Top 5 things we learned from Bills rookie minicamp

Posted May 11, 2018

Buffalo's 2018 draft class and a host of undrafted rookie and tryout players got rookie minicamp underway on Friday. Here's what we learned.

1 – Spending extra time with Edmunds
Coach McDermott made it clear at his press conference prior to the team’s first minicamp practice that first-round pick Tremaine Edmunds would be entrusted with running the defensive huddle and getting teammates lined up properly pre-snap during team periods. It’s all a precursor to becoming the starting middle linebacker, provided he makes steady progress between now and September.

What was interesting at practice was shortly after individual position drills ended for the linebackers, all the linebackers ran over to the secondary practice field to go through special teams drills. All the linebackers except Edmunds.

Edmunds stayed behind to go over pre-snap calls based on the alignment of the opposing offense with linebackers coach Bob Babich and coach McDermott.

“You’ll see him out here commanding the huddle,” said McDermott of Edmunds. “That’s a big part of the evaluation. A guy who is a signal caller and whether he can come in and have great command of the huddle on the defensive side in this case for Tremaine and then execute at a high level.”

Babich and McDermott spent a good 15 minutes with him going over calls and keys with Edmunds, who seemed relatively comfortable making calls out loud. There were only one or two instances in which Edmunds had to go through a pre-snap read a second time.

And for anyone ready to anoint Edmunds as the starting middle linebacker, don’t go saying it to Buffalo’s head coach.  

“There’s a lot of time between now and the time we name starters,” McDermott cautioned. “Tremaine is another young man who respects that and respects what it takes to start at a level like this in particular for the Buffalo Bills. There’s a lot that has to happen before he puts himself in that position. The number one thing is he has to earn it. That goes for everyone on our roster. This is a place where we earn things.”

2 - Acclimating and evaluating Josh Allen
It was hard for eyes not to gravitate toward the Bills top pick in the draft. QB Josh Allen got a lot of work the first day with tryout player Ryan Zapoticky the only other quarterback participating in rookie minicamp.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll worked closely with Allen throughout the practice session and was frequently providing instruction and commentary after each play during team drills. Most of it appeared positive, and Allen welcomes the constant feedback.

“I hope so. I love it. He’s got a lot of enthusiasm in him,” said Allen of Daboll. “Obviously, he’s been around a lot of great quarterbacks, so he knows what he’s doing and what he’s talking about, so anything that he says I take very seriously. I want to be molded by him and anything that he says I hope to grasp that concept or whatever he’s talking about and embedding it in my mind and then doing it on the field.”

Both Daboll and head coach Sean McDermott don’t expect Allen to be perfect, but they will be pushing the rookie to make daily strides with his game and the offensive scheme.

“We embrace the growth mindset and we believe in learning on the job,” McDermott said. “If you take that approach of continual improvement it’s been proven over the years that you’ll end up closer to where you want to be in terms of your goals.

“Similar to the rest of the players I’m looking for Josh to come out and get a feel and comfort level for how we do things in our program. Not only on the field, but off the field as well, and what it means to be a Buffalo Bill and the standard that our players have created over the last year. He has to really acclimate himself to that standard as quickly as he can.”

For the most part Allen was on target with his passes during both one-on-one receiver-defensive back drills and during team periods. His only throws that were off the mark came between the numbers on a couple of crossing patterns.

Allen connected on a pair of 50-yard bombs, one to Robert Foster and the other to tryout WR Josh Simmons out of Prairie View.

3 – Don’t overload the players
The Bills coaching staff wants to get the best evaluation of the 55 players they have on hand this weekend. To do that they’ve made a point of keeping things basic with respect to scheme and assignments during team periods.

“We keep it fairly simple, just so they can come out and get acclimated to what we’re doing, but also so we can evaluate them playing at top speed through the weekend,” said McDermott. “To inundate them with a lot of scheme or a lot of volume wouldn’t be in their best interest or in ours from an evaluation standpoint.”

Toward the back half of the first practice session it was evident the coaching staff was trying to get a longer look at some of the undrafted free agent signings and tryout players, as the second team units saw more of the field late.

4 – Defensive draft picks
Seeing Harrison Phillips line up at defensive tackle or Tremaine Edmunds at middle linebacker were anything but surprising. But there was some intrigue as to where fourth-round pick Taron Johnson and fifth-round pick Siran Neal would line up.

Though coach McDermott mentioned that Johnson would start his work in the slot with the Bills, that will wait until the OTA practices. With the team just running base defense in the early stages of rookie minicamp, Johnson lined up on the boundary at left cornerback.

Neal, who played cornerback as a senior at Jacksonville State, and some linebacker and safety as well during his college career, was lined up at strong safety for Buffalo.

Once the defense begins running nickel packages in practices, it’s expected that Johnson will move inside for reps.

Provided Neal gets a handle on safety in the Bills defensive scheme, that might not be the only place the rookie lines up.

“(Safeties) coach (Bobby) Babich and I talked about it and right now safety is my home spot,” Neal told “He said once I get that down he’s going to move me around to other positions.”

5 – Separation for Proehl
While there were a few receivers who turned in positive plays in the initial stages of rookie minicamp, seventh-round pick Austin Proehl demonstrated a knack for gaining separation. A task that is anything but easy when you don’t have the benefit of a broad frame to wall off defenders from the ball.

Proehl, though just 5-9 and 182 pounds, is a refined route runner and made effective use of his quickness and change of direction skills to make plays on the ball.