The Bills made the transition from the Rochester phase of training camp to their first preseason game at New Era Field.
And there were plenty of interesting moments on One Bills Live where we reviewed all the action –the Colts game, the upcoming regular season, and some of our favorite Bills memories of the past.
Here are some of my observations from this week.
1. SEVENTH-ROUNDER MAKES GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
Buffalo’s 2019 draft class won favorable reviews from most observers at Thursday’s preseason opener against the Colts. And that goes right down to the last pick in the draft, defensive end Darryl Johnson, the Bills seventh round pick from North Carolina A&T.
He played 30 snaps on defense, 12 more on special teams and put up an impressive stat line. Johnson had one sack, three tackles and one pass defensed.
Greg Cosell, executive producer and analyst for “NFL Matchup” on ESPN, took note of Johnson’s performance and went back to look at his pre-draft analysis of the Bills rookie.
“What I said was that he was a very intriguing day three prospect with a desirable combination of size, length, and natural quickness,” Cosell told One Bills Live. “Sometimes he has the tendency to play high, but the baseline traits are there for him to develop into an effective NFL edge rusher. I think we saw some of that in the game.”
Cosell admits it’s only a one-game sample, but he thinks Darryl Johnson’s first preseason performance will lead to more snaps in the next few weeks.
“He’ll get an opportunity, because this team is looking for edge pass rushers,” Cosell said. “I think they’re looking for another edge player and once you start getting into camp, coaches aren’t worried about who the first-round pick or the second-round pick is. They’re looking for production because their jobs are on the line. And Daryl Johnson is going to get an opportunity to show that he belongs, even if he is a sub-package player and plays 20 snaps a game. If he can continue this kind of production with these kind of traits, he’ll get an opportunity.”
2. WORKING AROUND THE INJURIES
Injuries on the offensive line and at tight end have been significant through the first two weeks of Bills preseason. And offensive coordinator Brian Daboll told One Bills Live this week the injuries have forced him to be flexible in the offensive packages he puts on the field.
“It’s kind of the business that we’re in,” he said. “You’d love to have everybody out here to see what clicks, what doesn’t click. Different personnel groups that you could use. But you’ve got to go with the hand that you’re dealt.”
Daboll says the injuries have made it tough to establish continuity and chemistry in parts of his offense.
“We have to keep on developing the chemistry within the offensive line,” he says. “You guys have seen how we’ve rotated some guys in and out. And with the receivers and tight ends — we’ve had a couple of tight ends out with injuries and hopefully we’ll get those guys back as soon as we can and start integrating those guys in the offensive system.”
3. JORDAN POYER IS FOCUSED ON WINNING NOT INDIVIDUAL ACCOLADES
There were some notable Pro Bowl snubs for the seecond-ranked Buffalo defense last season, maybe none more notable that safety Jordan Poyer.
But that’s not on his mind as he gets ready for his third season on the back end of the Bills defense. Poyer had 97 tackles and 4.0 sacks last season but didn’t get the Pro Bowl invitation.
He told One Bills Live that’s not on his mind as he prepares for 2019.
“At the end of the day, with this football team, I just want to win,” he said. “I think winning will solve everything. I believe that we can win, and I truly believe that this is the year that things are going to be different.”
4. IN HIS HOMETOWN, WITH HIS HOMETOWN TEAM
The injuries on the offensive line forced some personnel pickups for the Bills this week. On Tuesday, they signed tackle Jarron Jones, a Notre Dame product, who grew up in Rochester and won a NYS High School Football title at Aquinas Institute.
Jones was in Rochester last weekend for a music festival. After returning home to Dallas, he got the call to come back to Rochester to join the Bills at training camp. When he told his parents in Rochester, they couldn’t believe it.
“They just started laughing. They said, ‘you were just here last night and now you’re coming back,’” Jones said Wednesday on One Bills Drive.
His mother was so excited she left her job in Rochester to watch the Tuesday practice.
“It wasn’t even her lunch hour—she left work,” Jones said. “She just told them, ‘I’m leaving. I’m going to practice, and I’ll be back.’”
Jones has to battle to make the Bills roster, but he’s loving the chance to do it, especially returning to his home to get another chance in the NFL.
“It’s been a whirlwind. The past 24 hours have just been crazy. I’m making the most of it and enjoying it.”
5. STEVIE JOHNSON LOOKS BACK
Undrafted free agents and late round draft picks spend preseason scrambling to make their mark, trying to find a way to get on the roster.
A one-time seventh round pick of the Bills knows what it was like. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson came out of Kentucky in the seventh round in 2008. After catching a total of 12 passes in his first two seasons, Johnson knew he had to make some changes if he wanted to stick around. He began experimenting with his route-running technique, freelancing from time to time.
“I had to get open,” Stevie told One Bills Live. “I wasn’t freelancing to the point where nobody knew what I was doing. I was still within the framework of the routes, but I just did it a little bit different. Because when I first got into the league, I was running routes, and the holes were just too tight. I thought there’s no way I can survive in this league with every ball being a 50-50 ball. I just got back to what I felt could create space for me.”
Johnson caught 82 passes in his third season in Buffalo, most of them from Ryan Fitzpatrick. He credits his chemistry with Fitz with allowing him to freelance his routes.
“Another thing that plays into it is having that quarterback,” Stevie said. “Some quarterbacks are strictly on steps and the appropriate timing, the specific timing, and they’re already letting the ball go. Some quarterbacks work with you (Fitz) and that’s what I was fortunate enough to have.”