential roster spot for McDermott and GM Brandon Beane.
6) Jordan Mills’ struggles continue
- The Buffalo Bills came into training camp with an open competition at a few different places, and right tackle was clearly one of them. Jordan Mills, the starter at right tackle in 2016, has been splitting reps with rookie Dion Dawkins through all seven days of camp. To put it lightly, it’s been a struggle for Mills. Dawkins hasn’t necessarily been incredible at right tackle, but Mills is getting beat by the first-team, and sometimes even the second-team defense, on a daily basis. Dawkins has been slowly improving for the Bills, which to me puts him a little ahead as far as practices are concerned. Preseason games will be the ultimate litmus test for the duo, but Mills — who struggled significantly in 2016 as well — is behind in my opinion.
7) The Wes Saxton day
- This name might not be one you’re immediately familiar with, but fifth-string tight end Wes Saxton made his presence felt in a huge way to end practice on Thursday. Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman and the third-team offense ran on to the field, and one the first play, Peterman took a shot deep down the right sideline to Saxton, with linebacker Abner Logan draped in coverage. Saxton made a beautiful adjustment on the ball and corralled the pass while hitting the ground to give the offense a huge boost to an otherwise unspectacular day. Four plays later, Peterman found Saxton wide open in the end zone with a high throw, but one that the tight end brought down for a touchdown. Saxton will have long odds of making the roster, but it’s always nice to see some of these deep roster guys have a day to shine that they’ll always remember.
Day 7 MVP: DE Eddie Yarbrough
- From the third-team defense to the first-team defense in a matter of four days — and still making plays when he got there. That’s worthy of MVP honors for the morning.
Day 7 LVP: CB Shareece Wright
- He didn’t make the cut as one of the seven observations, but Wright was getting beat in coverage quite a bit during team drills. There were a lot of passes completed to his area of the field by the second-team offense, which led for some big days for guys like Rod Streater and Walt Powell.
Up Next: Day 8 of training camp at New Era Field, beginning at 5:30 pm. Fans must have a ticket to attend the practice.
See the start of Day 7’s practice for yourself by clicking play below!