Bills training camp at St. John Fisher is officially over.
The team's two-and-a-half week stint in Pittsford concluded Thursday morning. Everyone and everything is now packed up and heads back the other direction on the 90 to Orchard Park where the remainder of camp will occur.
Sean McDermott point blank said he hopes to come back to St. John Fisher next year for a similar schedule to open training camp, but wouldn't expand beyond that.
As for on the field, seemed fitting to wraps up with another fight.
That and more observations from our conclusion on campus this morning.
- McDermott said before practice that Josh Allen will not play in the preseason opener Saturday evening. Beyond that, the Bills head coach wouldn't say who would and would not take the field. Based on the practice structure Thursday morning, the starters had a lot more pace and contact, signaling likely sitting out Saturday. The second and third teams had more of a slow, pre-game routine, indicating they'll likely see the majority of time. This is what you would expect in a first preseason game, especially looking at how McDermott's handled the preseason throughout his tenure as head coach.
- Second-straight day we saw the projected starting five offensive linemen together during team portions. Rodger Saffold once again wasn't out there long, this time seeing Bobby Hart sub in for him. McDermott admitted before practice that getting those five together and starting to develop chemistry is important to hit the ground running week one. He noted that Saffold and Spencer Brown still aren't ready to be full-go all the time, but trending in right direction.
- The biggest standout to me on the field on the last day was Jamison Crowder. He had a handful of passes thrown his way from Josh Allen, including a quick-strike slant that saw Crowder turn on the jets after the catch and rip off 30 yards or so afterward, pulling away from the defender in coverage. Crowder has quickly elevated himself into the mix after missing the early portion of camp with soreness. As great as Isaiah McKenzie's been so far, don't sleep on Crowder just taking a back seat in the slot competition. It might ultimately come down to the creativity of Ken Dorsey to figure out a way to get both on the field and involved.
- Boogie Basham made a near big man splash play. The second year defensive lineman got his hands up and batted an Allen pass up in the air. Basham then got his hands on it, but Allen alertly swatted the ball out to prevent the interception. Basham is someone I anticipate seeing a good amount of time in the preseason opener Saturday. More plays that pop will be important.
- A theme for Bills Camp at SJF has been fights. The final practice giving us one more blow. Dion Dawkins got into it with Ed Oliver, leading to the Bills left tackle throwing a big punch to the head of the former 1st round pick. The two tangled in a big pile, as a ton of offensive and defensive players converged. McDermott even got in the mix to break things up. Allen reiterated after practice that he feels the fighting is a product of intense competition and views it as a good thing as long as no one gets hurt.
- The Bills will have a walk through of sorts Friday leading into Saturday's preseason opener against the Colts, kicking off from Highmark Stadium at 4 p.m.
The Bills were back on the practice field Wednesday morning after a day off Tuesday. Things were a bit slow with the pads off, so not a ton jumped out.
Here's what caught my eye as things near a close at St. John Fisher University.
- The Bills projected starting offensive line was fully intact for the first time this training camp during a team period. That meant Dion Dawkins at left tackle, Rodger Saffold at left guard, Mitch Morse at center, Ryan Bates at right guard, and Spencer Brown at right tackle. It was short lived, with Cody Ford subbing for Saffold rather quickly. Also, with no one wearing pads, it doesn't exactly mean all five guys are fully healthy and ready to roll as one unit. Still, each day over the past week has provided a step forward in terms of health for that group, however small. Barring any setbacks, it appears things are trending well for these guys to get be ready together for week one.
- Without pads, practice as a whole didn't show much. I'll give you a few standout moments. Von Miller showed his speed around the edge to register a would-be sack of Josh Allen.
- Jake Kumerow looked to have made a nice grab on an Allen pass, but Damar Hamlin got in the mix and either knocked it loose for an incompletion or effected Kumerow enough to where he ultimately couldn't hang on. It appears Kumerow's toughest competition to try and round out the WR group is going to be Isaiah Hodgins, with both seeing time with the 1st team offense.
- Quintin Morris made a fantastic play on a pass thrown a behind him from Matt Barkley. Morris was diving one direction, but was able to bring his hands back the other way and reel in a pass with a defender close by. While I had Morris as the 3rd TE in my pre-training camp 53 man roster projection, he hasn't done enough to this point to even get close to pushing Tommy Sweeney.
- And speaking of Sweeney, he made the play of the morning towards the end of practice. He made a sensational touchdown catch on a fade in the end zone. Siran Neal was right on him in coverage, but Sweeney caught the ball as it fell into a bucket and was able to maintain control through Neal making contact and Sweeney hitting the ground. To be honest, I think Sweeney's made a lot of plays to this point of training camp and if the Bills indeed keep 3 tight ends, I don't even think it's a question Sweeney makes the team. Of course, preseason games will be the next step in trying to solidify his case.
