1. Several players looking to make adjustments in year two
The Bills current roster is stacked with players entering their second year in the league. As head coach Sean McDermott said multiple times, year two is always more difficult. With new additions to the wide receiver corps like Cole Beasley and John Brown, sophomore Robert Foster is looking for ways to elevate his game to solidify his spot on the roster, but also stand out against opposing teams.
“I think it’s a classic case of a second-year player that experienced some success in year one and then the sophomore year there’s always an adjustment,” McDermott said. “It’s important in that second year you continue to grow and evolve and adjust your game. As I mentioned before you would hear me say again and again that when tape is out there on you, this is the NFL, it’s professional football and people get paid money, a lot of money, to get out in front of that and study that. So, he has to continue to evolve as a football player.”
In 2018, Foster was second on the team in receiving yards during his rookie season catching 27 passes for 541 yards with three touchdowns. Second-year players like Ray-Ray McCloud III who were not targeted as much are working to find ways to improve.
“We talk about these guys in their sophomore year, Robert was mentioned earlier, Robert a little bit of a different case because he (Ray-Ray McCloud) did not have the experience or success that Robert had in year one,” McDermott said. “Now, hey what are you going to do? How are you going to handle the adversity? How are you going to handle the challenge? So, that’s been good to see him come back with the right attitude, the right approach. He’s obviously put work in before coming back as well.”
The biggest storyline on players entering year two is Josh Allen and he believes trust can help a lot in his sophomore season.
“I think just as decision making goes along you know trusting what I’ve seen and what I’ve been taught from Coach Dab (Daboll) and Coach Dorsey,” Josh Allen added. “Talking with the guys and trusting the five guys in front of me to do their job and ultimately I think that’s kind of the whole model of the story is trusting everybody to do their job.”
That trust is already starting to pay off, through the first week of camp it is easy to see an improvement in pocket presence from Allen.
2. Cole Beasley stands out on Day 4
Cole Beasley and John Brown have been favorite targets for Josh Allen through the first week in camp, but it was Beasley who stood out on the second day in full pads. McDermott is glad that what he saw on tape from Beasley is translating to the field with his new team.
“One of the first things you look at defensively is how well you match up or don’t match up with the various pieces that the offense brings to the table, in this case the slot with Cole,” McDermott said. “That’s a tough match up for some people and when you spend a couple, cause I’ve gotten to know Cole, when you spend a couple days with him or around him and you get a feel pretty quick that you know (I) love his football intelligence. His dad was a coach and he loves just being around the locker room. He’s a gym rat and I think that really bodes well for our team and the chemistry and what we’re trying to be all about and that’s hard work.”
Chemistry is at the top of the list for Beasley and Allen. The two want to make sure the communication is set before the season begins. Allen is not only impressed by his style of play, but also how he is helping Allen be a better quarterback.
“One he’s really smart, two he’s really elusive and really shifty and he gets so low to the ground when he’s running these routes and he’s getting in and out of his cuts, there’s that aspect,” Allen said with a smile. “You know he’s very talkative, very communicative, he’s not the type of guy that’s going to say you know give me a better ball, it’s ‘no it’s okay, you put it and I’ll catch it and I’ll make a play out of it,’ so we’re going to continue to develop that relationship and trust there. You know he’s shown why he was a really, really good target on third down last year and he’s going to be very vital in this offense here.”
3. Offensive line showing continuity through week one
Eyes have been on the offensive line through the first week of camp as Mitch Morse said there’s a sense of urgency to find the best five. The Bills weren’t able to work much on this during OTAs due to a few players being sidelined during those practices. Now in camp, the line is healthy and the race is on to find the starting five. After four days, there hasn’t been too many shifts on first team. Here is how the starting lineup has looked on the offensive line through four practices on first team:
Day 1 (left to right) - LT Dion Dawkins, LG Quinton Spain, C Mitch Morse, RG Jon Feliciano, RT Cody Ford
Day 2 - Dawkins, Spain, Morse, Spencer Long, Ford
Day 3 - Dawkins, Spain, Morse, Feliciano, Ford
Day 4 - Dawkins, Spain, Russell Bodine, Feliciano, Ford
*Morse was given a maintenance day on Day 4 and did not practice. Long has taken first team reps on occasion outside of the second practice.
Allen is benefiting from this type of continuity on the line early in camp.
“Seeing the guys in front not have to switch around a lot, understanding you know what certain things guys are really good at,” Allen added. “Understanding the communication aspect as well, you know they’re getting into a groove and it’s fun to be back there and hear them communicate and if I’ve got to switch something I can and you know they’re going to take it and run with it.”
By adding several new offensive linemen to the team this year, consistency and communication is not just important to the unit, but also Allen. To improve communication, the offensive line has been working on building relationships with each other off the football field.