Here's the Bills news of note for Aug. 25th.**
Check out photos of the Bills in action during practice.
1 – Brown locking down middle linebackerEntering training camp, Preston Brown's starting middle linebacker position was seen as his position to lose. Despite being the incumbent starter, he faced competition from a healthy Reggie Ragland, and free agent signee Gerald Hodges. The battle however, never materialized. Brown began OTA's as a starter, and hasn't surrendered his position since. Brown said he was ready for the battle.
"Just like every year," said Brown. "You have to battle each and every year with yourself, and with everyone on the team. They're going to put the best linebacker out there. So, you just have to keep proving yourself."
After an impressive rookie season in a 4-3 scheme, the middle linebacker was forced to adapt to a new role in Rex Ryan's 3-4. In that scheme, he was asked to drop into coverage more often, and act as a rangy linebacker. Although his tackles increased each season, his best fit in likely a 4-3.
Coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have returned the defense to the scheme that was so successful just a couple years ago. Back in a position that fits him best, Brown said he's excited to play in the 4-3 this year.
Despite seemingly having the starting middle linebacker position won, Brown said he isn't going to settle. With two preseason games left, Brown said there is still a lot to prove.
2 – Daikiel Shorts pushing for roster spot
Coming into training camp, Daikiel Shorts was a long shot to make the roster. The Bills had a crowded wide receiver room, and had brought in several players who they hoped would finally reach their potential in the NFL. However, after Sammy Watkins was traded, and Anquan Boldin retired, the Bills wide receiver depth chart is now wide open. On the John Murphy Show, Shorts said he definitely sees a chance.
"Opportunities are coming, and I'm just trying to advantage when my number is called," said Shorts. "Make a play, whether it's practice or a game. In any situation, I'm just trying to do what the coaches ask, and make my team better."
Shorts was signed by the Bills on May 5th as an undrafted free agent. Coming out of West Virginia, Shorts showed he was a versatile receiver. Not only does he have an ability to make plays outside, but he can also run tough routes over the middle.
His natural talent has been evident throughout much of the preseason and training camp. Although he has remained with the third-team offense throughout much of the summer, he has continuously made eye-catching plays. In the first preseason game, he had four catches for 37 yards. In the second preseason game, he had two catches for 22 yards. His play even earned him an acknowledgement from McDermott after their game against the Eagles.
"It's definitely hard," said Shorts. "On the sideline, I just try to stay warmed up. It's tough. Like you said, you don't get in all game. And then, with five minutes left you're thrown into the game. It's the fourth quarter and there's five minutes left. But, you just have to dial in, focus on your technique, and make plays when your number is called."
So far, Shorts has been able to use every rep and minute of game time to his advantage. With a good performance in the third preseason game, he could challenge for a roster spot or at the very least land on the team's practice squad.
3 – LeSean McCoy projected as second-team All-Pro
The Bills offense begins and ends with LeSean McCoy. The Bills had one of the most effective offenses in the NFL last season for one reason – their rushing attack. In combination with Tyrod Taylor's running ability, McCoy led the top rushing offense in the NFL last year for a second consecutive season. Elliot Harrison, of NFL.com, sees McCoy continuing that success in 2017. Harrison's full first and second team All-Pro projections can be seen here.
The player picked ahead of McCoy is Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harrison predicted that Ezekiel Elliot could push McCoy for the second-team spot, but his looming suspension could make it hard to match the Bills running back's production.
Last year, LeSean McCoy had one of the best seasons of his career. In 15 games, he rushed for 1,267 yards, and had 14 total touchdowns on the season. In several games, he was simply unstoppable. McCoy's production has increased each year he's been in Buffalo. With this in mind, he could find even more success this season.
Even with a new offensive coordinator in Rick Dennison, the Bills offense will rely on the run again this season. With a zone blocking scheme that fits McCoy well, and the same offensive line as last year, McCoy should be one of the best running backs in the NFL in 2017.