1 – Receivers focused on making plays, not QB rotation
Every other day in practice quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman have rotated in with the first-string offense, while rookie Josh Allen runs with the third team. On Thursday it was Peterman’s turn to lead the starters.
Shuttling two quarterbacks in and out, while also getting Allen his needed reps might seem unsettling for wide receivers who rely on timing and chemistry with their quarterback.
Right now, it’s of no concern to top wideout Kelvin Benjamin, even if the chemistry is not there yet.
“I’ve always prided myself on catching any ball from any quarterback,” he said. “That was one of the reasons that Carolina drafted me. I can catch an inaccurate ball. So I’m always going to be there to catch the ball no matter who is throwing it.”
Benjamin’s best play on Thursday came on a play down the seam with Peterman hitting him in stride as he went straight up the field after the catch for what would’ve been a 20-yard pass play.
In a perfect world every receiver on Buffalo’s roster would prefer to have the starting quarterback role settled, but they know that’s not how it works with three legitimate candidates.
“It’s a process. You can’t rush that,” Benjamin said. “Obviously, it’s not up to us. It’s up to the people who run the team. As wide receivers we just have to work with all of them and build their confidence and make it easy for them.”
2 - Interior O-line a battle for starting roles With a career-ending neck injury forcing Eric Wood into retirement and Richie Incognito also choosing to retire, Buffalo had some retooling to do on the interior of their offensive line. During the first week of OTAs we saw how they intend to proceed, at least at the outset.
Russell Bodine worked as the team’s starting center Thursday with veteran Vladimir Ducasse at left guard and John Miller at right guard. Ryan Groy rotated in for a rep or two at left guard before lining up as the second team center. Groy was the first-team center in practice Wednesday as it appears they’re rotating much like the quarterbacks.
For Groy it’s his best opportunity to start since he’s been with the Bills.
“It’s been smooth really,” Groy said. “It’s just part of being in the NFL. Guys leave. Guys come in. This is my fifth year in the NFL. You’re kind of used to transition.”
Ducasse, who made 12 starts at right guard last season, isn’t foreign to playing on the left side. He played parts of three seasons (2013-2015) at left guard.
Meanwhile, the man he replaced in the lineup in 2017 after a month into the season, is back at right guard, where he was a two-year starter for the Bills.
“This year I’m starting over, we’re starting fresh,” John Miller told Buffalobills.com. “I’m taking it as a new opportunity. An opportunity to grow and an opportunity to get better every day, every time I step out there for practice. Show the coaches and the GM and my teammates that I want to be here and that I belong and just go out every Sunday and compete at a high level.”
The guard came in with 23 percent body fat, low for an offensive lineman, and says he feels quick and powerful.
Check out behind-the-scenes photos of the Bills rookies.
3 – Rookies getting lots of run In 2017, Buffalo’s draft class was thrust into some pretty prominent roles from the jump. The situation is much the same at the outset of OTAs this spring.
Tremaine Edmunds has been dropped right into the middle of Buffalo’s starting defense at middle linebacker, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Possessing a high football IQ, Edmunds was already running the defensive huddle from play to play.
“Tremaine is a freak. The first day I met him, he’s 6-5, I’m looking up at him,” said Lorenzo Alexander. “He’s very intelligent and mature for his age. Obviously, the legacy he has with his dad and his brothers, he’s been around this game. He understands it and gets it and really cares.
“He might be swimming a little bit initially which is expected because we’re a lot further along than we were at this time last year. But he’s persistent and he’s picking it up very quickly. So I’m happy with his demeanor and his approach to the game every day. I’m really looking forward to seeing him when we let him loose and he’s hitting people and covering people and making a huge impact.”
Harrison Phillips was getting snaps with the first team on Thursday at defensive tackle with Star Lotulelei absent from the voluntary practice.
Taron Johnson is currently running as the first team nickel cornerback, as he lined up there during team periods from start to finish Thursday.
Wyatt Teller was the offense’s second team right guard.
Although Siran Neal, Ray-Ray McCloud, Austin Proehl and Josh Allen saw third team reps, all were given an awful lot of time on the field as coaches try to evaluate the players they know the least.
4 – Making plays There were some solid plays turned in on both sides of the ball during the three team segments of practice Thursday.
Jordan Poyer kicked things off for the ‘D’ when he intercepted a pass that glanced off the hands of Nick O’Leary on a throw from Peterman.
Josh Allen threw a 20-yard rope to fellow rookie Robert Foster. The play pulled a “nice shot” comment from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Allen’s best pass of the day came when he squeezed a pass into Ray-Ray McCloud between a corner and a closing safety for a 30-yard touchdown.
“That was just executing,” McCloud told Buffalobills.com of the scoring play. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. Me and Josh have been building chemistry off the field, so it’s nice to bring it to the field. Just having fun and competing.”
AJ McCarron also had a 30-yard touchdown pass as he found Quan Bray down the seam for a score.
Tre’Davious White had a good pass breakup as he jumped an underneath route to make a play.
Travaris Cadet had a 20-yard touchdown catch in the front corner of the end zone on a pass from Allen towards the end of practice.
And rookie Robert Foster got good separation on an inside route as Allen hit him in stride allowing him to get yards after the catch.
5 – Finding leaders While there are trusted leaders in Buffalo’s locker room from last season in players like Lorenzo Alexander, LeSean McCoy and Kyle Williams, head coach Sean McDermott is always working to develop new up and coming leadership.
That’s especially needed on the offensive side of the ball where there is a void following the retirement of Eric Wood. Thus far, McDermott has been encouraged by the interactions he’s seen with some new potential leaders on that side of the ball.
“You’ve heard me say [that] every year’s a new year, every team’s a new team,” McDermott said. “We’ve got some leadership concerns [and] questions this time of year that we have to get answered. We lost a couple guys on the offensive line there that were some of our leaders in some ways, shapes and forms. I’m anxious to see, and I’ve already seen in fact, a couple of guys step up; namely, Jordan Mills, Dion Dawkins, Ryan Groy, Russ Bodine has stepped up. I’m starting to see that influence early just in the last couple of days, which is a good thing.”
Check out photos from One Bills Drive from the Bills OTAs Day 3.