- Some fun in the middle of practice, as some non-kickers getting in a field goal attempt. Micah Hyde, Barkley, and Dawson Knox each booted a 35-yard field goal through the uprights on their one and only try with Case Keenum holding.
- Injury notes: Tavon Austin is day-to-day with tightness. Stefon Diggs had a rest day. Tyrel Dodson remained in street clothes with an unknown injury. Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir and Taron Johnson were back after missing a few days prior.
- Thursday morning marks the final practice of training camp at St. John Fisher University. Following Saturday's preseason game, the rest of camp will be held at the team facility in Orchard Park.
There we more encouraging sights from the wounded Bills offensive line Monday morning.
That plus struggles from the offense while one bubble player's stock continues to rise.
Here's my observations.
- Spencer Brown played a good amount of snaps during the team portion of practice. From what I've seen, this is the first time Brown's been on the field for 11-on-11 work. It began rotationally, coming in for a play here or there. As the practice progressed, Brown was playing more. Before team work, he participated in 1-on-1 battles with the DL, which saw Greg Rousseau and Von Miller beat him on a couple I watched closely. Still, the Bills clearly have been taking things slow with Brown by keeping him out completely during the spring and ramping him up with small steps forward each day in training camp. Definitely encouraging.
- Rodger Saffold was on the field for a second-straight day after coming off the NFI list. He continued to participate in individual work and did seem to take at least one rep during 1-on-1s. However, Saffold remained out during the team portion.
- The Bills offense had a rough day overall. Josh Allen was misfiring to open guys at times as well as dealing with some miscommunication with receivers. There were moments Allen delivered the ball well, but the receiver failed to bring it in. The offensive line struggled dealing with pressure from the defense, especially when they blitzed. The first team did rally late in practice with a solid touchdown drive, capped with a strike from Allen to Gabe Davis.
- Speaking of WRs, Isaiah Hodgins stock continues to rise. He reeled in a magnificent one-handed contested TD catch on a fade from Case Keenum. After practice Keenum said that Hodgins is one of those receivers that gives him a tingly feeling when thinking about throwing him the ball because of his abilities and talent. Sean McDermott said before practice that Hodgins is playing his best football right now in training camp. As I said yesterday, there is a path for him to make the roster as the third true outside WR behind Stefon Diggs and Davis. Carrying over this play-making into the preseason games will be big.
- Tommy Sweeney was another bright spot on a tough day for the O. He made a great diving, over-the-shoulder catch on a throw from Matt Barkley then followed it up later with a good chunk play on a reception over the middle of the field. While it seems certain that O.J. Howard will be the second TE behind Dawson Knox, I think Sweeney's making enough plays to be the team's third TE should they choose to keep that many, which I believe they will.
- Injury notes: Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir, and Taron Johnson all missed practice for a second-straight day. Tyrel Dodson also was out Monday morning along with Tim Harris. With McKenzie and Shakir out, Jamison Crowder's quickly seen his time with the 1st team increase and has been in the mix a bit. As great as McKenzie's been in camp, every day he's out and Crowder's in is an opportunity for a good veteran slot guy to close the gap in their competition to be the top option.
- Bills are off Tuesday before returning to the field Wednesday morning for their second to last practice at St. John Fisher University
The Bills were back on the practice field at St. John Fisher University Sunday afternoon after a night practice back home at Highmark Stadium Friday night and an off day following.
Good news on the injury front plus another fight as it was a scorcher with temperatures near 90 degrees.
Here are my latest observations.
- Rodger Saffold was activated from the non-football injury list and practiced for the first time this training camp. Saffold has missed the last two weeks after injuring his ribs in a car accident prior to camp. He only participated in individual work and not during the team portion of practice.
- Greg Mancz was suited up again after being out the last few practices with what Sean McDermott called soreness. Mancz was once again wearing a rather large brace on his right arm. Mitch Morse took a veteran rest day while Spencer Brown is still being kept out of team work.
- I asked Ken Dorsey before practice about the timeline he had regarding finding the starting five OL and he said there isn't one. Dorsey noted it's more about feel and each guy is different in terms of how quickly they can get up to speed and starting gelling with the rest of the unit. With Saffold back and Ryan Bates fully participating again, it's really a matter of when Saffold and Spencer Brown are able to do full team work, joining Dion Dawkins and Morse to fill out the presumed starting line.
