Phase three of voluntary OTAs is underway in Orchard Park and a good amount of the Bills' roster was in attendance Tuesday. Even though it's only May, the energy level was high throughout practice, and it was obvious the team is refreshed and reloaded for the 2022 season.
These are five things we learned from the start of OTAs.
1. What Von Miller brings to the Buffalo locker room
The addition of Von Miller is one of the bigger free agent acquisitions for this team in recent history. This week was the first time that Miller could line up next to his new teammates and get to work. His presence for the Bills on the field should bring the defense to another level but his impact off the field will make a difference throughout the entire locker room.
"He's a two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, whatever he says you listen to it," Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said of Miller. "He has a lot of leadership, and he also works hard, so it's easy to do. You can't say anything bad about him. Whatever he says, he's been there he's done it, and he's the best of the best."
Miller brings with him a long list of awards and accolades throughout his 11-year NFL career. That knowledge of what it takes to be an elite NFL pass rusher is so valuable to this team when you consider that they have three young players in that unit all under the age of 25. Sean McDermott told the media Tuesday morning this it's going to be a big offseason for AJ Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, and Boogie Basham. McDermott wants to see them make a mark on defense in a primary role. Miller is the perfect addition to helping mentor these young players to unlock their full potential.
"I already asked [Miller] a few questions out there," Rousseau added. "He'll come to whether it's me, Boogie, AJ, whoever, and tell them what he sees as well. It's really just natural. We're just flowing out there. And he's one of our brothers. He's one of us now, so I feel like he's fitting in great."
Miller's presence will also help out the Bills' offense. Going against him in practice will only make the Bills' offensive line and Josh Allen better. Allen said Tuesday that the many additions along the defensive line will be a headache through OTAs and training camp, but he will love it when the season starts. Dion Dawkins will line up across from Miller frequently throughout practice and he's ready for the challenge and for Miller to make him a better player.
"My first impression of him from him wearing the same jersey is outstanding and thankful," Dawkins said. "I'm thankful to have him. The number one thing that impresses me is his sense of gravity, like how low he can get to the ground and still keep his strength. That's the most impressive thing because just watching him stretch, he's like an Olympian or like a gymnastics person. He's just like real fluid. Almost like water. That's the most impressive thing that he can move his body in certain ways that I for sure can't."
2. Josh Allen is excited to start working with Ken Dorsey in his offensive coordinator role
This season marks the first time in his NFL career that Josh Allen will have an offensive coordinator other than Brian Daboll. Fortunately, Daboll's replacement, Ken Dorsey, already has a relationship with Allen. Dorsey has been Allen's QB coach since 2019 and has been one factor in Allen's success in the NFL.
Even with the familiarity of the quarterback and new signal caller, it will still take some time to get everything ironed out. Allen appreciates this time in the offseason to work out all those kinks.
"It's been different," Allen shared. "For the last three years, I've had him in the meeting rooms every day. It's gonna take time, even today I was just like, 'hey, I want you talking to me in the headset, and just let me hear your voice.' Because that's gonna be a little bit of an adjustment and curve and when you talk into a microphone, it sounds a little different and some words become different words and you got to decipher what that means.
"Even now, we can find a way to get better in terms of what he's doing, how he communicates with the guys, getting on guys, and lighting some fires, it's been good to see. He's played quarterback, he understands what it's like when we're back there. So, to have that open relationship and the rapport with him and then for him to understand what we're seeing at the same time and not just expecting us to do something that he hasn't, or he wouldn't do. I think that's the main, the most important thing and he's been doing a really good job with it."
3. How serving the Buffalo community helped strengthened the bond of Bills' teammates
In the wake of the horrific shooting on Buffalo's East Side last Saturday, the Bills along with many other organizations stepped up to give back to the victim's families and anyone else affected by the racist hate crime.
Last Wednesday, the Bills' players and coaches went down to the site of the shooting to offer support to the community, serve meals and provide hope that brighter days are ahead. The relief effort was a bonding moment for the team. Many players flew in for the day to show their support and be there for their teammates and the community during a difficult time.
"When a situation like this happens and you can relate and have a conversation with a bunch of different men about the situation, that also grows a bond," Dawkins said. "And then on top of that, going back to OTAs, with playing football, which we all love together, that is really what grows it. But with everything that is going along, we all are in it together. Like we're on buses, we're going up to Jefferson, we're in the locker room, we're talking about it. And it's a family thing, so we're all walking this walk together."
4. Jordan Phillips sees great potential in Ed Oliver
The Bills picked up Ed Oliver's fifth-year option last month as the defensive tackle has shown improvement every year in the league. Oliver has started 40 games for the Bills and has racked up 117 tackles, 21 TFLs, 12 sacks, and 28 QB Hits.
The 2021 season was when more seemed to be clicking for Oliver on the field and he showed the ability to make more impact plays. Teammate Jordan Phillips played alongside Oliver during his rookie season and Phillips has seen such an improvement from him since then. Now that Phillips is back as a Bill, he's ready to put in the work with Oliver and build off the success the two had in 2019.
"First off, I think Ed's matured a lot and I think that's what's helped his game the most," Phillips shared. "Everybody always knew he's going to be a top guy. He's picked No. 9 overall for a reason. Now his maturity with the way he plays and the way he's understanding the game is what's helping him. Talent's never been an issue. Not only does he have the work ethic, he has the mind to go with it."
5. Josh Allen is ready to get to work with refreshed quarterback room
For a little bit in the offseason, Josh Allen was the only quarterback on the roster. In March the team traded for Case Keenum and signed Matt Barkley to fill out the QB room. Barkley rejoins the team after being away for a season but his relationship with Allen is beneficial. Barkley was on the team from 2018 to 2020 and he and Allen have a special relationship. After some uncertainty about who would be his backup, Allen is happy with how it all turned out.
"I think the continuity in the quarterback room is very important to how guys play," Allen said. "And guys that you can trust, feed different ideas off, guys that have been around the league and in different systems and know different concepts, it's very helpful. It's very impactful for a game. And then off the field, like I said, just being able to go play golf with the two guys in your room and being able to STS, it's fun. It's a good feeling. The two guys that we got in the room are great vets, and they're great people at the end of the day."