Two days down, one to go for the Buffalo Bills and their annual mandatory minicamp. And while the Bills started to get a little bit more specific in their practice on Wednesday with the drills they chose to run, there were still plenty of opportunities for players to show the coaches what they bring to the table.
So who, and what stood out during the team’s second practice of minicamp? Seven observations from the day of work:
1) Cardale’s rollercoaster Wednesday
- While Tyrod Taylor was once again the best quarterback on the field — as he should be — the day for Cardale Jones is one that had as many twists and turns as a soap opera. Yesterday, I wrote about just how raw Jones is at this point in time, and that was even multiplied on Wednesday. During team drills, on multiple occasions, Jones basically just kept his feet planted on the ground, and basically just launched it straight up in the air. It created multiple jump ball opportunities for the defense, and likely should have resulted in an interception at least once. But then, Jones just brings you right back in with two of the best plays of the afternoon. He uncorked a beautiful throw over the middle of the field, and then later on, came the real play of the day. Jones dropped back into the pocket, climbed forward, gave a hearty pump fake, and stepped into a throw that went 60-plus yards down the field and safely into the arms of wide receiver Dez Lewis. Only speaking for myself, it was a jaw dropping throw. That’s exactly what the Bills have to unearth with Jones: getting rid of all the bad tendencies, and finding out how to make those big throws more of the norm.
2) Jerry Hughes absent
- Along with a few other starters that didn’t take part in the practice during Day One, the newest notable absence is edge rusher Jerry Hughes. Head coach Rex Ryan didn’t address the media after the practice, so it’s unknown as to why Hughes wasn’t out there at this point in time. The outside linebacker’s lack of attendance forced yet another backup player into the first-team fray on Wednesday, seeing as how rookie Shaq Lawson still has a ways to go before his return from shoulder surgery. In Hughes’ place was veteran linebacker and free agent pickup Lorenzo Alexander, who likely has the most experience of the players the Bills had to choose from. He and Manny Lawson made up the first team edge rushers, with IK Enemkpali filtering in every now and again for Lawson. We’ll find out tomorrow if Hughes’ absence is due to anything significant.
3) Rex goes off
- The entire offseason has featured Rex Ryan clearly stating that the upcoming campaign will be one that features the type of defense that he’s run during his whole career. Usually during practices, Ryan is fairly positive and doesn’t scream at his players. On Wednesday, we actually got to see that side of Rex Ryan. During team drills there was a busted coverage on defense and it allowed an easy reception for the offense, and that set the head coach off. He screamed at the top of his lungs about the players needing to know their individual responsibilities, and then ended it with “I don’t care who the $%^& you are!” It wasn’t clear as to who Rex Ryan was screaming at, but the message is clear: get on board with Rex’s defense, or prepare to find employment elsewhere.
4) Super sleeper tight end
- We all know quite a bit about Charles Clay and his impending role in the offense this upcoming season. It’s quite clear that he’ll be a consistent contributor, as long as he’s healthy, in both the passing and running game. Past him, things are a bit open. The Bills brought in Jim Dray as a blocking specialist tight end, but his spot on the team isn’t guaranteed by any means. Chris Gragg has improved steadily over his first three seasons, and will once again fight to make the roster. Nick O’Leary has been fairly disappointing over the course of his first season and hasn’t really stood out. So now, you’ve officially been warned: keep an eye on Blake Annen to push for a roster spot this summer. In only his third professional season, the Bills are already Annen’s fifth stop since entering the league, but he has shown both an athleticism and consistency with his hands during 11-on-11 team drills. He’ll need to show a lot more as the summer progresses, but put Annen on the list of a player that did everything right during OTAs and minicamp.
5) Minicamp fight between two starters
- It was brewing after a couple of reps of team drills, and then, it finally came to a boiling point. Wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Ronald Darby had been getting a little physical during 11-on-11s before it came to blows. Once the next play started, Woods and Darby traded a pair of punches each — with their helmets on, mind you — before helmets were taken off and the players were separated. Woods has been known over his four seasons to be a little temperamental on the field. He has gotten into a few altercations during practices over the years, and even got ejected from a 2013 game for throwing a punch at another player. As for Wednesday, cooler heads prevailed and both players went on with practice without any lingering aftereffects.
6) Defensive lineman making waves
- Without Kyle Williams being available to the Bills during OTAs and minicamp, it’s given a clear opportunity for some of the defensive linemen trying to make the roster to get some time with the first-team. The player that has been the recipient of the most time with the top unit has been Jerel Worthy, a former second-round pick and a castoff from Green Bay, New England, Kansas City, and Detroit. With that time on Wednesday, Worthy certainly made his presence felt, finding his way into the backfield on more than one occasion. He’s been a player that Rex Ryan has brought up with the media during the offseason, and with a clear lack in depth past the top four, has perhaps the best chance to make the team as the fifth defensive lineman. If he continues to show the way he did on Wednesday, he could even carve out some playing time as a rotational player.
7) Kicking competition update
- We didn’t get a chance to see any form of a kicking competition during Day One of minicamp, but luckily that was not the case on Day Two. The Bills practiced field goal kicking near the end of practice, and in a bit of an interesting move, veteran Dan Carpenter was the only kicker to get a chance. Carpenter connected from 30, 33, 38, 40, and 44-yards out, and missed only once when he doinked a 36-yard attempt off the left upright. Curiously, Marshall Morgan and Jordan Gay did not get a chance to attempt a field goal, but they did get reps in kickoff coverage. Morgan got a lot of hang time under his kickoff, which allowed the coverage to get down to the returner. Gay has done a nice job as a kickoff specialist over the last two years, but he completely shanked an attempt on Wednesday. It skidded across the ground, and rolled out of bounds for a penalty, and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was not happy, telling the kicker that he just wasted a rep. We have yet to see Gay attempt a field goal during practice in the five open practices that we’ve seen, so he needs to be near perfect to make the team as just a kickoff specialist.