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Bills practice notes Aug. 17 | Sean McDermott on what he hopes to see in Week 2 of preseason


Prior to Thursday's practice, head coach Sean McDermott gave injury updates, spoke on whether starters will play in Saturday's preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and fielded questions from the media.

As far as injuries go, edge rusher Von Miller remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. RB Damien Harris (knee soreness) and cornerback Cam Lewis (groin soreness) were limited, but participated in Thursday's practice. WR Gabe Davis returned after missing Wednesday with general soreness. DT Eli Ankou (calf) and LB Terrel Bernard (hamstring) did not participate.

McDermott announced that starters would play "around a quarter and a half, give or take" in the Bills' upcoming preseason game.

Josh Allen played just one series in the 2022 preseason, a six-play, 70-yard masterpiece ending in a long touchdown pass to Gabe Davis against the Denver Broncos.

One of the most intriguing competitions all training camp has been the battle to start at middle linebacker. McDermott said that he wanted to see improvement from all candidates as the regular season creeps closer.

"Right now, I think there's room for improvement, quite honestly," McDermott said. "We've got to do a better job with leading the defense, we've got to do a better job with communication, execution, so that's an area of concern right now."

McDermott has been consistent all offseason with his desire to call plays through the middle linebacker as opposed to any other position on defense.

"It's what the job description is, right?" McDermott said. "The total job description of running a defense, leading the defender, standing in front of the huddle, communicating the defense. It all goes together, it's all connected."

Competition has been on display in recent practices, as members of both the offense and defense have shown their desire to win reps and gain an edge over the opposition. McDermott said he liked the high energy at practice but spoke on the importance of playing with a level head.

"I do like the competitive nature of our football team, I think that's important that you don't dull the edge of the sword," McDermott said. "At the same time, you have to be able to control it and harness it and channel it towards playing the next play with the proper amount of discipline."

Running back Latavius Murray also spoke on the benefits of having competitive practices before the season's start.

"That's the environment you want to be around," Murray said. "Being here that helps a lot, we're all working towards something and competing towards something … it's a team that's established that culture already and that identity."

The oldest currently rostered running back in the league (the Raiders' Brandon Bolden is just 8 days younger), Murray has been an impressive presence on the practice field and in the Bills' first preseason game.

"I feel really good," Murray said. "And it's a credit to … just the culture here and I think everything they do … I spent time here training with the strength coaches, the training staff and medical staff. I just think it's a culture that you can strive in, you can be your best."

Murray played in just the first half of the Bills’ 23-19 win over the Indianapolis Colts last weekend but had 18 rushing yards on 5 carries in addition to 3 receptions for 21 yards. He said that the camaraderie on the Bills this season is unlike that of any team he has played for going into his 11th season in the league.

"I think that it's truly a family here in a sense … more so than any other team I've been across or played for," Murray said. "Like I remember training camp the first day, just walking in the locker room and it was our first team meeting, but just seeing everybody greet each other in a way of like, 'Hey, good to see you, how've you been? How's the offseason?'"

Latavius Murray (28). Buffalo Bills Training Camp at One Bills Drive, August 13, 2023.

Another new addition to the Bills locker room, wide receiver Andy Isabella, also spoke to the media after practice. Isabella signed with the team just a few days into training camp.

"Everyone's been awesome," Isabella said. "It's been a great experience. Having a lot of fun, just going day by day and seeing what happens."

Since Isabella's playing days at UMass Amherst, his quickness has been on McDermott's radar.

"The speed element obviously stands out probably the most," McDermott said. "I was talking to Andy about this when he got there – I think it was his Senior Bowl performance … I thought he had a good week that week and really showed up."

Isabella, who has been described as frequently reading his playbook and putting in work after practice, said that his commitment to going the extra mile has helped him develop a rapport with each of the quarterbacks on the roster.

"I set a high standard for myself," Isabella said. "So when I go out there, I know what I'm doing so they build that trust. Bring the energy and play hard. I think when you do that, the ball finds energy and the ball finds people who work hard and do the right things."

Isabella had 3 receptions for 42 yards while also returning 3 kicks for a total of 48 yards in last weekend's game.

"He's done a phenomenal job to this point," McDermott said. "And the thing I love about him is he plays hard, he's always prepared. He just does the little things."

Isabella shared that he uses his room as a mock practice field and walks through plays until he has each one memorized.

Thursday's practice was limited in action, as players went without pads and practice was wrapped up just over an hour after it started.

When the second and third teams were participating in an 11-on-11 drill, quarterback Josh Allen kept a close eye on the defense, making sure that no one was jumping offsides. When a defensive lineman moved a second early, Allen flung his towel in the air, yelling "That's offsides!"

Allen showed he was much more than a referee, making the throw of the day on a long ball to receiver Deonte Harty. Allen ran to his right to evade an impending pass rush, flung the ball over 40 yards downfield to the opposite side, where a streaking Harty ran under the ball, catching it perfectly in stride.

Allen will see his first live action of the season when he takes the field in Pittsburgh Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Scroll to see the best photos from Day Sixteen of Buffalo Bills Training Camp.

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