What we learned at Bills minicamp - day 3

Posted Jun 15, 2017

Thursday brought an end to Bills minicamp, but there were some notable items from the final session of the spring.

Team believes they’re better
Each and every year the Bills take part in 10 OTA practices and three minicamp practices before getting almost six weeks off prior to training camp. There is plenty of classroom time mixed in as well. What’s different this year is not so much what they did, but how they did it.

Head coach Sean McDermott has successfully indoctrinated a playoff caliber approach to the process of getting better on and off the field every single day in an effort to pull this team together and make it perform like a well-oiled machine. So at the close of minicamp Thursday players saw a difference.

“It was hypercompetitive out there,” said Eric Wood after his ninth career minicamp. “There were a lot of guys trying to get better, a lot of guys competing. I would say it was the most competitive one I’ve been around. A lot of guys fighting for jobs. That happens when there’s a lot of turnover. Guys see openings and it paid off. We saw big strides from a lot of players out here and I thought it was run incredibly well.”

“I think it went well on both sides of the ball. Even on special teams we all competed,” said Tyrod Taylor. “We tried to make our team better in three mandatory days that we had on the field. I think we came out of (Thursday) going into this break before training camp a better team. We’ve just got to continue to keep taking steps forward, stay healthy in the off time and come back with the right mindset going into training camp.”

“As for the intensity of practice, we’re going out there to get our work done,” said McDermott. “I don’t believe in doing anything but that for any other reason than to win football games.”

Quarterbacks behind Taylor battling
It would take something monumentally special from one of the backup quarterbacks to unseat Tyrod Taylor as the top signal caller on the Bills depth chart, but there could be a battle brewing behind Taylor for the number two role.

“It’s open competition for every spot,” said McDermott. “We all have to earn our spot and I’m encouraged by the body of work that T.J., Nathan and Cardale have put out there. So, this period of time as a football team, when we finished (Thursday) through until we report for training camp will be critical for us.”

T.J. Yates was the most consistent of the three backup quarterbacks during minicamp. He was the only one to put together a successful two-minute drill on Wednesday and has demonstrated a command of the scheme. His decision making has been solid for the most part as well.

“T.J. is experienced in this offense,” said Taylor. “Some things have changed since he’s left it and since I left it in Baltimore. But us putting our minds together and talking through things together on the field and in the film room, just bouncing ideas off each other I think is helping both of us. I know it’s helping me. I’m going to keep using his knowledge about this offense moving forward as well.”

With respect to reps, Cardale Jones has been getting the fewest in the group. Through the course of the three-day minicamp during team segments Taylor gets three reps, Yates often followed and got the next two snaps. Then Jones would come on for one snap, essentially taking Yates’ third snap, and Nate Peterman would get the last three.

On occasion Jones would be rotated up for his one snap, taking it right after Taylor was done with his three plays, but it was usually just one snap per 15-play segment.

In the final 11-on-11 team period it was clear the coaching staff was trying to get their rookie quarterback as many snaps as possible. Peterman got the last 13 snaps of practice as he and the offense put together a long drive, but the last pass to the end zone was tipped in the air and intercepted by Charles James.

Holmes happy for the opportunity
When he was in Oakland he was buried on the depth chart behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Since signing with Buffalo however, Andre Holmes has done nothing but run with the starting unit. Holmes didn’t miss one practice session and for the most part took advantage of his opportunities on the field.

His best play Thursday came on an angle route as Taylor found him for a 30-yard pass play near the right sideline. Holmes and Taylor have had a lot of time on the field together this spring and it’s paying off.

“We’ve been able to develop a lot, whether it was before the OTA period, before phase two, in this minicamp,” Holmes said. “There are always different situations in which we’ve learned together and as a whole group. We’ve been doing a great job of that.”

“He can bring a lot to the table,” said Taylor of Holmes. “I haven’t had a big target other than maybe Justin Hunter since I’ve been here. He’s very comfortable at the position he’s in now. Continue to keep working, he’s making a lot of plays downfield. He can stretch the defense and go up and get the jump ball. He’s a complete receiver.”

Kicker competition
Many see undrafted rookie Austin Rehkow as primary competition for Colton Schmidt, but lately Rehkow, who can also kick field goals and kick off has been asked to kick field goals in minicamp. He only attempted three kicks over the three days in one special teams period, but made all of them from pedestrian distances of 26, 30 and 32 yards.

Veteran kicker Stephen Hauschka kicked earlier in the week and was a perfect five for five. He was good from distances of 36, 39, 42, 47 and 53 yards.

Meanwhile Colton Schmidt has responded well to having some punting competition behind him in the spring practices. On Thursday he had some moonshots during a punt coverage segment of practice. His hang time and distance were both consistent as he had just one mis-hit ball out of six to eight attempts.

--The competition continues at the starting right guard spot. Incumbent John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse continue to rotate with the first group.

--Tre’Davious White had another big play Thursday with an interception in an early red zone team period taking it the other way for what likely would’ve been a pick six.

--Charles Clay showed good hands when Taylor had to release the ball quick and hard as the tight end came up with the reception for a touchdown during red zone work.

--Taylor and Clay also teamed up to beat a blitz where the defense brought seven as Taylor found the tight end, who slipped behind the blitz and was wide open at the second level.

--Rod Streater had been running largely with the third unit, but moved up to the second string late in the week of minicamp practices.

--With Shareece Wright sidelined with a calf injury Charles James stepped in for him as a second team corner opposite Kevon Seymour.

--Jerel Worthy has been disruptive up front. He had consistent penetration on run plays and added a sack on Thursday.

Tyrod camp planned for the break
Tyrod Taylor confirmed that he will be setting up a Taylor throwing camp for his offensive teammates.

“I do plan on doing that. We haven’t solidified a date,” he said. “We just want to make sure it fits everyone’s schedule. I’m definitely going to get everybody together at some point during this break. It’ll be in Georgia.”

The Bills will be reporting to training camp on July 26th to be there in time for the first practice on the 27th.