- I think it's time to really put Isaiah Hodgins on everyone's radar. The 2020 6th round pick is becoming a daily standout with how he's winning during the 1-on-1 portion against DBs as well as his involvement and playmaking during team work. Today, Hodgins won on 3 straight 1-on-1 reps, the last a great contested catch on a back shoulder throw with Dane Jackson in coverage. Later in team work Hodgins got Jackson again on the same throw and catch. Beyond Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, there's really only Hodgins and Jake Kumerow as the other outside WRs on the roster. Kumerow has the special teams advantage, but if Hodgins keeps playing like this into the preseason games, this could be the big battle to focus on over the coming weeks to see who might round out the WR room.
- Another day, another fight. Sunday's match-up had Tyrel Dodson and David Quessenberry going at it, with Dodson's helmet ultimately coming off in the midst of the scrap. It was quickly broken up and practice went on as normal.
- Reggie Gilliam was given a two-year contract extension before practice began, locking him up with the team through 2024. Gilliam signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2020, surprisingly making the team out of training camp. Now he's on a second NFL deal. Gilliam's had to fight for everything on his football path, as he explained to me when we sat down during camp last August.
- Bills practice Monday morning beginning at 9:45 a.m.
Bills Mafia was rocking Highmark Stadium Friday night!
35,911 fans were in the stands to watch the Return of the Blue and Red practice.
Josh Allen teased the crowd by running onto the field in a red helmet, then led the offense on multiple touchdown drives.
That and more in my observations from an evening in Orchard Park.
- Bills Mafia has been begging for the red helmets to make a return. While almost half the league will wear an alternate this season, the Bills aren't one of those. Still, Josh Allen briefly giving the people what they want, running onto the field with a red lid and wearing it for a few minutes before switching back to the traditional white helmet.
- Allen and the offense won the night. The Bills QB threw multiple TD passes, including one to Gabe Davis and another to Dawson Knox. Davis especially had a nice night, ripping off a few big plays and continuing to show he's ready to take the big step many expect.
- Matt Barkley also was dialed in and his favorite target was Tanner Gentry, who made one of the best grabs of the night. Barkley lofted one down the field and Gentry fully extended and reeled in the grab. Barkley threw two TDs himself. Khalil Shakir made the play of the night, bringing in a contested catch in the end zone with a defender draped on him. The rookie continues to shine, especially against the 2nd and 3rd team defense. The second Barkley TD was a nice play to Neil Pau'u.
- The running backs all saw a good amount of run. Devin Singletary ripped off a big gain on one carry. James Cook saw some daylight on another and also had a few receptions, showing his speed after the catch. Zack Moss continues to see a lot of short yardage work and even had a chunk play off a screen from Allen. The Moss part of the RB equation is something to monitor as we hit preseason games.
- Few injury notes on the offensive line. Ryan Bates was back and saw some time at right guard with the 1st team offense. On the flip side, Greg Mancz was seen in street clothes with a brace on his right arm. Sean McDermott said Thursday Mancz is dealing with soreness. Still no Rodger Saffold and Spencer Brown continues to not participate in team work.
- Bills are off Saturday before returning to St. John Fisher University Sunday for a 11:45 a.m. practice.
Referees in attendance for the first time this training camp, meaning we got to see when things were clean or not.
That plus injury updates and another scuffle part of my Day 9 observations.
- Jordan Poyer was seen at the end of practice wearing a large brace on his left arm. Head coach Sean McDermott said beforehand that Poyer would be out days or maybe a week or two. McDermott wouldn't commit to having Poyer back for week one. Ian Rapoport reported a few days ago that an MRI revealed a hyperextension of his left elbow.
- Conversely, Micah Hyde was back participating in the full team portion of practice after a few days just doing individual work with the defensive backs. Hyde left practice just under a week ago after landing hard on his hip.
- Other positive news on the injury front was that Ryan Bates returned for some individual work. Rodger Saffold was seen working with Greg Mancz on the side with trainers. Spencer Brown continues to do everything but team work.
- The Play of the Day was courtesy Stefon Diggs, who reeled in a Josh Allen pass with just one hand during 1-on-1 drills. He didn't even need to bring the ball into his chest, just plucked out of the air and kept running.
- Diggs also part of the latest scuffle at Bills training camp. Greg Rousseau and Diggs got into it after a play in team work. That led to Ed Oliver getting in the mix as well and needing to be held back by teammates. After practice Allen said that all these altercations are part of football and that good teams fight from time to time. Allen added that he cooled things with Jordan Phillips after their shoving over the weekend by giving the big defensive tackle a box of Pro V1 golf balls.
- Other standouts in 1-on-1 work was Tavon Austin absolutely blowing past Ja'Marcus Ingram for an easy deep touchdown grab. Isaiah McKenzie also ran past Cam Lewis for a deep TD in 1-on-1s. On the flip side, Taron Johnson absolutely blanketed Jamison Crowder for a pass breakup on one rep.
