ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. [WKBW] — The first week of Buffalo Bills training camp has come to an end. So what have we learned after six practices?
7 observations from the first week of training camp:
The offense picks up where they left off:
It’s only been six practices, so let me make it clear, the sample size is small. That said, during the first week of camp, the Bills offense led by quarterback Josh Allen has looked consistently impressive. There have been hiccups along the way and days where the defense has thrived.
Josh Allen and the offense were damn near unstoppable today.— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) August 2, 2021
But for the most part, it’s clear just how much chemistry Allen has with his returning wideouts and how his trust is quickly growing with Emmanuel Sanders. The newly signed veteran wide receiver was quite complimentary of his new quarterback when he spoke last week.
“Josh made a throw today that I haven't seen. A post ball to Cole Beasley. It was crazy," Sanders said on Thursday. "Like mouth dropping. And I've been in the league for 12 years."
Then there are the other guys. To the surprise of no one, Stefon Diggs & Cole Beasley are matchup nightmares, Isaiah McKenzie can do a bit of everything, and Gabriel Davis is the consummate pro. The offense has a long way to go but they’re off to a great start.
Sorry, Aaron Rodgers
Bills wide receiver Jake Kumerow has shined and he's carving out a role on this team. When he’s been called upon, the 29-year-old journeyman has stepped up for the Bills, reeling in catch after catch and quickly earning the trust of both Allen and head coach Sean McDermott.
My biggest takeaway from practice today:— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) July 31, 2021
Jake Kumerow stock 🚀🚀🚀
“His road has been rocky to this point. I can tell you this, though, when he left toward the end of the year last season, he was missed, right. Just in the locker room, the vibe of the team,” McDermott said of Kumerow. “So to have a chance to get him back here was a big opportunity for us and so I think he’s off to a great start of camp. He made a big play the other day in practice and he’s off to a good start.”
Kumerow is not a roster lock but he’s making a very strong case to be kept around for the regular season. I’d be surprised if he’s not on the 53-man roster when the Bills take on the Steelers.
A.J. is ready
Bills defensive end Mario Addison had my favorite answer of the week when he was asked A.J. Epenesa.
“A.J. is ready,” Addison said. “Hands down. A.J. is ready. The things that he did last year, you know, he did good last year. But the things he’s doing now, watch out for A.J.”
For context, take some time to watch the clip of Addison giving the answer, it’s outstanding.
Epenesa has flashed during the offseason and is getting more reps it seems with every practice. The Bills love to have a fresh rotation of players to rush the passer and if Epenesa takes the step forward that Addison expects him to take, the Bills defense could be in for a strong season.
I am Groot
I’m not crazy, Greg Rousseau’s nickname is Groot, because, you guessed it, he’s tall. Like really tall.
“He’s a long guy. Amazon. He’s like Godzilla and you need to look up at him all the time,” Addison said about Rousseau.
Rousseau, like Epenesa, has had a strong start to camp, at a position where the Bills need to improve. Part of Rousseau’s success is likely due to the absence of left tackle Dion Dawkins, who remains sidelined on the COVID-19 list.
Rousseau has benefited from easier matchups but has made the most of his reps. We’ve only seen one practice in pads for the Bills' first-round pick so only time will tell if he continues to flash. He’s off to a strong start and the Bills have to love what they’ve seen from Groot.
Wallace with the edge
Going into camp, the biggest position battle, at least in my opinion, was centered around the second starting cornerback. Levi Wallace and Dan Jackson were the two favorites to win the job and after six days of practice, that’s still the case.
But after hearing from Wallace and a few of his teammates, it’s hard not to give the edge to the guy who already won the starting role out of camp twice. When the Bills brought in Kevon Johnson in 2019, Wallace won the job. In 2020 it was Josh Norman, and once again, Wallace was up to the task.
"If you're not out here, competing, and you're not having fun, what are you out here for?" Wallace said on Friday. "Dane is a great corner. So is Cam Lewis. So is Nick McCloud. So is Olaijah Griffin. I mean, T. White? We're all out there chasing 27."
Jackson has done nothing wrong and still could very well win the job. However, I’m not betting against Wallace. I made that mistake in 2020 and won’t get fooled again.
Sorry fantasy owners
I’ve had several people ask me whether I think Zack Moss or Devin Singletary will be the Bills “starting” running back this season. Quite frankly, I still have no idea.
In a perfect world, one of the two players will knock our socks off and become the true No. 1 starter. But that seems unlikely for this team and honestly, that’s okay.
Moss and Singletary have different skill sets and can complement each other well. As Daboll has said in the past, the team is comfortable riding the hot hand and changing things up each week. That approach doesn’t seem to bother Moss or Singletary, either, as they get ready for their second and third seasons.
"At the end of the day, you've got to look at the bigger picture," Singletary said. "If I'm getting the ball, I'm getting the ball. If I'm not, I'm not. I've still got to play my part. That's what it comes down to."
"If he's the starting running back and we win the Super Bowl, fine. If I'm the starting running back and we win the Super Bowl, fine," Moss added. "So either way, we know what the end goal is and we just want to help this team get better every day.”
Not rushing the deal
Brandon Beane kicked off training camp with a press conference on Wednesday. He was asked plenty of questions about different topics but was also asked about a potential Josh Allen contract extension.
Beane didn’t say much but shed more light on things earlier this week in an interview with the Associated Press.
According to John Wawrow, the two sides have agreed to pause contract negotiations if they extend into the regular season. There is no set deadline for either side, but rather than it becomes a potential distraction, talks would get pushed into the offseason.
“Josh and I are in lockstep on that,” Beane said. “There will be no negotiating in-season. At some point, we will press the pause button.”