1. Wide receivers need to do the “dirty work”
Competition at the wide receiver position continues to be fierce. John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones, Robert Foster and Andre Roberts seem like locks for the opening day lineup. That leaves players like Duke Williams, Cam Phillips, Isaiah McKenzie, Ray-Ray McCloud and Nick Easley fighting for remaining spots on Buffalo’s 53-man roster.
“No position is given,” McDermott said. “You have to make the most of your opportunities. We look for who is going to go in there and block in the run game, who’s going to put the team first and be unselfish in their approach.”
McDermott looks for the players who are going to do the “dirty work” and receivers who are satisfied with their play even if they come out of the game with zero catches but were factors in a lot of big plays.
Roberts has excelled doing just that.
“The thing that really jumps out to me in the film is that he’s a very unselfish player, he puts the team first,” McDermott said. “He blocked extremely well the other night, ran some people off to open up space for our other receivers and you never really hear him say two words about it. He just wants to win.”
Roberts was originally thought to have been signed to play exclusively as a return man but has earned snaps with the first-team offense for his willingness to play hard. McDermott says his receiving skills are one of the most underappreciated aspects of his game.
When McDermott looks at his wide receiver group, he doesn’t base it off of variables like size and speed. He saw players in the second, third and fourth quarter of the game that earned some more opportunities but regardless of their physical stature he wants to make sure they are team-oriented.
2. Injury update
The Bills injury list grew during Friday’s game as head coach Sean McDermott announced that offensive lineman Garret McGhin will not practice with an ankle injury and cornerback Cam Lewis entered the concussion protocol.
Linemen Russell Bodine, Mitch Morse and Connor McDermott were announced as limited participants and will wear red jerseys. Tackle Ty Nsekhe is limited as well after a knee injury kept him out of Friday’s contest.
McDermott also stated that tight ends Jason Croom and Dawson Knox will be taking it on a day-by-day basis while Tyler Kroft’s foot injury, that has held him out of training camp, is progressing in the right direction.
Encouraging for McDermott has been what he has seen from defensive end Trent Murphy so far. Murphy was coming off a serious knee injury that limited him in 2018.
“What we saw in the spring when he got back was a player who had worked,” McDermott said. “He’s now thinking about his whole body and can focus on himself instead of just his knee. He’s more comfortable in our system and has been a great addition to our team.”
3. Offensive line still needs time
The Bills are still a bit away from figuring out their starting offensive line. Because of injury, the Bills have not been able to set up a consistent group of players and develop the continuity. Still, it is something that McDermott hopes will get set soon.
“Through some of the injuries we’ve had in training camp, Mitch [Morse] being out, it’s provided some position flexibility or versatility,” McDermott said. “That’s been good for us. We want to get this thing set here in the near future.”
Players have been allowed to compete for a starting job at different spots. Rookie Cody Ford has played with the first-team offensive line as both a right tackle and guard, while Jon Feliciano has earned the snaps at center with Morse being out.
Ford, has been displaying his mental toughness by playing both positions, says McDermott.
“I think it’s just a display of his mental toughness to come in as a rookie and play both positions at a high level,” McDermott said. “It’s not just in practice, it’s in games. Overall, I think it would benefit us once we get this thing set to have that consistency and continuity.”
Ford won’t be playing both positions once the season starts but it is a positive to see the flexibility that he has.
The Bills starting offensive line during Friday’s game against Carolina from left to right was Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Feliciano, Spencer Long, Ford.