- Speaking of Crowder, he is getting more and more time during team work and was getting fed during one portion by Case Keenum, seeing at least three targets on one series. We even saw Crowder get run with the 1s a bit. While McKenzie has definitely distanced himself in the slot competition with his play while Crowder was hurt, I still think there is a good role for Crowder to fill and the competition to start isn't over quite yet.
- The ebs and flows of playing cornerback were evident for Dane Jackson. Allen his Gabe Davis on an absolutely perfect pass deep down the field with Jackson in coverage. But later Jackson flipped the script, battling Davis near the sideline to break-up an Allen pass. Jackson has had these types of moments throughout camp.
- We saw the Bills run the ball more today at practice, with Zack Moss heavily involved. While the blocking wasn't always helping him out, Moss did show get vision and speed by kicking outside on a handoff and beating everyone to the corner for a TD. I know many might have written off Moss before training camp, but I'm here to tell you he's making the team unless something crazy happens. Whether or not he's active on game day with Devin Singletary and James Cook remains to be seen.
- Bills head back to Orchard Park Friday night for the return of the Red and Blue scrimmage
An injury to a key starter headlining things at Bills training camp Tuesday morning. That plus some good standout plays on both sides of the ball part of my Day 8 observations from St. John Fisher University.
- Jordan Poyer injured himself on a run play later in practice. While I couldn't see exactly what happened, Poyer was slow to get up and eventually walked off grabbing his left elbow/forearm area. The All-Pro safety then laid on the ground with trainers surrounding him, visibly in a lot of pain. After some time, Poyer got to his feet with his pads off and began walking towards the locker room. But Poyer had to take a seat after maybe 50 yards or so, appearing to be quite woozy. A cart came out and took him in the passenger seat away from the practice fields. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that Poyer's getting an MRI to determine the severity of the elbow injury.
- With Poyer leaving practice and Micah Hyde still only participating in individual work after suffering a hip injury, Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin were the next two safeties on the field. The two had been rotating with the 1st team in Hyde's absence.
- It was another fun round of 1-on-1 battles between the Bills WRs and DBs. The biggest winner of the session was Isaiah Hodgins, who was beating his defender on a variety of routes, showcasing good hands and ability to separate. He also caught at touchdown during team red zone work. Hodgins might seem to have long odds to make the 53 man roster, but the Bills lack of true outside WRs beyond Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis opens the door a bit for Hodgins should he continue to make plays.
- Tavon Austin also flashed in 1-on-1s in a variety of ways. His speed and quickness was evident as he circled to the back of the end zone for a TD. Later he reeled in a beautiful fade from Josh Allen to beat Kaiir Elam.
- On the flip, Christian Benford continues to make plays when given more opportunity. He made a real nice pass break-up while covering Isaiah McKenzie during a 1-on-1 rep. Later in team work, the 6th round pick blanketed Stefon Diggs across the back of the end zone for another PBU. Before practice, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said that the Bills felt Benford was overlooked in the draft and are now excited by what they've seen from his instincts and playmaking abilities through the spring and now early into training camp.
- Terrel Bernard's another rookie that's seeming to make plays when given the chance. He stayed tough through a play in coverage on Tommy Sweeney, who had position on him with the ball in the air, but Bernard got his hands on it once in Sweeney's and was able to jar it loose for an incompletion. He also showed good ball skills by reeling in a ball tipped multiple times, diving to make the grab for an INT. Exactly how Bernard fits into the Bills defensive plans with Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano remains to be seen, but so far he's shown that they might need to find a way somehow.
- Encouraging signs for the health of the offensive line. Tommy Doyle was back and full participating after leaving practice Monday. Rodger Saffold seems to be slowly ramping up in his rehab from a rib injury, seen doing some hitting of the bag and moving around a bit more with the training staff. Ryan Bates remained out and was joined Tuesday by Greg Mancz. Bobby Hart and Cody Ford were the fill-in guards with the 1st team offense.
- Bills are scheduled to practice Wednesday morning, though it is closed to fans.
A few fights breaking out Monday morning as the Bills returned to the practice field at St. John Fisher University.
While the offense certainly made plays, I just happened to notice more individual standout moments from guys on the defensive side.
That plus more injury notes in Day 7 observations from Bills training camp.
- Fists flying! Siran Neal took a swing at Tavon Austin after a play somewhat early in team work. That same sequence led to Boogie Basham and Alec Anderson throwing towards one another. Later in practice Bobby Hart got into it with someone at the far end of the field from where I was standing. This of course all on the heels of Josh Allen getting into it with Jordan Phillips to end practice Saturday. It seems the intensity remains high as things get more physical with the pads now on.
