Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll spoke with the media on Friday to share their thoughts about how they are evaluating the roster with limited reps and more. Here's what we learned from the two coordinators.
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1. Frazier proud of Ed Oliver
Leslie Frazier shared the conversation he had with defensive tackle Ed Oliver after Oliver was arrested for an alleged DWI and unlawfully carrying a weapon in Montgomery County, Texas. After the chargers were dropped, Frazier said he was proud with the way Oliver handled the situation.
"Early on when the news came out, he shared his side of the story with me," Frazier said. "I felt really good in what he had shared with me, and just hoping it'll play out the way he described. Sure enough it did. And so when the news came that he had been exonerated, it just was a sense of relief really. His attitude, his approach to it all along, he knew that he hadn't done some of the things that were out there. Just the way he handled it really made me proud of him, made our organization proud. He's using this as a teachable moment for others who may find themselves in a compromising position. I'm really proud of the way Ed has handled this entire matter."
Frazier spoke to the maturation he has seen in Oliver this offseason and how his growth will help the team this year.
"As far as his growth, we're looking forward to him being able to build on that, what happened during the second half of his first season," Frazier explained. "There's been a lot of growth throughout this offseason, probably more from a maturity standpoint as a person. Really can't say athletically because we haven't had a way to quantify that yet, but we'll see that in the days to come. I can sense that maturity, as a man, and that's going to be good for us and good for our organization."
2. How the defense will evaluate the roster with less reps
Frazier, like many NFL coaches, is trying to figure out the best way to evaluate the roster, get rookies up to speed and get veterans ready to play with a limited amount of padded practices. A lost offseason of minicamps, OTAs and preseason games puts a big wrench into how teams normally decide the roster and starting positions. It's similar to putting a large puzzle together, but Frazier and his defensive staff are learning how to adjust.
"It's a little bit of a dilemma, but it's something that we have to be able to figure out because there are so many factors that go into having your backups properly prepared," Frazier pointed out. "You just don't know if you're going to lose someone, or circumstances that are completely out of their control beyond an injury on the field. We've got to make sure we're giving those young guys their reps, and at the same time getting the vets the reps they need to be prepared for September 13. So it's something that we're trying to balance and trying to work through as we go."
To make up for lost reps from preseason games and evaluating the roster in a training camp unlike any other, Frazier imagines players will see an uptick in full contact drills.
"I would imagine just in talking with Sean [McDermott], we're probably going to have more full contact drills than we've had in the past," Frazier explained. "For that reason, you hold your breath a little bit when you do that in practice. But it's probably something that's necessary this year. We have to work through all of those things, which are a little bit different than what we've had to deal with in the past."
3. What Frazier thinks of the battle at right corner
The Bills right corner job has to be one of the most intriguing battles in camp for many reasons. You have a veteran in Josh Norman who made his career in Sean McDermott's defense, and now returns to that defense looking for a second wind in his career. Then, there's a young undrafted player in Levi Wallace who embraces competition and knows how to win a starting job. Once the pads go on, Frazier thinks it's a competition that will help the team as a whole.
"With the experience that Josh brings to the table, that really sets him apart in a lot of ways," Frazier said. "He's coming in with a chip on his shoulder. Things didn't end the way he wanted them to end in Washington, so hopefully that'll bode well for us. Levi has done a really good job for us. He's continued to improve every year. I think it's going to be a really good competition, and we're going to benefit from that competition. Looking forward to when we start going fast, when we get the pads on and to see how it all plays out."
4. Will the playbook change because of a short training camp?
Due to the lack of time in-person to go through the playbook because of COVID-19, Daboll and his staff have been creative during the offseason. Quarterback Josh Allen shared the extent the offense had to go to in order to call plays virtually during Zoom meetings. It involved Allen being on the phone with Daboll listening to a play, while relaying that to his offense on a Zoom call and having the play drawn up on the side. Not easy.
Going beyond what's required to get his offense on the same page will surely help Daboll and his players come Week 1.
"We have to do a great job as a coaching staff throughout this period of time that we have to go ahead and make adjustments as we go," Daboll explained. "We're really adapting to the new things that are coming out. And then, we have to adjust every day whether it's a 10-minute period in a practice, whether it's a 15-minute extra period at night to meet.
"There's nothing really that you can just say is set in stone because each day there's going to have to be an adjustment made. So, we'll go with that. We'll make some adjustments whether we need to scale back or add more. I think as you get a feel during training camp every year you get this, what your guys do well, what they don't do well, how much they can handle, how much they can't handle and then you try to put them in a good spot as a staff to go out there and perform to the best of their ability."
5. Will Cole Beasley shine with two big outside threats?
The Bills wide receiver room is full of talent with Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley. The addition of Diggs provides a second outside receiver, which defenses will have to game plan around. Due to the fact that now there's two outside threats in Diggs and Brown, the inside of the field could open up more for other offensive players. Daboll thinks this won't impact Cole Beasley too much because he will find an open lane regardless of who's next to him.
"I've always had a lot of confidence in Cole," Daboll said. "Regardless of what coverage people want to play, not to be redundant, each week is such a different week of how people want to try to attack you or how you perceive they're going to try to attack you.
"If they play heavy guys outside, then that usually opens up stuff inside. If they play heavy inside, that usually opens up stuff outside. You try not to make more of it than it really is. So those guys are good players, they have been good players in the league in terms of Smoke [Brown] and Diggs. I feel very confident in Cole with what he can do. But there's a lot of guys on our team right now that are working to establish a role. No question I feel confident in Cole and the things that he can do inside."
6. What's different about the jump to year two
The Bills have a few players on offense making the jump from rookies into their second season in tackle Cody Ford, tight end Dawson Knox and running back Devin Singletary. Daboll explained as a rookie, the transition is so much more than just learning the playbook. Now that they have a year under their belt, know the playbook, know their coaches and are settled in Buffalo, Daboll explained year two allows for a lot of growth.
"They know how the organization is run and the expectations within the organization," Daboll explained. "Fortunately for us, they know their coaches, and they have a good feel for how they coach and how they critique. So there's a lot of things that familiarity helps in your second year, but at the end of the day you have to go out there and you have to be able to do it and execute when called upon.
"The skillset, that improves. They get bigger and stronger and things like that from year one to year two. But I've been around some guys that have had really good second seasons and some where it didn't go up quite as much as you hoped. Our guys are putting everything they got into it, and we're trying to give them every resource we can to help them improve this year."
Daboll shared Knox is one player who had to learn a lot during his first season transitioning to an NFL tight end. His responsibilities increased quite a bit going from Ole Miss to the Bills, but Daboll is impressed with how Knox and tight ends coach Rob Boras have worked together.
"Dawson has done a really good job," Daboll said. "He's got a great mentor in Lee Smith. But there's so many, it's run, it's pass, I'm not saying it's like the quarterback, but that's always the position that gets pulled in a couple different directions. So they have to go with the offensive line to go through the running game, then he has to come with the quarterbacks and go through the passing game and usually gets a little bit of individual time, not as much as some of the other spots. So Rob [Boras] does a good job meeting extra with them. He's a young player still, really young. Hopefully we get more out of him this year. I know he's working hard to do that."