Here's the Bills news of note for April 21st.
**1 - McDermott sees progress at veteran minicamp
The Bills took the practice field Thursday for veteran minicamp with the media allowed to attend for the first time. With head coach Sean McDermott a first-year head coach he and his coaching staff are afforded an additional veteran minicamp session to give his players to rep the new offensive and defensive systems albeit in a non-contact setting.
There were a few notable names that were not in attendance including: Sammy Watkins, Mike Gillislee, Seantrel Henderson and Cyrus Kouandijo. Reggie Ragland was doing some work on the side along with Eric Wood and T.J. Yates.
After practice, Coach McDermott was encouraged by the progress demonstrated by his players."They've done a phenomenal job," he said. "They really have and credit goes to them and the coaches around them. We've got some good players in this building and most importantly good people. That's really where it starts and that attitude starts from day one and we appreciate that."
McDermott understands his players have seen a lot of change over the last few years with coaching staff turnover. He knows adapting to a new staff and new schemes for the third time in four years isn't easy. That's why he was pleased by the early signs of their commitment.
"They've been very receptive to it. More so honestly than I would've thought," McDermott admitted. "It doesn't happen everywhere like that. We've got a lot of work to do and there will be days that are tougher than the last one and that's really what professional sports is all about. Having a group of men and women that can hang together through the tough times."
The head coach seems to be very satisfied with the response in the locker room and the steps being taken by the players in the early going. Phase two of the offseason program will be next up this coming week.
"We get a chance to get on the field a little bit more with the athletes and install some more of the schemes in walk through," he said. "It's a moving classroom on the field, so the intensity won't be as high as it was the last couple of days, which was good for us. So we get to install schematically what we want done, but also messaging and the consistency behind the message."
2 - Update on Mike Gillislee
The Buffalo Bills have until Monday to respond to match the New England Patriots two-year $6.4 million dollar offer sheet signed by restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee. If the Bills decide not to match, they will receive a fifth round pick in this years draft as compensation for losing the running back (Pick 163 overall).
In 2016, Gillislee was very effective for Buffalo playing in 15 games, rushing for 577 yards (5.7 YPC) and also scoring nine total touchdowns.
Head coach Sean McDermott provided an update.
"Mike's a good football player, and we understand that," he said. "We're still going through the process of evaluating that offer sheet and in a couple of days, we'll have a decision."
**3 - Jerry Hughes happy the defense is getting back to basics
When new head coach Sean McDermott was hired, he brought his 4-3 defense, which is in stark contrast to the previously used 3-4 of the previous staff. The new system is something that will change some roles and positions and introduce new terminology.
The pre-snap confusion that surfaced all too often for the players on Buffalo's defense the last two seasons stands a good chance of fading away knowing McDermott's system in rooted in straightforward concepts easy for players to understand and execute.
"I think for us, we're going to get a lot more fundamentally sound," said Jerry Hughes. "That's one thing (defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier and coach McDermott are bringing to our side of the ball, is they're really focusing on fundamentals, which is great, and for everybody to understand their job and how to execute it properly, which are two huge points that we've focused on this spring."
When comparing the communication on defense from last season, Hughes was asked how much different it is now and how he anticipated it being this year.
"Just by the way our coaches are going about teaching the defense, actually taking the time to break down things to us, explain the ins-and- outs," he said. "That way if we have questions on the field, we can go out there and ask them and really understand what they need from us. I think with that, really focusing on the fundamental aspect, everybody doing their one-eleventh, understanding what they need to do to execute the play when coach calls it. And then also helping us understand our weaknesses. They're actually going over that for us so that way we can continue to just get stronger and grow."
Hughes, who will be entering his fourth season with the Bills, and experienced the widespread success of 4-3 systems in 2013 and 2014 when he posted back-to-back 10 sack seasons, simply sees it as a better fit.
"It allows us to kind of play to our strength," he said. "Four guys coming off the ball, creating that havoc, closing in on that pocket, putting a lot more pressure on QBs than just allowing him to stand back there and just pick (us) apart."