By the end of the week, the Buffalo Bills will have gone through their second week of Organized Team Activities, and now that the rust is gone, the team is hoping for progress over the next several weeks of the offseason.
How did the team look on Wednesday, when reporters were allowed to witness the practice? Seven observations from the day of work:
1) Tyrod shows progress in vital area
- This time last week, the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills had a day to forget. Tyrod Taylor was missing receivers, and throwing inaccurate passes during the first week of the offseason workouts. On Wednesday, Taylor got back to the form that we saw during practices in 2015. The starter was reading the field well, finding his targets well enough and placing the ball in the right spot to allow them to make a play -- and more importantly, he didn't allow the defense to make their mark on the play. Even more impressive, Taylor was working the middle of the field quite extensively. During both team drills and in 7-on-7s Taylor routinely found his targets in the middle areas, which was a weakness for him last season. It's not that he couldn't do it, he just didn't do it enough and there were times where the passing game became predictable as a result. Taylor's most impressive throw was a dart about 20 yards down the middle of the field to tight end Charles Clay (who returned to practice on Wednesday). Clay had safety Aaron Williams draped all over him, and Taylor placed it in the perfect spot for the tight end to make the play. Clay secured the catch, which made LeSean McCoy scream at Clay after the play, "He's back!" The tight end made a great play, but Taylor deserves most the credit on that play.
2) Hughes takes no prisoners
- Whether it was Jordan Mills, today's second-team right tackle T.J. Barnes, or whichever player drew the assignment to try and block him, Jerry Hughes dominated the practice off the edge on Wednesday. Lining up at left outside linebacker for a portion of practice, Hughes was against the right tackle -- which is usually a position that doesn't boast the most athletic players. The first step from Hughes was on display all practice long, often breaking into the backfield and collecting a would-be sack. Granted, these are "non-contact" and non-padded practices, but no one even stood a chance against Hughes today. Hughes mostly lined up against the left tackle over the last two seasons, but with Mario Williams now out of the picture, perhaps the Bills know the best place for the quick edge rusher to make an impact could be coming off the left side of the defense. Time will tell on that front, but Hughes looked the part on Wednesday.
3) First 2016 Bills practice skirmish
- Speaking of Jordan Mills, who once again lined up as the first-team right tackle for all but a couple of reps, he was involved in the first little skirmish of 2016 for the Bills. Mills took exception to something starting inside linebacker Preston Brown was doing and decided to take a few swings at him. The two didn't disengage from the original fight, and the rest of the team converged in a big huddle to try and break the duo up. As they were separated, Mills screamed something at Brown while walking away, but it didn't seem like there were any residual effects later on in the practice. In a comical moment, while the two were still tangled, one defensive lineman yelled over "C'mon man! You're f*&%ing with my reps!"
4) Defense trotting out triple safety look
- One of the most interesting things to track through the first two week of OTAs has been the defense and the different looks they've been trotting out against the offense, even just two weeks into workouts. One notable addition that Rex Ryan confirmed after practice has been an ongoing trend in the NFL, a three-safety look on defense. There were a couple variations of it during the session, but the most notable ones came with the first-team defense. Robert Blanton ran on to join starters Aaron Williams and Corey Graham, and Williams shifted down into coverage at the line of scrimmage. All three of those players have a background originally as a cornerback, which offers a lot of versatility to the defense from the safety position. Considering that, it would be fair to assume that Williams won't be the only player dropping down into coverage on three safety looks.
5) An under the radar competition?
- The secondary could see another battle this summer: Nickel cornerback. Since he joined the team as an undrafted free agent, Nickell Robey has been the main nickel corner without much competition. Robey struggled a bit in 2015 and didn't perform to his normal playing level, and even during Wednesday's practice, had a bad beat against second-year wide receiver Dez Lewis. While Robey doesn't appear to be in immediate danger, one player that was going through some reps at nickel during the walk-through portion of practice was free agent pickup Sterling Moore. If Robey struggles during offseason workouts, Moore could start to see an increased amount of time at the position. This is one to keep an eye on.
6) A young WR gets a chance to run with the 1s
- Last week, the two wide receivers that ran along with Robert Woods and the first-team offense was Jarrett Boykin and Greg Little. On Wednesday, Boykin was once again with the first unit, but a new face joined the fray: second-year wide receiver Dez Lewis. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound wide receiver went through some growing pains during last season, but finally adjusted himself to professional football. Lewis struggled with drops during training camp last year, but there wasn't any sign of that during Wednesday's OTA session. It's just one practice, but in a completely wide open competition for playing time, Lewis flourished in his time with the first-team offense.
7) Kicking competition gets started
- The Bills made it known that Dan Carpenter will need to earn his job in a kicking competition this summer, and he'll be pushed by undrafted free agent rookie Marshall Morgan. For the first time in front of the media, each player got their chance to hit field goals during a special teams portion of the practice. Dan Carpenter had six attempts, making five of them from 28, 31, 35, 39, and 48 yards out. His lone miss was also from 48 yards. Morgan, who displayed a powerful leg with a lot of pop under the ball, nailed all three of his attempts from 33, 43, and 45 yards out. Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay did not register an attempt during the practice.