- Speaking of Austin, he made the first play of the day I jotted in my notes. He totally beat the DB off the line of scrimmage in the 1-on-1 portion of practice, getting hit in stride for a touchdown with at least a step or two of separation.
- Ed Oliver seems to be in the backfield on a regular basis since training camp began. He absolutely flew by Greg Van Roten on one particular rep of team work for what would have been a sack had they blown the play dead. Oliver said after practice this is the most fun he's had in a training camp from making plays on the field to enjoying his teammates off of it. I captured a few of those moments today.
- Remember that talk last week about Tremaine Edmunds needs to make more "splash plays?" The middle linebacker did just that Monday, dropping back in coverage and intercepting Josh Allen. It's something that we haven't seen much of at all from Edmunds over his first four seasons, but the ability has always been there.
- Kaiir Elam's physicality and relentless play continues show on a regular basis. Dawson Knox was the target of a Josh Allen pass in the end zone, but Elam fought with the tight end and jarred the ball loose, preventing a would-be TD. Elam spoke after practice about how he has a burning competitiveness to win every single rep he takes, whether that's the highly talked about ones with Stefon Diggs or any other pass-catcher on the team.
- Speaking of rookie CBs, Christian Benford has definitely had moments over the past week-plus of camp. The 6th round pick reeled in an interception after a pass went off the hands of Khalil Shakir. Benford's been rewarded with some run on the 1st team and while unlikely to be in the mix to see much playing time even if Tre'Davious White isn't ready to start the season, it backs up Brandon Beane's comments following the draft that he feels strongly that a lot of his picks have a shot to make the 53 man roster.
- On the injury front, Tommy Doyle went down in the middle of practice. After sometime standing with the training staff on the field, Doyle walked off and wasn't seen the rest of the morning. That further causing more shuffling on the offensive line, with Rodger Saffold and Ryan Bates still out.
- On the flip side, Dion Dawkins returned after being excused for two days with a personal matter. Micah Hyde also was back on the field, though only participated in the individual portion of practice and not full team work. Jamison Crowder did the same in his first practice since the first day. Tim Settle Jr. added to those not practicing, dealing with a groin injury.
- Bills back on the practice field Tuesday morning.
The Bills strapped on the pads for the first time this training camp after a week's worth of action at St. John Fisher.
As often happens, tensions boiled over on day one of hitting.
Details on that plus injury updates and other notes from the sixth practice of camp in my latest observations.
- The big talker of the day coming on the very last play of practice. Josh Allen scored on a QB keeper and took a shoulder from Jordan Phillips as he crossed the goal line. Allen immediately turned around and shoved Phillips. From there, all sorts of players from both the offense and defense converged. Eventually, Allen and Phillips were separated, though it didn't officially end there. The Bills quarterback and big defensive tackle continued to exchange words as things dispersed. Center Mitch Morse said afterwards that things like this tend to happen once the pads come on, but admitted when Allen's involved, the situation is different. Morse added that he doesn't feel the incident will carry over into the locker room.
- While the pads were on for the first time, the Bills taking a ramp-up approaching to hitting. Expect full-contact to come sometime next week.
- With the pads on, I took more of an interest in the offensive line vs. defensive line individual battles. A few reps that stood out to me included great burst off the edge from Boogie Basham to get around Luke Tenuta, Greg Rousseau beating Tommy Doyle, and Von Miller absolutely exploding off the ball and beating David Quessenberry. I think this is something I'll try and catch each day moving forward.
- One guy I'm looking forward to see progress now that the pads are on is Kaiir Elam. He's been very physical to this point just in helmets and shorts, but we saw another glimpse of that out the gate in pads. While this portion is still not where players are supposed to get tackled, Elam was right with Isaiah McKenzie in coverage and when McKenzie caught the ball, Elam took him to the ground. McKenzie wasn't too pleased with it, but words were only exchanged. We know Elam's physical in his coverage, but let's see how it holds up with his all-around game.
- McKenzie did have maybe the best play of the day by the offense. Allen launched one over the middle in the back of the end zone and McKenzie leaped up to make the grab with a defender close by, getting both feet in bounds as he came crashing to the ground. Great throw by Allen. Great catch by McKenzie, who seems to really be building a case each day that even once Jamison Crowder returns, the slot receiver job should be his.
- Terrel Bernard is flashing. His speed is apparent, as I saw him in the backfield multiple times in what could have been blown dead as a sack. His play also must be impressing the coaching staff, as he's seen some run with the 1st team.
- Nick McCloud had another interception, continuing his strong start early in camp. We even saw him back at safety, getting a little run with the 1s. His newfound versatility could really benefit him come cut day.
