The Buffalo Bills are nearing the end of their stay at St. John Fisher University. The team suited up for their 14th practice Wednesday morning, marking the second-to-last practice in Rochester.
Bills Legend and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly took in the sights and sounds of Wednesday's practice. Kelly spoke to quarterback Josh Allen and several other players afterwards.
Here are three things to know from the 14th practice of training camp.
1. Tommy Sweeney's big play + a friendly kicking competition
Cornerback Taron Johnson and wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Khalil Shakir were back at practice after missing a couple days due to soreness. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs (vet rest day) and Tavon Austin (soreness, day-to-day) did not practice on Wednesday.
Before the Bills got into 11-on-11, they had a 7-on-7 period where quarterback Case Keenum fired a pass that was tipped by Shakir and ended up in the hands of cornerback Nick McCloud for an interception.
The second half of practice was full of 11-on-11, and more than a few plays stood out. Guard Rodger Saffold was out on the field during team periods as he continues to progress from his rib injury. It was the first training camp practice that all active offensive linemen were able to participate in 11-on-11, meaning the unit is starting to build more chemistry with each other as Week 1 approaches.
During team, quarterback Josh Allen threw a beautiful ball placed perfectly to wide receiver Gabe Davis in traffic. If the throw was a hair short or long it could have been easily picked off. The two continue to look in sync and should have a fun connection to watch this year.
On another play, Allen tried to link up with wide receiver Jake Kumerow. Kumerow was able to come down with the ball and get both hands on it, but Taron Johnson quickly knocked it out to force a fumble and then recover it. The defensive line picked up a few sacks and a few pressures, two of which came from linebacker Von Miller.
Quarterback Matt Barkley fired a line-drive pass to tight end Quintin Morris during 11-on-11. Morris turned around and got free from his defender quickly to get his hands on the ball and make the catch as he dove to the ground.
The team finished off practice in the red zone. During Allen's first series, the QB tried to connect with running back James Cook in the corner of the end zone, but linebacker Matt Milano got his hands on the ball for a pass breakup. On the next play, Allen targeted Davis but Johnson broke it up.
Quarterback Case Keenum came in next and found tight end Tommy Sweeney in the back of the end zone. Sweeney was tightly covered by cornerback Siran Neal but made an impressive back-shoulder grab as he fell into the end zone. It was the by far the best catch of practice and the whole team came over to the end zone to celebrate.
Kicker Tyler Bass has been money throughout training camp practices. Bass hit several field goals in Wednesday's practice. The period got pretty entertaining when the coaches wanted to have some fun and brought in safety Micah Hyde, tight end Dawson Knox and Barkley to kick a few field goals. The group went three for three on a few 35-yard field goals where Keenum has the holder.
2. Jaquan Johnson's not shying away from his opportunity
Safety Jaquan Johnson has had a high volume of reps this training camp due to safety Jordan Poyer being out with an elbow injury. Johnson is entering his fourth year as a Bill and has had a big role on special teams since being drafted in 2019.
While everyone is looking forward to Poyer being healthy, Johnson has appreciated the chance to play with starters to help improve his craft. The safety says players like Poyer and Micah Hyde have helped prepare him for this moment.
"Those two guys are the best in the league, I think," Johnson said of Poyer and Hyde. "So, just learning off of them every day, how their routines are, how professional they are. I've taken that and put it in my regimen, and I feel like when it's my time, I'll be ready."
Johnson knows what it's like to wait for an opportunity. The safety didn't start until his junior season at the University of Miami because he was playing behind upperclassmen. He quickly became a leader in Miami's defense and led the team in tackles one season. Johnson said that experience helped prepare him for life in the NFL.
"Everything is all about attitude and patience," Johnson said. "So you can't really do anything but control your attitude, your effort. Whenever you get that opportunity to make the play, you make the most of it."
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been impressed with Johnson's ability to take on a bigger role in camp.
"He's getting more reps, and he's showing that he's more than capable if he's called upon to have to play an extended period of time that he can get the job done," Frazier explained. "So it's been really good to watch him and his professionalism through this process, knowing that he's playing behind two really, really good safeties, and understanding his role."
The safety is excited for an opportunity at live reps on Saturday against the Colts.
"I want to go out there and have perfect communication," Johnson said. "When a play is there to be made, I make the play. That's pretty much it. Preseason games are going to be amazing for us."
3. How Von Miller's presence is upping the confidence of the defensive line
Linebacker Von Miller is bringing a proven skillset to the Bills defensive line. It's easy to see just how good the unit can be this year with the addition of a player like Miller. But it's not just his presence that has the group feeling new and improved this season, it's the fact that he's bringing up the confidence level of the entire room.
Since coming to the Bills, multiple players like defensive tackle Ed Oliver have said they feel more confident when they are on the field with Miller.
"To have a guy like Von who's achieved so much, to have a guy like that encouraging you and showing you the way, that increases your confidence," Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "Not only for the players, but the coaches as well. To see a guy like him lined up on the field and you just know that you're feeling confident that he's going to find a way to make a play, maybe to turn the tide when things aren't going right. So, it means a lot having a guy with his talent, but also playing with a great deal of confidence that kind of spreads throughout the defense."
"He teaches us, and he definitely shows us some tricks," defensive tackle Tim Settle added. "He definitely lets us pick his mind and that's beyond helpful, especially him being a dynamic Hall of Famer. It's amazing every day."
The group has had an impressive camp and has picked up what has seemed like multiple sacks and pressures in just about every practice. Settle says Frazier has allowed the group to be creative, which allows them to play more freely.
"Definitely feel like the standards are really high as far as we got guys that have experience with big DQ (Daquan Jones), Phil (Jordan Phillips), myself and even Ed (Oliver) coming into his fourth year," Settle shared. "So just the overall tone, I feel like everybody has the same mindset and everybody wants to get after it."