Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll set the tone for Day Two before practice even began. Daboll called the first two practices at training camp a continuation of the spring practices.
Well, that's because the pads have yet to go on. That event happens on Saturday, or for our purposes, Day Three of training camp.
However, even though there were no pads, there was still plenty to chew on from the day of work. Seven observations from the second day of Bills training camp:
1) Josh Allen gets (a few) first-team reps
- The headliner through the duration of training camp will be all centered around their shiny new rookie quarterback, and how quickly he develops throughout the training camp process. During the spring workouts, we saw the Bills give Allen a handful of first-team reps during minicamp -- which they said was all a part of the plan for him that they've kept to themselves. It seems that plan included giving Allen one set of first-team reps in the middle of practice on Friday, too. It's an essential step because that means he's still on the same track that they initially had him in the first place. And now, we'll see what they do after it. So, how'd he do? He threw a total of three passes with the first-team offense during 11-on-11s, the first an in-stride swing pass to LeSean McCoy, the second was a bit of an overthrow and incompletion intended for Charles Clay, and the third was another high throw, only this time Clay was able to bring it in. In total, Allen went 5-of-8 during team drills on Friday. Allen's first-team reps came at the cost of A.J. McCarron, who was the quarterback atop the depth chart for the rest of the practice. McCarron probably had the most reliable day of the three, going 5-of-7 although being sacked twice as well. Nathan Peterman went 3-of-8 and was sacked once. All in all, it was a rather ho-hum day for the quarterbacks outside of Allen mixing in with the ones.
2) Conor McDermott having a strong start
- Over the past year, you might have heard or read something I've written about how much the Bills like reserve offensive tackle Conor McDermott. They brought him on the roster through waivers after New England released him as a rookie during the final cuts in 2017. McDermott has spent the past year getting all of his work, outside of one offensive snap in the 2017 season, on the practice field at right tackle. He's usually one of, if not the last player on the practice field every day -- and he's made some strides as he's gone. He's gotten his weight up to around 305 pounds, he's got a long frame standing 6-foot-8 with arms for days, and he's a former basketball player that made his hay down in the low post, so he's got some footwork. And through the first two days, McDermott has continued to impress. In one-on-ones, he's won three of his four attempts -- besting Shaq Lawson two out of three times and getting the better of Lorenzo Alexander on the other. And on his wins, he's made it look easy, showing off solid footwork even for his big frame. McDermott is certainly looking the part, but we still have to see if the same holds true when the pads go on. Starter Jordan Mills has had a strong start to camp as well, but should he struggle during preseason or the regular season, make sure you keep McDermott's name in the back of your head. There is some talent there.
3) Adolphus Washington? Not so much
- As one of the last remaining Doug Whaley draft picks still on the roster Adolphus Washington, like Shaq Lawson, is facing a potential make-or-break training camp with the Bills. Washington had a huge chance to start for the Bills trade Marcell Dareus, only to lose those honors to the likes of Cedric Thornton -- a player no longer with the team. They didn't care for the job he did as a one-technique tackle, and so they moved him back to three-technique for 2018. As the primary backup to Kyle Williams, Washington has yet to be noticeable on the practice field. He has lost every single one of his one-on-one attempts to John Miller, and now his backup Marquavius Lewis is even getting some second-string time at his position. It's still early, and he can turn it all around, but the start to camp has not been kind to a player that's supposed to be penetrating the backfield.
