1. Leslie Frazier says Levi Wallace is the starting cornerback
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier made it plain. The starting right cornerback spot belongs to the man who eventually earned it during the 2019 season.
“Levi did a terrific job last year solidifying that right corner spot that was really a revolving door for some time,” said Frazier. “And it really helped our defense when he secured that spot.”
His chief competition has been Kevin Johnson and E.J. Gaines, who manned the starting right cornerback role in 2017. Wallace has held down the starting job all through the spring OTA and minicamp practices and that hasn’t changed through the first week of training camp.
And on Tuesday’s press conference Frazier was clear. Wallace is the starter.
“He’s the incumbent starter and somebody has to take it away from him,” he said. “It’s always about competition. And all the guys are competing for a starting job, but he’s the starter. Whether guys are gaining on him or not, it matters but it doesn’t matter. Levi is the starter and we’ll see how things go. We’ll see how those other guys come along.”
For Johnson, who has all the physical tools to be a starter, the issue isn’t ability, but rather staying healthy.
“For Kevin it will be how will he hold up when we get to live situations,” Frazier said. “Can he hold up from a physical standpoint? That’s been the one thing that has held him back. That’s why he’s here. We’ll see how things go once we start playing preseason games and how he handles physical contact.
“E.J. Gaines is another guy in the mix. He’s started for us in the past. We’ll see how he does.”
In the early going it’s evident that it’s Wallace’s job until someone proves otherwise.
2. Ed Oliver's game comes alive
Bills top pick Ed Oliver is a player who comes in with a lot of expectations after going ninth overall. Through the spring it was difficult to see the defensive tackle’s skill set on display, but since the pads have gone on Saturday at camp, Oliver has flashed in each practice.
“We’ve really begun to see him come alive with the pads on,” said Frazier. “It’s hard for those defensive linemen to practice without pads. They’re very limited in what they can do. Ed’s game is about explosion, his power, his quickness. So we saw some of that in the first day we had pads on.”
Oliver has been sprinkled in for some first team reps here and there, but has largely been running with the second team. That’s been more due to Oliver getting acclimated to Buffalo’s defensive scheme and his role in it.
“It’s a little adjustment for him coming from a scheme where he was lining up on the center and now we have on the guards, so there are some intricacies that he’ll have to learn,” Frazier said. “But it was good to see him do what he’s capable of doing, which is explode off the football and use his quickness and power, which he hadn’t been able to do prior to the pads coming on.”
Frazier said it’s also good that Oliver isn’t walking into a situation where he’s being depended upon to be a Pro Bowl caliber player right away with a vet like Jordan Phillips on the roster who plays the same position.
“He has time to learn the blocking schemes and how teams will come at him and also understand our defense. It’s a plus for him.”
Click through to see the best photos from Day 4 of 2019 Buffalo Bills Training Camp, presented by Connors and Ferris.
3. LB Matt Milano close to 2018 form
When Matt Milano suffered a broken leg down by his ankle in Week 15 last season, he was leading the league in takeaways with six. It’s been a long road back from that injury, but the third-year linebacker has not had any limitations through the first week of camp practices.
“He’s climbing and getting back to where he was. He’s not quite there yet,” Frazier said. “He had to go through rehab throughout the offseason. In the OTAs and minicamp you could see he was off just a little bit. So he’ll benefit here in training camp and some of the things we’re doing now he can gain some confidence and not be afraid of that leg. He’s not quite there yet, but he’s really close.”