Here's the Bills news of note for Aug. 24th.
1 – Zay accepting bigger role in offense
Entering training camp, rookie Zay Jones looked to have a rather sheltered role in the Bills offense. Although he was receiving first team reps, they were mixed between the slot and outside. After the trade of Sammy Watkins, Jones got more reps on the outside and looked to be a bigger factor in the Bills offense. With Anquan Boldin retiring, Jones is now one of the best threats the Bills have on offense.
The growing role for Jones has made his first training camp in the NFL challenging. Although Jones said he's excited for the opportunity, it's not the role he expected when he was drafted in April.
"I didn't expect any of this," said Jones. "But, that's life and that's football. A lot thrown at this team, not just me, so there's a lot of growing up to do. Just have to mature fast, and do the best that we can moving forward."
In the first preseason game, Jones pulled in no receptions. He was on the field for just eight snaps and wasn't targeted. In the second preseason game, he started on the outside and saw a high volume of throws. Jones thrived in his new role, with three catches for 42 yards in the first half and almost came down with a touchdown catch.
Jones said that although he's had to shoulder a new role, he's thinks he can be productive in the Bills offense. He said that even though Boldin was here only a short time, he offered a wealth of knowledge.
"Anquan's a veteran receiver, 15 years, Hall of Fame player," said Jones. "The knowledge he's given me has been crucial. Moving forward, I'll always hold it with me and cherish the moments that we had."
2 – Jordan Matthews' journey to No. 87
It isn't a widely-coveted number in the NFL. Put simply, No. 87 isn't as aesthetically pleasing as other numbers for a football jersey. But, for Jordan Matthews, he wouldn't want to wear any other number. On the John Murphy Show, Matthews' explained how he came to don the number.
Coming out of high school, Matthews' had no scholarship offers. Early in his senior year, he knew that he wasn't receiving as many scholarship offers as other players who were going on to play Divison-1 football. Despite his mother's advice that he develop a contingency plan, Matthews remained hopeful he would catch a break. On Christmas Eve, he finally received the call.
"Bradley Roby, who plays for the Denver Broncos, he ends up de-committing from Vanderbilt," said Matthews. "He ends up going to Ohio State. Once he goes to Ohio State, that was on Christmas Eve, I got a call Christmas Eve night from Robey Caldwell, the offensive line coach at the time. He says, Jordan you just got Roby's scholarship offer because he de-committed. I finally got my scholarship to go to Vanderbilt."
Matthews received the last scholarship Vanderbilt had. Being the last scholarship offer, he was also the last player to pick his number. Matthews recalled that it was between him and another wide receiver for who would get a single-digit number or 87. He said he remembers the day perfectly.
"I called coach's number again, and I ask what number I got," said Matthews. "He said I'm going to go look and I'll text you back. Ding! Eighty-seven. I was like, 'No, that's so trash bro.' A tight end wore it before me. It looked like a dress. It was so bad."
Matthews went on to wear 87 in four games his freshman year, and had a touchdown reception in all of them. Soon after his dad got a No. 87 Vanderbilt jersey and his family encouraged him to keep it. Through the rest of his college career, Matthews wore 87 and says he'll never changed that. When he played for the Eagles, Brent Celek was wearing his number. Now in Buffalo, Matthews can wear his 87 again.
3 – Alexander: Bills are ready to handle adversity
Much like in Coach Sean McDermott's press conference, Lorenzo Alexander stated that the Bills are always ready to adapt. McDermott named Alexander as one of the leaders in the Bills' locker room. After losing Boldin's leadership, Alexander said there are still many players that can guide the Bills this season.
"We have a lot of leaders in this locker room," said Alexander. "You look at Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Richie Incognito, Tyrod [Taylor], you can look at myself. So, the leadership, there's really no void in that because we've been there the whole time."
Alexander said the loss of Watkins, and Boldin is nothing new in the NFL. He said that the league is a business, and adapting is simply part of the game.
"That's the life of the NFL, and I've been around long enough to see that," said Alexander. "Guys come and go, whatever the reason may be: free agency, trades, injuries, and you have to adjust and deal with it. That's the life of the NFL, it's all about dealing with adversity, and things that come up that you're not expecting, and the resiliency of a team normally determines how well you're going to do."
A leader with that mentality can only be positive for the Bills. As McDermott stated, adjusting to adversity is something every good NFL team must do. Alexander said above all, this was the best time to face adversity. The changes to the roster have allowed the team to learn their new roles before the season starts, rather than midseason when prep time is far harder to come by.