4) Dion Dawkins shows signs of brilliance and also of inexperience
- The Bills are hoping for an awful lot from second-year player Dion Dawkins. After the starting left tackle role was thrust upon him in the middle of last season, he showed signs of life throughout the season, but also some inconsistencies that he has to iron out. All in all, he played at a fairly average level -- which is usually a good first step for a rookie. Now entrenched as the left tackle, Dawkins has to show a bit more as a pass protector -- which was his most significant issue to me during the 2017 season. This year in camp, Jerry Hughes is throwing everything at him. During one-on-ones, Dawkins has performed incredibly well against Hughes by thwarting his attempts all four times they've gone against one another. And Hughes isn't taking it easy on Dawkins, either. The defensive end has been throwing spin moves and stutter moves to try and get him to bite, but Dawkins has been steady. However, when things got to team drills -- 11-on-11s -- Hughes was in the backfield a pair of times for a would-be sack, and one of which was when he left Dawkins in the dust. The other sack had Hughes one-on-one against Ryan Groy. Things will undoubtedly change when the pads go on, but Dawkins must show he can do the job in pass protection when other things are happening around him, and not just a controlled rep of one blocker versus one defender. Still, it's a good base for him to start camp.
5) The same center rotation continues
- When training camp opened up, the Bills had Russell Bodine as the center with the first-team offense, which is something we saw on certain days in the spring. However, just as the Bills are rotating their first-team reps with the quarterbacks, they are still doing the same at center. On Day Two, Ryan Groy was the man taking snaps from A.J. McCarron and a part of the first offensive unit. To this point, both players have had their ups and downs during both one-on-ones and team drills, but neither has done much to grab ahold of the starting job. Center will be a wait-and-see position through the preseason games, much like right guard was last year between Vladimir Ducasse and John Miller. It's far too early to tell, but also entirely up in the air for one of those two to win the job outright.
6) Marlowe bucking a rotational trend on Day 2
- One mover on the depth chart during the spring was none other than safety Dean Marlowe. He went from being firmly on the third-team defense, to mixing in with the second-team. By the end of the spring, he split time with Kelcie McCray and also took some reps with the third-team. It was much of the same for the first day of training camp, but that wasn't so on Day Two. Marlowe, by my count, took every single rep that he could with the second-team defense. He's certainly an intriguing name as camp goes on because that fourth safety spot is very much up in the air -- especially if rookie fifth-round pick Siran Neal doesn't make any significant strides in training camp. Marlowe is a bigger safety with long arms and has shown good range and playmaking ability in his first two days of camp. He's also popped up on the first-team punt coverage unit, which is also a good indication of his current standing. The same wait-and-see approach must be observed for when the pads go on Saturday, but Marlowe is a name to keep an eye on as camp progresses.
7) First-team punt coverage is revealed
- What is the significance of telling you the punt coverage team? If you asked, I'm glad you did. These certainly aren't set in stone -- just like any position on the roster -- but it's an excellent base to see what the Bills are thinking as to the bottom of their potential 53-man roster. Those players have to be able to do more than just their position on offense or defense, which makes them more valuable to the team, and therefore, more likely to be kept by the end of it all. With that said, the first-team punt coverage unit included the following players: rookie cornerback Taron Johnson (gunner), wide receiver Robert Foster (gunner), safety Dean Marlowe, linebacker Julian Stanford, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker Ramon Humber, linebacker Deon Lacey, and wide receiver Andre Holmes. Most of those names are ones that filled those roles for the Bills in 2017, and the inclusion of Stanford is obvious because that's what the Bills said they liked about him most when they signed him. The intriguing names here are Marlowe, a potential fourth-safety that I just wrote about, and Foster, the undrafted rookie from Alabama. If Foster can prove his worth on special teams, the potential exists for him to steal a roster spot if he continues to play well on offense, too. So during the preseason games right at the start, if you're trying to figure out who has a legitimate chance to make the roster, don't mentally tune out during special teams. Clues are waiting for you on those specific plays.
Day 2 MVP: RT Conor McDermott
- McDermott had a strong performance and got his offensive lineman teammates and coaches pretty excited about the job he was doing as well. He's a name to monitor through the summer.
Day 2 LVP: DT Adolphus Washington
- It's been a struggle for Washington through the first two days of camp, and he needs to pick it up as the pads go on Saturday.
Up Next: Day 3 on Saturday, July 28 at 8:45 am