The Buffalo Bills have only two days of training camp remaining, which means the Bills are closing in on the halfway point of the preseason. On Monday, we saw the confirmation of all the changes we witnessed during practice on Sunday by seeing similar things happen once more.
The big draw is what happened at quarterback, and what could happen if things follow the present track.
What stood out on Day 14? Seven observations from the day of work:
1) Josh Allen moves up
- On Sunday, for the first time, Josh Allen took reps with all three units. It was the most fluid we've seen the quarterback competition with all three players involved. On Monday, the Bills took it a step further. For the first time in training camp, Allen was exclusively working with the second-team offense while A.J. McCarron played with the first-team and Nathan Peterman was with the third unit. Sunday was the first time that Allen had taken just a single rep with the second-team offense all camp, so this is a big step for him. Based on these rotation patterns over the last two days, it leads me to the following line of thinking: I would not be surprised, at all, if when the Bills practice on Tuesday morning that Josh Allen will be with the first-team offense. Over the last two days, we've seen Peterman go from being with the first-team on Sunday to the third-team on Monday, McCarron from the second-team on Sunday to the first-team on Monday, and Allen from the (mostly) third-team on Sunday to the second-team on Monday. If the Bills continue that trend, that means the depth chart on Tuesday, and it would mean Allen goes with the first-team, Peterman with the second unit, followed by McCarron with the threes. Now, the Bills may well keep Allen with the second unit while just flipping Peterman and McCarron with the first and third unit. That's only if they haven't gotten comfortable with the idea that Allen could potentially win the starting job to begin the 2018 season. However, it has felt more like an actual three-person starting competition over the last two practices than it did for the 12 practices before it. Stay tuned, because Day 15 could be one of the most critical days of training camp if Allen does work a full day with the first-team offense for the first time in his career.
2) Trent Murphy injured again
- The frustration for starting defensive end Trent Murphy has to be setting in. Murphy injured his groin in the early days of camp, and it kept him out of practice for right around a week. He slowly worked back into drills and has been on the field only for the last three practices -- but it wasn't until Sunday that he started taking some meaningful reps during the day of work. On Monday, after going forward with his most significant workload since his return, Murphy wound up on the ground on one play near the end of practice. He hobbled off the field, athletic trainers quickly tended to him on the sideline, and he then pointed to his groin to signal what was hurting him. For the remainder of practice, Murphy remained stoic on the sidelines, without saying many words to anyone. It's especially frustrating for him because not even two or three plays before, Murphy had one of his best reps of camp to get past right tackle Jordan Mills and force a sack. That's the first time we've seen him make a play like that, though. Even in one-on-one drills, he struggled to get any penetration in the backfield while instead choosing to take each one of his three reps wide. Perhaps there was some hesitation due to the groin injury, but he hasn't made the type of splash in practice you'd expect a high priced free agent to make. However, if he is a bit hobbled by the injury, perhaps he deserves a slight pass for not being as effective rushing the passer as you'd like him to at the moment. The Bills could be in a situation where it might be best to shut him down for the rest of the summer in hopes to get him ready to go for the start of the 2018 regular season. Until he's right, it probably isn't fair to pass judgment on what type of signing he'll wind up being for the Bills. As long as he's on the field for the regular season, none of this matters. But if he can't get on the field consistently, that's when it'll be time to start wondering about him. It's early yet.
3) Robert Foster has a bounce-back day
- Through 13 days of practice, it was mostly a struggle for undrafted rookie wide receiver Robert Foster. It seems he's been in a constant battle with his hands, and as a result, the confidence hasn't been there from one rep to the next. On Monday, he pushed that aside to have his best day of training camp by a substantial margin. Foster was all over the place, making catch after catch during team drills and not at all looking like the receiver we've seen that has had wavering confidence. Foster needed an answer in a big way since his spot on the depth chart has slowly been weakening after an impressive set of spring practices. It's not as though he's devoid of talent. He consistently gets open and is targeted by all three quarterbacks, but he hasn't shown the ability to make a play while at St. John Fisher College. From this point forward, Foster needs to be more like the player we saw on Monday, and less like the one through the first 13 days of camp. If he can transition this day into a trio of good games, perhaps there is hope for him yet to snag a spot on the practice squad at least.
