The rookies and first-year players on hand at Bills rookie minicamp wrapped up three days of classroom and on the field work late Monday morning. Their practices never contained any team work segments, but the emphasis by Bills coaches on the fundamentals should serve the young players well knowing OTAs begin in just over a week.
"When we come out here on the practice field and we get our work in we basically get our fundamentals down," said Bills top pick Sammy Watkins. "That's what minicamp is about, it's about learning. It's been a great learning experience."
"I think that we accomplished what we set out to do, making sure that they learn and train the players and get them ready for when the veteran players come back," said head coach Doug Marrone. "Obviously this is the end of the rookie minicamp. Then really it'll step up the following week and we'll hit the OTAs. We're excited about that and then we'll see how the rookies transition into the OTAs."
Expecting a jump
The rookies are naturally expecting a considerable jump in the speed at which practice runs as well as an increase in the installation workload during voluntary OTAs when the veteran players roll in.
"It's going to be quick because things are going to be moving even faster as far as installing more of the defense and going against more complex concepts with the offense," said fourth-round pick Ross Cockrell. "I'm ready to go for that. The OTAs will be a tremendous opportunity for us to show what we can do against some of the starters here."
First one in
Watkins, whose work ethic has been well documented in his time at Clemson, showed his dedication to the game is alive and well early Monday morning. The dynamic wideout was on the practice field on his own working on his routes at 6:45 a.m.
I think I need to work on my routes more than anything. I have the speed and size and the ability, now it's just down to the details and the little things," Watkins said. "I know this game is totally different from college. It's still the same sport, but now guys are ten times smarter. Now this is a job so you're going to do anything in your power to get better at your steps or your speed. Just getting the right rest and eating right, so now it's the time to work on the little things like break points and your eyes and working on the fluidity of your routes."
Three days of work in the rookie minicamp has allowed Watkins and the other rookies to get a strong base of knowledge about their individual assignments.
"I'm learning the plays now and getting my feet wet with the other guys and it'll become a habit now just going out there and working with EJ (Manuel) and the other wide receivers and just getting accustomed to how the offense works and let the coaches coach me."
Marrone knew a lot about Watkins' game coming in, but after watching him up close for three days there was a part of the receiver's game that proved to be even better than Buffalo's sideline boss anticipated.
"I thought after having watched him now for a couple of days, my assessment of him is he has better hand eye coordination than I thought coming into it," Marrone said. "The big thing for me I really look forward to when the pads come on and we start playing football and evaluating them then."
Among the specific work being done by the different position groups Monday, the linebackers were working on coverage assignments. The defensive linemen were focused on recognizing run versus pass. The defensive backs after doing some initial footwork transitioned to ball skills and combination coverages.
On offense the receivers obviously worked on route running, but they were focusing on post routes for a while with quarterback Kenny Guiton. The offensive linemen again worked on footwork and hand placement.
"As far as the conditioning of the group, I thought the receivers did a good job," said Marrone. "I thought the quarterback did a good job. He had to throw a bunch. I was impressed with the DBs overall. I thought their foot speed was good in and out. The offensive line is big and athletic. We'll see how tough they are when the pads come on. The D-line is an athletic group. I was happy with the guys that we had in camp."
The Bills will be back on the field May 28th for the start of their first set of voluntary OTA practices.