Bills OTA notes - Week 1

Posted May 18, 2017

The Bills put a wrap on their first week of OTA practices with tempo and playmaking happening in all phases.

It was a welcome sight to see. Not since last summer’s training camp has LB Reggie Ragland been doing any football-related activity. This week in OTAs the payoff for the long road back from a torn ACL was going through individual position drills with his fellow linebackers.

“It felt great just to get back out there on the field, especially this week, just as an individual, to get my legs back up under me,” said Ragland. “We’re going to take it day by day. It just depends on how my knee feels. For the most part, it feels great. What the staff has done for me, has been fantastic. Everyone’s been great. So, I’m thankful for that. To have the type of people around me to help me get back like those guys.”

Ragland knows he’s going to be a bit behind in terms of physical reps as he’s not yet been cleared to participate in the team periods of practice like 7-on-7 or 11-on-11. So he’s doing what he can to stay up to speed on all the installs going on right now.

“I’m doing everything that I can control. Showing up all the time, coming to rehab, learning the playbook as much as I can because they know that its different from being out there on the field then being in the classroom,” said Ragland. “I’m doing everything that I can, I’m asking questions every play on the sideline, I’m asking coach Frazier what the call is. I’m talking out loud to myself, telling myself that we got this and got that. I’m just controlling what I can control right now. I know that once I get out there on the field I can control a little bit more.”

Preston Brown has been manning middle linebacker with the first unit as he has each of his first three NFL seasons. When Ragland is cleared it’s expected that a battle for the middle linebacker position will ensue knowing Ragland is learning only the ‘mike’ linebacker role in this defensive scheme.

The one who does not win that starting job stands a good chance of being moved to the strong side linebacker role. For Ragland all he cares about is being on the field when the games count.

“I told the coaches, I will do whatever they need me to do to get on the field,” Ragland said. “If I’ve got to slide over, it’s not going to stop me from working my tail off every day. If I have to do that, I will. I’m a competitor and I love this game. I love to play.”

White part of cornerback rotation
When the first defensive unit has stepped out on the field for team portions of practice the cornerback contingent has largely been a rotation of three players. Ronald Darby, Kevon Seymour and rookie first-round pick Tre’Davious White.

The first couple of days of OTAs, White and Seymour were rotating in and out to get reps with the first unit. On Thursday, White and Seymour rotated with Darby as well at left cornerback.

White admits his first day of OTA practice went a bit faster than he expected.

“The first day that I got in with the first group it was like a blur, but now after a couple of reps and sets I’m comfortable,” he said. “I know what I’m doing now. I know where my help is. I know what the linebackers are doing as well as the nickel and the safeties. I feel like if I continue to know what everybody else’s job is it’ll make my job a lot easier.”  

White has been getting consistent feedback from Darby and Seymour and it’s been invaluable.

“I couldn’t ask for better,” he said. “Those guys have been 100 percent supportive. I talk to Kevon and Ronald after every rep. We want to know what each of us is thinking and what we see and what guys are giving us on the field so when the other guy goes on the field it’s an easier task.”

One of the better offensive plays on Thursday came on a red zone pass play. Tyrod Taylor found TE Nick O’Leary, who slipped behind the linebacker and Taylor hit him in stride en route to the end zone for a 20-yard score.

Taylor also threaded the needle putting the ball between three defenders to hit Philly Brown in the middle of the field for a 15-yard pickup.

Andre Holmes pulled in a 25-yard pass from Taylor after getting outside position down the left sideline.

Jonathan Williams made a nice grab over the middle on a pass from Taylor as well.

Defensively Ronald Darby had position over the top and broke up Taylor’s attempted touchdown pass to Brown in the back of the end zone.

Shareece Wright had a nice interception on a Cardale Jones pass to the end zone that was intended for Walt Powell.

And Preston Brown came up with the fumble after O’Leary was stripped of the ball following a reception.

Draft pick update
Second-round pick Dion Dawkins had some big shoes to fill Thursday. With LT Cordy Glenn still rehabbing and not cleared to participate, the coaching staff put Dawkins at the starting left tackle spot. Early in the week Dawkins lost his share of battles with Jerry Hughes, but got better as the week went along.

Fellow second-round pick Zay Jones unfortunately sustained a knee injury Tuesday and missed the rest of the OTAs. According to the team it’s a sprained knee and Jones is week to week. How much more of the OTAs and/or mandatory minicamp that he could miss is still to be determined.

Jones and Tre’Davious White both signed their rookie contracts Thursday.

Both Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo are working together at outside linebacker with the second unit.

Nate Peterman was not in attendance. He was at the NFL Rookie premier in Los Angeles.

Starters on special teams
The core of Buffalo’s special teams units has seen some turnover. Gone are Marcus Easley, Corey Graham and Nickell Robey-Coleman among others. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman is working to pull a new core group together this spring to team with players like Lorenzo Alexander, Colt Anderson and Ramon Humber.

“We all know that the change and transitioning of players is part of this business,” Crossman said. “You’d like to be able to build something where you have a gradual progression of new in knowing as guys age they may move out because of age and because they might develop as a position guy. So if you have competitions throughout the roster it’s really going to help you out, in my phase, in terms of having that next guy ready to step in.”

It’s clear that head coach Sean McDermott values special teams play as there are several starters or potential starters on offense or defense playing on special teams during OTAs.

Ronald Darby and Andre Holmes have been two standouts thus far as gunners on punt coverage. Both have been adept at getting down the field and creating problems for return men.

Speaking of return men the primary punt return candidates thus far have been Brandon Tate, Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White. Walt Powell is also in the mix.

Buffalo’s second week of OTA practices begins next Tuesday.