- It's worth noting Isaiah Hodgins made a really nice catch down the sidelines on a pass from Case Keenum. Hodgins will need to make a lot more of those to jump a long line ahead of him in that wide receiver room.
- The big injury update on Saturday was learning Micah Hyde is day-to-day with a sore hip. Hyde landed hard trying to make an interception during practice on Friday. After lying on the ground for a bit, he walked off with a noticeable limp and was eventually taken away from the practice fields in a cart. It appears things looked worse than they are.
- Dion Dawkins missed his second-straight practice for personal reasons. Sean McDermott said beforehand that the hope is Dawkins will return in the next few days.
- Rodger Saffold, Ryan Bates, Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow remained out of practice as they deal with injuries.
- The Bills are off Sunday before returning to practice at St. John Fisher Monday morning.
Our first injury scare of training camp coming Friday morning.
That overshadowing everything else that happened as the Bills returned to the practice field after their first day off of camp.
- Micah Hyde suffered a hip/glute injury during practice and is still being evaluated, according to the team. The injury occurred during 11-on-11 action, when Hyde leaped in the air to intercept a Josh Allen pass and came crashing down to the ground. He stayed face-first on the grass as fellow safety Jordan Poyer immediately signaled for the training staff to come over. Hyde took off his helmet as he began to get evaluated on the field. After a minute or two, Hyde slowly got to his feet and limped to the sideline under his own power. After standing on the sideline for a short time, Hyde sat in the passenger seat of a cart and was taken off the field. Jaquan Johnson took Hyde's place as practice resumed.
- Another loss for the offensive line on Friday, as Dion Dawkins was excused from practice for personal reasons. Rodger Saffold and Ryan Bates remained out and Spencer Brown continued to only participate in individual work with the OL. That made the first team unit the most unique we've seen to date in camp. Tommy Doyle was at left tackle for Dawkins, with Greg Mancz, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, and David Quessenberry filling out the rest of the guys up front.
- I'd give the defense the edge over the offense on Day 5. On one play, Dane Jackson had good coverage deep down the field on Gabe Davis, with the two jumping for the ball at the same time and it getting tipped into the arms of Poyer for the INT. Damar Hamlin also picked off a pass from Case Keenum.
- Where things really bunkered down was on one particular goal line series, where the offense failed to punch it in for a handful of plays. Some of those were likely defensive pass interference or holding penalties, but others good coverage or poor execution. Allen hit Dawson Knox in the back of the end zone, but the tight end couldn't get both feet inbounds. Eventually, Allen ran it in himself to punctuate the drive.
- Few nuggets special teams nuggets from new coordinator Matthew Smiley. While holding has been a big focus when discussing the punter competition, Smiley said with a smile that punting will be the main focus of the punter competition. However, he added that holding is important because it leads to scoring points and that both Matt Haack and Matt Araiza are doing well in that department.
- In regards to the return battle, Smiley said that a players usage on offense will be factored in when deciding who will win that job. There doesn't appear to be a mandate that the return man only does that primarily, but it is worth noting that Andre Roberts had essentially no role offensively when the Bills return man for two seasons and Isaiah McKenzie only saw 30%+ of the offensive snaps once when he also held the return duties last year. It looks like McKenzie will be more of an important piece to the Bills offense, so we will see if that opens the door for someone else to be the primary return man.
- Bills finally put the pads on for the first time this training camp Saturday morning.
The Bills offense answered a tough Tuesday with one heck of a Wednesday morning.
The air attack was cooking plus more injury news, insight on the offensive line shuffling, and more in my Day 4 observations from St. John Fisher.
- Josh Allen was absolutely on fire today, with a lot of work being done in the red zone. Looking at my notes, I see multiple touchdown tosses to Gabriel Davis and Dawson Knox, as well as another to Isaiah McKenzie. To be honest, there are certainly some I just didn't jot down because of the frequency of TDs. This was easily the best day for Allen and the offense here during the first grouping of training camp and even more impressive considering how poorly things went the day before.
- Speaking of Davis, I think I can only remember one pass I saw him not catch over these first four days, and it was an under throw from Allen. He just seems to reel in any and everything in the vicinity, plucking the ball out of the air. Expectations are very high for Davis and he just seems to be handling it seamlessly.
- The offenses' dominating day really began in 1-on-1 drills with WRs vs. DBs. The pass-catchers seemed to win every rep, with some routes leaving the DBs in the dust. Some of the best in that category were Davis and McKenzie.