4) Bills continue to push Milano
- It wasn't just a coincidence that Matt Milano had his first-team reps cut into on Sunday afternoon because once again the Bills didn't allow Milano to take the full amount of snaps with the top unit on Monday. Rather than a three-person rotation at weakside linebacker, Milano only split first-team reps with his primary backup Ramon Humber. Furthermore, it seemed like head coach Sean McDermott tried to wake up Milano during individual drills, too. Milano didn't do one coverage drill with proper technique, McDermott caught it, and proceeded to stop the rep and then have some fiery words with Milano. As Milano went to the back of the line, McDermott then ran back over to him, pulled him to the side, and then showed him the proper technique for what he wanted to have done. McDermott is a detail-oriented coach, so this is more than likely a wake-up call for a talented second-year player that they hope doesn't develop complacency. They have a high opinion of Milano, and it's on them to draw out all the potential he has.
5) Some movement at running back
- Things have changed a lot over the last two days on the depth chart, and after a slight move at running back on Sunday, it became a more defined and noticeable one on Monday. It's no surprise that Marcus Murphy has been bumped up to be the number-three running back after his standout training camp and the first preseason game, and that continued again into Monday's practice. However, Travaris Cadet -- who had been the number-three runner for the majority of camp, found himself demoted once again in the opening reps of the practice. Taiwan Jones, the player that Murphy passed early into camp, took second-team reps early on during team drills which are the best indications of their current standing for that individual day. Along the same lines, Cadet came out with the third-team offense, which is also a stark change from what we have known of the running back group. If this holds, that places Cadet firmly on the roster bubble, and perhaps even on the outside looking in. Jones offers more value as a special teams contributor on both returns and coverage units. Should Murphy beat Cadet out for the number-three job, that could mean Cadet is a free agent by early September. We'll see if this holds, but the development is notable.
6) Wyatt Teller continues to improve
- Throughout training camp, I haven't written much about the rookie fifth-round pick and offensive guard Wyatt Teller. In the early stages of training camp, he was getting beaten about as many times as he had been winning individual battles. He showed a tendency to dip his head on those reps which put him in trouble for keeping the pocket clean. However, since a little before the first preseason game, I've noticed Teller playing with a bit more confidence and that natural ability of his has started to come out more and more. He isn't dipping his head as much, he's taking on a powerful bull rush from the defender and sitting his butt down to anchor and keep the pocket clean, and he has started to battle with his hands a bit better. While I don't think he'll be pushing for a starting job, there is definite talent there to work with, and he is the best reserve guard they have on the roster. The Bills have tried to work him both at right and left guard, likely to keep him prepared should either Vladimir Ducasse, or John Miller goes down with an injury.
7) More changes with the cornerback depth chart
- On Sunday, Levi Wallace was bumped up to the second-team defense to help build his case to make the 53-man roster by the end of the preseason. The change only involved Wallace and Lafayette Pitts (the player demoted to the third-team defense) at first. On Monday, the Bills got more players involved and had a notable subtraction from the group. Veteran Phillip Gaines had been working at both nickel cornerback with the first-team defense and at right cornerback with the second-team defense, but the latter of his responsibilities did not appear on Day 14 -- which was the first time that has happened this training camp. Instead, the Bills moved Wallace from left cornerback to right cornerback with the second unit and then brought up Breon Borders to play left cornerback with the second-team -- which is the first time that he has been up with the second unit since camp began. Borders has responded after a bad start with a string of solid practices since last week, and he's also a player that they saw some potential in when they brought him on board near the end of the season. The Bills are trying to see which of those two players, Borders and Wallace, can be a suitable fifth cornerback to keep on the roster, while perhaps letting Gaines fight it out with Taron Johnson as to who will be the starting nickel corner to begin the season. We'll see if the changes continue on Tuesday.
Day 14 MVP: WR Robert Foster
- After a rough camp, Foster had to feel great about all the plays he made on Monday. He looked like the same player we saw in the spring practices.
Day 14 LVP: DE Trent Murphy
- He looked hampered by his injury and not able to make any counter moves in one-on-ones, and then had to sit out the rest of the practice with an injury. It's not all his fault, because it looked like he didn't have full trust in the injury just yet. The Bills need to focus on getting him healthy by early September above all else.
Up Next: Day 15 on Tuesday, August 14 at 8:45 am