1. Sean McDermott sees advantage to different offensive line combinations
Center Mitch Morse has returned to practice. It’s a positive sign as the Bills hope to lock down its starting offensive line and build continuity between them before the season starts even though he remains in concussion protocol.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott has seen a positive to the injury problems Buffalo has had at the position.
“I think the benefit of it is we’ve developed some movable parts that guys can change positions and have shown us the mental capability to do that. I think it’s built up a certain level of resiliency amongst the group and toughness, which I appreciate,” McDermott said.
With Morse back in the lineup it’s anticipated that it will kick Jon Feliciano back to the guard position, where he has also lined up this offseason. The right side of the offensive line will be up for grabs between Feliciano, Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe. Spencer Long has also been rotated in at the right guard spot.
“That’s something we have to really talk about after Friday night,” McDermott said. “When we get another look at our guys out there and then the health of the players, Ty and Mitch, some of those variables are factored in there.”
Ford does not know what role will be in store for him Week 1 of the NFL season, guard or tackle, but he is getting more comfortable and confident.
“The offense is getting more comfortable with each other and everybody’s buying in and we’re taking it day by day,” Ford said. “The chemistry that’s being built is heling us out and we’re taking steps every day to get better.”
2. Zay Jones’ role is changing
Zay Jones led the Bills in every receiving category last year. Jones is entering into his third year in the NFL and will have the most talent around him since being drafted into the league. Jones has been put into a spot where coaches are asking more of him on offense and even a role on special teams.
“He’s a team first guy,” McDermott said. “He’s very unselfish in his approach. He’s done everything we’ve asked and he embraced his new role and in playing special teams. We’re still defining roles at this point but I’ve just been very appreciative of the way he’s handled it and he continues to play tough football.”
Jones said after practice on Wednesday that he hasn’t had game reps on special teams the way he’s had them this preseason. The biggest challenge for Jones has been learning a new set of skills.
“It’s a different part of the game,” Jones said. “It’s kind of overlooked in the seats. Players definitely have a lot of appreciation for guys like Deon Lacey, Maurice Alexander, guys on special teams. They get our respect. It’s hard work and I appreciate what they do.”
Jones’ role on offense has changed a little as well. With the additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley, Jones will be shifted around some more. Jones can play the X, Y, and Z receiver spots and ultimately thinks that the key to winning games is being unselfish.
“Whatever it takes to win,” Jones said. “Whatever position and hope you get good results out of it and ultimately have it spread throughout the team.”
3. Two rookies make PFF top players list
Rookies Ryan Bates and Darryl Johnson each appear on Pro Football Focus’ list of the NFL’s top rookies through the first weeks of the preseason.
Bates is the sixth highest graded offensive player at 77.9.
Bates is the highest-graded rookie center who has played 50-plus snaps in the preseason. This feat is even more remarkable on account of him playing 100% of his 2018 offensive snaps at left or right tackle with Penn State. Although he has recorded 13 of his 64 NFL snaps at tackle, he has yet to allow a quarterback pressure at any position. Bates finds himself behind Mitch Morse, the highest-paid center in NFL, but his versatility should be a factor when Buffalo’s front office soon makes their personnel decisions.
Johnson is the third highest graded defensive player at 91.1.
Save for New England’s Chase Winovich, Bills’ edge rusher Darryl Johnson has had one of the best pass-rushing performances so far this preseason. On 36 pass-rush snaps, Johnson has recorded a 22.2% win-rate and a 13.9 pressure percentage which has resulted in two sacks and five total pressures.