1 - Separation at QB?It was a relatively minor change, but a change nonetheless with respect to the quarterback competition. Through the first week of camp, Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron have been alternating with the first team offense every day. If Peterman was working with the starters one day, McCarron would work with them the next day. That changed at Thursday's practice.
The day prior it was AJ McCarron with the first team and Nathan Peterman with the second team. At Thursday's morning practice that order was repeated, giving McCarron a second consecutive day with the first team. Is it a sign that things have shifted in McCarron's favor? Perhaps.
Coach McDermott's next press conference is late Friday afternoon where some clarity on why McCarron got a second straight day with the ones will be requested.
Overall, McCarron has put together a solid week of play. His practice on Tuesday may have been his most consistent in camp, but if there's one part of his game that particularly strong it's his ball location.
It proved critical on a few plays during a pair of red zone periods when he made completions despite good coverage.
He threw a well-placed fade pass over the defensive back to Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin was just unable to get a second foot down in the back corner of the end zone for a score.
Jeremy Kerley got good separation from his defender, but McCarron still put the ball in front of the receiver to keep Kerley away from the defensive back.
Perhaps his best ball location pass however, was on a pass to Charles Clay. Clay took his route up the seam and then broke out in an effort to get away from his defender. The safety was with him step for step, but McCarron put the ball on his outside shoulder, furthest from the defender, enabling him to pull the pass in for a touchdown.
We'll need to see if McCarron's time continues with the first team at Friday night's practice at New Era Field.
2 – Offensive line developments
Quarterback wasn't the only position that saw a shift in a position battle. Ryan Groy, much like McCarron, also got a second straight day with the starting unit. Groy had been rotating every other day with the ones along with fellow center Russell Bodine, but after lining up with the starters on Wednesday, he did so again on Thursday.
Groy is not reading anything into the decision but is happy with the play he has put on the practice tape through the first seven days.
"I've been pleased," he said. "There have been a couple of things assignment-wise to clean up and communicating. I know how to get guys in the right places, now it's just about communicating it as efficiently as possible to get it done. I've felt good. My body feels great, so we keep going."
Groy, who characterized the starting center competition as "pretty even," said the play calling has been the main focus for him in the pivot.
"The playbook keeps expanding and we've been challenged every day to learn new things and keep it going and keep the tempo of the offense up by communicating," he said.
He's also seen the most snaps in camp with McCarron to this point, after getting the bulk of his work with Peterman in the spring.
The other development on the O-line came at the right tackle position. Jordan Mills did not participate in practice Thursday, in what appeared to be a veteran's day off or maintenance day.
The anticipated replacement for most observers would've been veteran free agent signee Marshall Newhouse. Instead it was third-year pro De'Ondre Wesley.
Wesley, 26, is a 6-6, 330-pound behemoth with good feet. He spent time on the Bills practice squad in 2017 and has worked with offensive line coach Juan Castillo before in Baltimore, where he logged the only seven games played in his NFL career.
The Bills have cross trained Wesley at both tackle and guard, but they may want to go exclusively with tackle going forward. That's because Newhouse has had a tough week of play in camp.
"He's got so much potential," said Groy of Wesley. "He's a mountain of a man, strong, smart and really has everything you want in a lineman. Now it's just about putting the pieces together. Going from tackle to guard is tough, so it's getting those things right and the timing."
Wesley has to shore up the consistency in his game, but if he can perform well in a couple of the preseason games it appears that the swing tackle role behind starters Dion Dawkins and Jordan Mills is there for the taking right now.
3 – Pair of LBs and WRs making plays
The two linebackers who figure to be on the field the most for the Bills in 2018 are Matt Milano and rookie Tremaine Edmunds. They're two of the most athletic players at the position on the roster and are strong in coverage. Evidence of that came in Thursday's practice.
On the third play from scrimmage in a red zone period, Edmunds made his second interception in as many days, on a pass over the middle intended for Charles Clay.
Later in practice, Milano made perhaps the most athletic play of the day. AJ McCarron's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and then tipped again by intended receiver Travaris Cadet. The errant ball was about to hit the ground and fall incomplete, but Milano closed on the floating ball and made a diving interception.
"I wasn't really expecting it," said Milano. "I put an emphasis on running to the ball and good things always happen when you're around the ball."
He and Edmunds have been playing off one another quite well early in camp both in run fits and with coverage assignments.
"I think it's something that we can continue to build on," said Edmunds. "Just being the new guy, earning the trust from everyone who is around me, not just Matt. I just think if everybody is doing their job the defense can get the job done."
"We do everything together, we just hang out when we eat, when we're in the locker room, and on the field," Milano said. "We do everything together that teammates normally do."
On the other side of the ball, there's a new undrafted rookie turning in plays every day and it's not Robert Foster. Virginia Tech product Cam Phillips is the one turning heads of late. It began early in camp with his Hail Mary reception in the back of the end zone on a bomb from Nathan Peterman.
Since then, Phillips seems to make an eye-catching play or two each practice. Thursday was no different.
In red zone, Phillips worked the back of the end zone again, and despite tight coverage, and a bullet pass from Josh Allen, held onto the ball for a touchdown. Then on the last play of practice in team work, Allen found him again sending him a heater, but Phillips again made the catch.
What stands out about Phillips game are his soft hands. The ball barely makes a sound when he pulls it in. His other strength is shielding the ball from defenders even in tight coverage to make the reception. Those qualities are essential for Phillips, who only clocks in the high 4.7s for a 40 time. So far, so good.
Rod Streater is the other wideout, who is stacking up good days. He pulled in a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage in red zone from McCarron and pulled in a good throw from Peterman down the left sideline for a 20-yard gain.
"I've been feeling good," said Streater. "I've been in there with the ones, twos and threes and been able to make a couple of plays, stand out a bit. Coach was just telling me I've been doing a good job. He told me to keep working and grinding."