The Buffalo Bills' first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts marked not only the first NFL game for Bills rookies, but also offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey's first time calling plays during live game action from the box since taking on his new role. Here's what Dorsey and rookie linebackers, Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector learned from the Colts game.
Dorsey happy with the communication between the box and the sidelines
While he's unsure of where he will be calling plays from this upcoming Saturday when the Bills host the Denver Broncos, Dorsey felt that his experience calling plays from the booth against the Colts went smoothly.
"I really felt like there was a great job between the coaches back and forth and telling me what they saw and the communication between me and Sean," Dorsey said. "In terms of those different situations that come up, whether it's a fourth down situation or a two-minute situation, it was incredibly smooth."
For the majority of his coaching career, Dorsey called plays from the sidelines, and he shared how the atmosphere was different up in the box. While the offensive coordinator was able to see the field better from the box, he wasn't able to have direct communication with the players that he'd normally have if he was on the sidelines.
"The trust of the coaches on the sideline to deliver the feel of the guys, the messages that guys have, and what they're seeing on the field is critical so that communication is huge when you're up in the box," Dorsey said.
Dorsey said has a good feel for calling plays from the box after the first preseason game and the Return of the Blue and Red practice. But regardless of where he's calling plays from, the most important thing to him is staying focused and being ready to make that next call.
With the second preseason game just a few days away, Dorsey will be tasked with calling plays against a new defense which he finds beneficial as the plays he calls are going to change every week based on what defense they are up against.
"You constantly have to be adjusting your thought process to one, the team you're playing and two, the situation and three, the flow of the game and what they're doing," Dorsey said. "It's always great to kind of experience that before the regular season kicks off."
Bernard and Spector continue to learn details of the defense
For linebacker Terrel Bernard, he feels more comfortable taking reps in practice now that his first game and first NFL touchdown are underneath his belt. Bernard scored the Bills' first preseason touchdown on a 69-yard fumble recovery for a TD.
The linebacker said his approach to this weekend's game against the Broncos is to make sure he's successfully completing his assignments.
"Just details of the defense, and really understanding my assignment, and then everybody else's assignment around me," Bernard said. "You really get to see kind of what you don't know during a game, so it was a good opportunity for me to learn and then come out here and correct some things."
The biggest takeaway from his first NFL game was the importance of learning the details of the defense, which he looks to lean on when he takes the field on Saturday.
"Not just knowing what I have, but expecting what the offense is trying to attack, and what calls are in, the situation, things like that," Bernard said. "Experience always helps with that, so learning and growing every day."
As a rookie, Bernard is looking to capitalize on any opportunity that is presented to him to show what he can do. On Saturday, he looks to do just that by making plays, while playing fast, physical, and smart.
"Obviously, I want to make the team, I'm a rookie coming in, so doing whatever it takes – special teams, going back on defense, anything that I can do," Bernard said.
Having Baylon Spector, another rookie, in the linebacker room has benefited both Bernard and Spector on and off the field. The two spend a lot of time learning the defense together which contributes to improving their individual games.
"To sit down in the film room by ourselves, outside just call each other up, share knowledge to each other, just pick each other's brains," Spector said. "It helps a lot with just understanding the scheme and especially trying to learn all the different positions."
Spector saw that scheme in action when he suited up against the Colts. When reflecting on his on-field performance, the linebacker shared that the small details and alignments are areas of his game he looks to correct throughout practice this week leading up to Saturday's game.
"Just an opportunity to get better at and just understanding better situations, things scheme-wise like knowing who's around me, knowing where my help is and understanding just the small details of the defense and going out there and executing that," Spector said.
In addition to game experience, Spector is learning from the veterans in the linebacker room. While Bernard had the standout touchdown play for the linebackers against the Colts, Spector shared that all of the linebackers have intentions to make big plays.
"We're continuing to make plays, all linebackers," Spector said. "Someone will get one soon."