- While Stefon Diggs vs. Kaiir Elam was once again fun to watch, Siran Neal is who grabbed my attention more when covering Diggs. Neal blanketed Diggs down the field during their lone 1-on-1 battle, with Neal knocking the ball out of Diggs hands to prevent a would-be TD. The two were matched up again during red zone team work, with Neal leveraging the sideline very well, leading Diggs to make the catch, but out of bounds. Neal is not often talked about in terms of his prowess in coverage, but I think he's done a very good job against the Bills best on the outside early in camp.
- Another absence prompting more movement on the Bills offensive line. Ryan Bates didn't practice, pushing Greg Mancz into the left guard spot with the 1s. With Rodger Saffold still on the NFI list and Spencer Brown still not participating in full team work, the right side of the OL had Tommy Doyle at right tackle and David Quessenberry at right guard. I asked offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey before practice if the movement on the OL was strictly injury-based or if it was to try and find their best starting 5 and he said a bit of both. Clearly Quessenberry and Doyle have been the biggest benefactors of guys missing time and the longer the likes of Saffold and Brown aren't able to be on the field fully, the more interesting things get up front.
- Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow once again missed practice as they're dealing with soreness. This marks three-straight days out for Crowder and two for Kumerow. With as crowded and competitive as the WR position is, any time off during camp can only hurt a players chances of not just seeing the field, but making the team.
- Bills get their first off day of training camp on Thursday, with practice resuming Friday at St. John Fisher University. Pads are expected to come on Saturday.
The Bills defense has gotten the better of the offense early in training camp and that continued Tuesday morning.
I'll dive into that plus more offensive line movement, injury updates, and daily standouts all packed into my Day 3 observations
- Josh Allen and the offense had their worst day of this early going of camp. There were misfires, drops, and overall poor execution across the board. At one point following an unsuccessful period, Allen walked an extra 10-15 yards on his own while visibly quite frustrated.
- It wasn't all bad by any means, with some nice plays made by Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, and James Cook, who once again showcased his catching and cutting abilities, leaving one defender absolutely out of his shoes in the open field.
- The 1-on-1 portion of the practice was quite entertaining, headlined by a few battles between Diggs and Kaiir Elam. The first had the rookie in good position, but Allen connected with his top target. The second go around was my favorite moment of the morning. Elam was blanketed on Diggs the entire way, but Diggs was able to catch the ball with Elam's arms there was well. The two battled for the ball all the way out of bounds, with Elam eventually ripping it out. I'm not exactly sure how the play would've been ruled in game action, but I'd call it as close to a tie of a rep in practice as you'll find in a 1-on-1 drill, which certainly is a big win for the young cornerback against the elite WR.
- I'll give a shoutout to Isaiah Hodgins for his play in the 1-on-1 setting, making a few nice contested catches. He'll need a lot more of that in order to work his way up the depth chart and towards a roster spot.
- Khalil Shakir's had a strong beginning of camp and was rewarded Tuesday with some time with Allen and the 1st team offense.
- Cam Lewis was another player that has stood out early in camp and stacked another strong day Tuesday morning. Players and coaches alike praise the effort and competitiveness of the former UB cornerback, who has made an early case to fight his way onto the roster among a crowded position group.
- The offensive line once again saw changes, with David Quessenberry back at right tackle and Tommy Doyle playing left guard with the 1st team. Spencer Brown was with the 1s at RT early in practice, but once again was on the sideline during most of 11-on-11 work.
- WE SAW MATT ARAIZA HOLD ON FIELD GOALS! Yes, the 'Punt God' was finally seen doing the other aspect of the job. While I certainly can't speak to the specific technical precision he was doing it, Tyler Bass made every attempt with Araiza holding, so that means passing marks for me. Again, while harping on holding might seem silly, Brandon Beane was open about that being the reason Matt Haack kept his job last season despite struggling punting. If Araiza doesn't disrupt the success of Bass, this truly will come down to a punting competition.
- Jake Kumerow added to the injury list, joining fellow WR Jamison Crowder in dealing with what Sean McDermott called "soreness." This was the first day Kumerow missed, but 2nd in a row for Crowder. Rodger Saffold remains out with a rib injury. I did see Ike Boettger for the first time, walking around a bit as he returns from an achilles injury suffered December 26th of last season.
- I know my video of Tre'Davious White's rehab really got people excited Monday, but I was focused on the offense today, so was not able to see what, if anything, White was doing. Micah Hyde said that the CB is working very hard and he wouldn't bet against White returning stronger than ever.
- Bills back on the practice field Wednesday morning at 9:45 a.m. at St. John Fisher University
Day 2 of Bills training camp had the defense once again seeming to have the upper hand over the offense.
A few non-marquee names winning the day plus more encouraging signs from Tre'Davious White.
Here's my notes from this morning's practice.
