It took a little bit of time to get going, but the Buffalo Bills finally got back on to the practice field — a session inside New Era Field for their fans back home in Buffalo. It was also the first time the Bills went ‘live’ during training camp, which means there was real tackling for the first time in eight practices.
Who stood out in their home stadium? Seven observations from the eighth day of practice:
1) Charles Clay alert
- Through training camp, we’ve seen big time efforts from both Nick O’Leary and Logan Thomas during training camp, while Charles Clay hasn’t done anything to stand out — whether it be for good or bad reasons. However, he picked a great day to have his best practice of training camp, in front of the home fans and inside the stadium the Bills will call home for 8 Sundays out of the year. Having gotten a pair of days off from practice through the first seven sessions, Clay looked like he was fully rested and refreshed on Friday. He made himself available time and time again, and best yet, Tyrod Taylor took advantage of the athletic tight end by finding him open in the middle of the field, and with room to roam. Clay really stood out during the first-team offense’s drive during the live tackling portion. Taylor found him over the middle of the field on the first play for a 19-yard gain with a throw that was a tad high, but Clay showed great athleticism to go up and get it, and then to run up the field for more yardage. Later on in the drive, Clay beat Preston Brown clean on a route by catching him flat-footed during his break outside. Taylor hit Clay in stride for another 14 yard gain. Getting Clay back and healthy, along with having the starting quarterback looking for him during live action, is a two-fold bit of good news for Bills fans.
2) Another Cordy Glenn update
- The Bills, seemingly concerned with what was going on with starting left tackle and his lingering ankle injury, made it a point to make sure they were taking the best course. Head coach Sean McDermott revealed that the Bills sought a second opinion on Glenn’s current injury, sending him down to Charlotte to speak to Dr. Bob Anderson. Once again, the Bills kept him out of practice on Friday, and when asked if they could rule out surgery for the starter, McDermott did not rule out, saying that it’s too early to tell at this point. They do expect him to get back on the field for practice, and according to The Associated Press, that time will come at some point next week. The concern is justified for the Bills. They gave Glenn loads of rest during the offseason workouts in the spring, and then with over a month in between then and the start of training camp, the expectation was that he’d be working back to full health in short order. For Glenn, there’s no reason to push it with him at practice. He’s a key piece to the offensive line… they just need to make sure he’s ready for the regular season.
3) Defensive end depth getting temporarily tested
- During the day of work, the Buffalo Bills ended up losing not one, but two defensive ends to injury. Starting left defensive end Shaq Lawson injured his groin before the live drills even began, and then second-team defensive end Ryan Davis suffered a concussion and was shut down the rest of the way as well. That left the Bills with training camp standout Eddie Yarbrough as a member of the first-team defense for the majority of the live drills, and in place of Davis, it gave Jake Metz an opportunity to get some work with the second-team defense. The good news for the Bills is that the Lawson injury seems like it was a mainly precautionary step for the Bills. He seemed adamant after the practice that he was fine, and that it was the team’s decision to shut him down for the rest of the day. With a day off on Saturday, based on the way Lawson was talking, it’s conceivable to think that the defensive end could be back to work as early as Sunday afternoon at St. John Fisher College.
4) Jonathan Williams shines
- Over the whole duration of training camp, it’s been pretty clear to me that Jonathan Williams has been the top running back outside of LeSean McCoy. Now, there have been some examples of when Mike Tolbert had his moments, but from a perspective of consistency, it’s been Williams as the lead guy behind McCoy. He really stood out on Friday night at New Era Field all throughout team drills. He showed a great burst along with the solid vision to cut it up inside at the perfect moment for a big gain. Then when things went live, Williams bowled over cornerback Leonard Johnson on the goal line for a touchdown. He also showed that same burst during the long, and live drive with the first-team offense, rushing for 13 yards on two carries, and a catch for 10 yards. As long as he keeps this up through the first couple of preseason games, Williams seems on the way to claiming that backup running back role.
5) Backup QB struggles
- While Williams shined, the backup quarterbacks certainly wanted Friday back. Both T.J. Yates and Nathan Peterman couldn’t get out of their own way during all the live drills on Friday. As for Yates, his first attempt from one-yard out of the end zone ended in him panicking, lofting it into the end zone, only to find out that linebacker Gerald Hodges was there for an easy interception — and without an offensive player anywhere near him. During the long drive that started at the two-yard line, Yates held on to the ball too long. He should have been called down for a sack after safety Bacarri Rambo rushed the backfield, and was brought down by Lorenzo Alexander on third-and-long to end his day. Nathan Peterman’s day was even worse. On the goal line, Peterman fumbled the snap on the exchange from the center, which was likely going to be his only throwing rep of the drill. Then on the live long drive, Peterman dumped his first pass down to Mike Tolbert. His next play? Backed up at his own eight-yard line, Peterman threw it directly into the arms of safety Joe Powell, who then scampered into the end zone for a touchdown. The struggle continues for the backup options of the Bills.
6) Worthy officially ahead of Washington?
- At the beginning of the evening, head coach Sean McDermott made it known that Kyle Williams would be getting the practice off as a veteran rest day, which meant there’s an opportunity to see how the defensive line depth chart stacked up now eight days into training camp. In recent days, we’ve seen Adolphus Washington bounce back and forth between the second-team and third-team defense, and that was just days removed from him working with the first-team offense — while Marcell Dareus was injured. This time around, Washington didn’t get that first-team run — those honors belonged to Jerel Worthy. To this point, Worthy has been extremely impressive at training camp and he once again showed it with big plays Friday. It’s been clear that Worthy has been the better player of the two, and his opportunity with the first-team defense was just proof of that.
7) Milano has a rough go of it
- Throughout camp we’ve heard a lot about rookie and sixth-round pick Tanner Vallejo, and just how well he’s acclimated himself to his first training camp as a professional football player. Vallejo even worked with the first-team defense whenever Lorenzo Alexander needed some rest time. The same can not be said for Matt Milano, the Bills fifth-round pick — who has mostly been bouncing between the second and third-team defense. A bit undersized, Milano got bounced around by the offensive line quite a bit on run plays, and one play was pushed back eight yards during a Cedric O’Neal run during team drills. On the next play, Milano followed O’Neal to the flat in good coverage but completely blew the tackle I the open field by falling as he tried to stop himself. Sometimes it takes younger players longer to start making an impact during training camp, but to this point, Vallejo has been ahead of Milano.
Day 8 MVP: TE Charles Clay
- Clay had his best day of practice since training camp began, and looked like the explosive, athletic pass-catching tight end the Bills hoped for when they brought him in from Miami.
Day 8 LVP: CB Bradley Sylve
- The Bills were picking on Sylve during the long team drive, going after him successfully for three catches over a four-play span. Sylve was working with the second-team defense as the left cornerback.
Up Next: The Bills have Saturday off. They return to St. John Fisher College on Sunday, August 6 for a 2:15 pm practice. Practice is open to the public.