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Bills Today: Position battles intensify versus Eagles

Posted Aug 18, 2017

Position battles at cornerback, right guard and right tackle continued through the Bills second preseason game Thursday night with no roles expected to be finalized soon.


Here’s the Bills news of note for Aug. 18th.

1 – Position battles intensify against Eagles
Time is growing short for the position battles across the Bills’ roster. In the second preseason game against the Eagles, this was certainly apparent. At several key positions, the battles were on full display in the first half, and even raged on into the second half. Coach Sean McDermott said every position is being contested.

“We’re always going to evaluate everything,” said McDermott. “That goes for every position.”

The longest spanning battles of the night occurred on the offensive line. At both right guard and right tackle, a rotation was evident for most of the game. John Miller started at right guard, while Jordan Mills started at right tackle. Every other series Vlad Ducasse would sub in at right guard, and Dion Dawkins would slide in at right tackle. This rotation continued into the third quarter.

Miller and Mills helped themselves, showing they could be stable options at their position. Ducasse had a tough game; he had his hands full with the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox in the first half. However, he did play better in the second half as he settled into the game.  

The battle at cornerback was blown wide open this past week when Ronald Darby was traded to the Eagles. Seventh-year corner Shareece Wright started the game opposite of Tre’Davious White. He played several series in the first quarter, before he gave way to Kevon Seymour. The second-year corner finished the half.

“I think they did well,” said Preston Brown of Wright and Seymour. “They stayed in elite position and never gave up the big play. Everybody came down and broke on the ball well so I think they did pretty well on the outside.

In the second half, new arrival E.J. Gaines showed that he may soon compete for the job too. Playing the entire third quarter, the former Ram had an interception, three tackles and two pass break-ups. His play could catapult him into the thick of the battle at right outside cornerback.  

2 – LeSean McCoy shows class is permanent
Although LeSean McCoy saw few snaps during the second preseason game against the Eagles, he looked ready for the regular season. McCoy carried the ball four times for 21 yards. He started the game with a 13-yard run, in which he cutback through the Eagles oncoming defenders. McDermott was impressed with the veteran running back.

“He popped some runs in there,” said McDermott. “I think they gave him some good holes, and I know he wanted to play being back in Philadelphia. It was important to him, and it was important to all of us that he gets into a rhythm now, and gets ready for week 1. So, I thought he popped some nice runs, and had some nice pick-ups in protection.”

McCoy’s playmaking ability was on full display Thursday night. On his four carries, he used his agility and vision to get up field quickly. In offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s scheme, the Bills will largely use zone blocking. This means that running backs will be asked to find small seams in the defense, as they’re stretched laterally.

“I know he was excited to get back on the field and make some plays in the running game,” said Tyrod Taylor of McCoy. “I wasn’t able to get him going in the passing game as well, but he was out there making plays like he normally does and it’s good to see him out there on the field.”

With McCoy’s vision, and ability to find holes quickly, he should continue his productive play in 2017. If Thursday night is any indication, McCoy is certainly ready to flourish this year.    

3 – Anquan Boldin thinks Bills have strong WR group
The Bills wide receiving corps has seen a far bit of change since the end of last season. The Bills lost Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Justin Hunter to free agency. They re-built the group by signing Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, and Rod Streater. They also drafted Zay Jones in the second-round of 2017 draft. The change didn’t end as training camp began. The Bills brought in Anquan Boldin and Jordan Matthews, and traded Sammy Watkins. Despite this turnover, Boldin thinks the Bills wide receivers are a strong group.

“I definitely think we have a number of guys that you can put out on the field that’ll make plays,” said Boldin. “The thing I like about the group is they come out and they compete every day; they’re guys that are hungry, guys that want to make a name for themselves in this league. Any time you have guys that are willing to work, put in the work, the sky is the limit for them.”

The Bills wide receiving corps is a rather unproven unit. Outside of the veteran Boldin, and the industrious Matthews, the receivers have little experience in the NFL. Despite this, the unit is full of players who have the potential to succeed. Players like Holmes, Streater and Brown have flashed in the NFL before, but are now looking to show consistent productivity.

In the second preseason game, Jones and Boldin were given the start on the outside, and they look to be a lock for the starting line-up. Jones played the entire first half, and got almost all his snaps on the outside. Holmes and Brown saw time in the second quarter, and continued playing into the third. Streater left the game injured in the fourth quarter, after showing that he certainly had the talent to make the team.

Above all, the Bills have several receivers who all have the ability to be productive this season. However, it will take time to finalize the roles with Boldin and Matthews late arrivals to the roster.