- Seeing Tre'Davious White on the stationary bike Sunday morning was our first glance at where he was in his rehab from a torn ACL. A day later I watched him work with the training staff on a side field for a long time. He was doing agility drills, including jumping and landing on his surgically repaired knee. Plus he even was running sprints with a parachute adding resistance. We still don't know exactly the timeline that White's working on, but seeing this type of movement before the calendar pushes to August has me more optimistic than before camp started that the Bills just might have their Pro Bowl CB on the field week one in Los Angeles.
- Dawson Knox is trying not to think about his pending free agency after this season, but made it clear what he hopes happens. "I've definitely communicated that I want to be here for an extended amount of time," Knox said after practice Monday morning. The tight end recently bought a house in Orchard Park and said he's not looking to move after just one year in it. He's coming off a breakout season where he had 9 touchdown receptions.
- Rodger Saffold continues to do some light work with the training staff off to the side as he begins camp on the NFI list with a rib injury suffered in a car crash. While Spencer Brown has been on the field the first two days of camp, he still does not appear to be back to full-go, seen doing some jogging off to the side during some team sessions.
- Overall, the first two days of camp have been a real shuffling of the deck on the offensive line. While Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, and Ryan Bates have remained constant in their traditional spots, there's been a few faces seeing time in the other positions. Cody Ford was Saffold's replacement Sunday and David Quessenberry for Brown. A day later, Tommy Doyle was subbing for Brown with Quessenberry getting run at guard. Other waves of the OL also had things mixed around. I wouldn't read too too much into this just two days into camp, but knowing the Bills love of position flexibility and competition, maybe things aren't as concrete up front as originally believed before camp began.
- Defense had the better of the offense for the majority of practice for a 2nd straight day. Josh Allen and Co. were up and down, with Allen and Knox apparent miscommunication leading to a Dane Jackson interception and an Allen overthrow reeled in by Jordan Poyer. On the flip side, Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis made some nice grabs from Allen to help even things out a bit.
- Khalil Shakir stood out to me the most offensively on Day 2. The rookie made a nice catch on a ball behind him early in practice and then ended things with a smooth sideline grab. Shakir had good moments on Day 1 as well, so a very strong start for the 5th round pick.
- Tavon Austin also made a few good plays as he tries to fight his way through an extremely crowded WR group
- Nick McCloud was the standout defensively. He drove hard on a ball towards the sideline and reeled it in for an interception. Then later he intercepted Matt Barkley and turned it up field the other way for what might have been a pick six. McCloud making plays is a great start for someone pushing to round out the CB group.
- Cam Lewis is in a similar boat and made multiple pass breakups during the morning practice. What Lewis brings to the table is the ability to play outside corner as well as nickel. Flashing at both spots will be critical to his roster chances
- One house-keeping note: the Bills signed guard Jordan Simmons before practice. He played in five games as a back-up with the Raiders last season. Bringing in another guard makes sense with Saffold out right now.
Bills training camp is officially underway!
The team returned to St. John Fisher University for the first time since 2019, with players and coaches alike giving their approval for a few weeks away from the home facility in Orchard Park.
Here are some observations from what I saw on the field during the first practice of camp.
- Tre'Davious White was seen working on a stationary bike off to the side. This is the first time we've seen White doing any sort of rehab since suffering a torn ACL last season on Thanksgiving night against the Saints. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott continue to simply say the cornerback is "on track" while not going into detail as to what the timeline truly is. Still, seeing White doing some form of movement is an encouraging sign right out the gate of camp.
- Rodger Saffold is on the non-football injury list to start camp after bruising his ribs in a recent car accident. Saffold was out on the field with the team, but did not participate. Beane noted that Saffold's even had trouble breathing because of the injury. His absence further opening up things on the Bills offensive line, a position group with a lot of guys vying for 8-10 spots.
- Spencer Brown was participating after missing all of the offseason programs as he returned from an injury. McDermott wouldn't go as far as to say Brown's behind because of the missed time, but acknowledged the positive sign of his progress to be out there day one. While most seem to write Brown's name in pen as the starting right tackle, McDermott is all about availability and competition, so keep an eye on if the second year player can hold onto a spot he elevated too as a rookie.
- Speaking of rookies, James Cook had a fine first day of camp. The second round pick showed off his touted abilities in the receiving game, catching a few touchdown passes. From what we've heard from Beane and others since joining the team, Cook catching the ball should become a regular occurrence.
- PLAY OF THE DAY: A big man interception! Defensive tackle Tim Settle got in the way of a Case Keenum pass and reeled it in. Settle then even churned out some yards after the pick. The defensive sideline erupted as did the fans in the stands at St. John Fisher. What a start for the free agent addition.