The Bills weekend rookie minicamp gave the newbies a chance to immerse themselves into the NFL, just a week after they were drafted or signed to free agent contracts. And it gave the Bills coaching staff a chance to form some first impressions on the first year players.
Watching from the sidelines, it's possible to make some initial observations on the rookie class as well. Here are the top three rookies with a chance to impact the Bills in 2015, and three other rookies to keep an eye on as the team moves through the offseason.
POTENTIAL IMPACT ROOKIES:
OL JOHN MILLER
Buffalo's third round draft pick from Louisville probably has the best chance to extensive playing time in the upcoming season. In fact, the Bills have already put Miller with the first team offensive line during some of their drills in the voluntary offseason conditioning program.
"We got him in there and I saw him today running with the first team," Rex Ryan said Wednesday. "That doesn't mean that he stays there, but he's already fitting in to where you put him out there with the ones and mentally that's pretty impressive. He goes in and it wasn't like we had to slow things down because he was in there."
Miller got a lot of individual attention from new OL Coach Aaron Kromer during the rookie minicamp. And he consistently demonstrated quick feet and good movement skills when asked to pull.
He started 47-games at left guard over the last four years at Louisville. It's not at all a stretch to envision Miller keeping that streak going this fall with the Bills.
TE NICK O'LEARY
O'Leary has the good fortune to wind up on a Buffalo roster that was thin at the tight end spot after the departure of Scott Chandler and Lee Smith a few months ago. Now, the first of Buffalo's two picks in the sixth round has a chance to get a lot of snaps in Greg Roman's new offense, which includes several multiple tight-end formations.
O'Leary, Florida State's all-time leader in receptions by a tight end, says he's not concerned with playing time yet. He's focused on learning the plays.
"The playbook is a little tough," he said Tuesday night, in an appearance on The John Murphy Show. "But once I get studying it a lot more and more time goes by, I think I'll get caught up with everybody else and be able to go out there without thinking."
Charles Clay will no doubt be the featured tight end in the Buffalo offense. But O'Leary should challenge Chris Gragg and MarQueis Gray for the second tight end spot.
"The other guys here are great players," O'Leary says. "If I get my opportunity to go out there and show them what I can do, and learn this playbook so I know what I'm doing out there, I hope to get out there on the field."
CB RONALD DARBY
With his speed and shear athleticism, Ronald Darby merits a long look from the Bills coaching staff and he'll get it. At the rookie minicamp, his burst and explosiveness made him a standout. Rex Ryan talked about it in his review of the three day rookie season.
"Ronald, with his quickness and change of direction was impressive," Ryan said. And the Bills 2nd round pick is getting extra attention from DBs Coach Donnie Henderson, especially on his ball skills.
The Bills seem reluctant to try Darby inside as a slot corner. The decision makers believe strongly in Nickell Robey and Ron Brooks as the inside CBs. So Darby's 2015 impact may hinge on the health of starters Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore.
THREE OTHER ROOKIES TO WATCH:
With OTAs and the mandatory minicamp still to come over the next five weeks, and then training camp in late July, there are plenty of opportunities for the undrafted rookies to make a strong bid for a roster spot. Here are three undrafteds who have already made an impression:
WR ANDRE DAVIS
The South Florida product had a good weekend during the rookie minicamp. During 7-on-7 work, he made one leaping grab down the sideline, extending his 6-1 frame high into the air to make a leaping catch behind Ron Darby, before he fell out of bounds with the ball.
Davis specialized in leaping catches during his college career. In fact, he missed four games in his senior season at South Florida after injuring his sternum while high-pointing a ball. He did catch last seven touchdowns last year. He's a candidate to challenge for playing time this preseason in a crowded field of wide receivers.
S WES MILLER
Already one of the great stories on the Bills roster, Miller was a tryout player invited to the rookie minicamp last week to fill out the roster. He showed so much awareness and instinctive ability, he was signed to the roster the day after the camp ended.
Miller walked on to the UTEP football team before earning a scholarship, so defying the odds is a familiar feeling for him. At 5-9, his stature has held him back throughout his football career. And when he was flying around the practice field with the Bills last weekend the comparisons to another former S Jim Leonhard were readily apparent. He reminded observers of the former Bill, Raven and Jet, and was a favorite of Rex Ryan.
"He does look like Jim Leonhard and if he's half the player we'll sign up for that as well," Ryan said about Miller. "He does have some of the same characteristics of Jim Leonhard. He's smart, sharp as a tack.'
DE CEDRIC REED
Another undrafted free agent who caught the eye of the coaching staff was DE Cedric Reed from Texas. The Bills did not draft any defensive ends so there's not much traffic in front of Reed when it comes to new additions to the position.
Reed is rebounding from a rough senior season for the Longhorns where he played through a knee problem that required surgery. But he did have double-digit sacks in his junior season and was All Big-12. With his ability and big-game experience, Reed is likely to make some impressive plays in preseason that might earn him a second look from the coaching staff.