Sunday marks the last open practice of Bills Training Camp as players move into practices similar to that of an in-season schedule on Monday. Media will only get to view stretch and individual periods of those practices, so this is our final training camp recap. Sad day, but that means the season is right around the corner.
Here are the highlights you need to know about from Sunday's padded practice.
1. Defense impresses, another day full of Gabriel Davis plays
- During WR vs. CB one-on-one drills, Cole Beasley juked Dean Marlowe out of his shoes for a nice catch.
- During the same drill, Gabriel Davis caught a pass one-handed against new corner Brian Allen. Davis continues to stand out amongst rookies by making several remarkable catches a practice.
- During team period, Davis had an impressive grab from Matt Barkley in traffic. The rookie also caught two short touchdown receptions from Barkley. Davis' first touchdown grab was against Tre'Davious White, his second was against Brian Allen. The rookie has proven his consistency through two weeks of practices. I'm ready to watch what he can do during a game, especially since he's had success against a talented Bills defense.
- John Brown had a couple notable plays today, one came on a pass from Allen in traffic.
- Dawson Knox had a nice grab from Allen where he picked up a good amount of YAC yards thanks to his speed.
- Tre'Davious White was providing tight coverage throughout practice on Sunday. White almost intercepted a pass from Allen intended for Duke Williams. White got his hands on the ball, but he eventually dropped it. The corner made it tough for any receiver to make a play on him.
- The defensive line also brought good pressure today, and on multiple times forced quarterbacks to give up the ball before they found the right target. New defensive tackle Tanzel Smart continues to have strong practices.
- Dean Marlowe was flying all over the field today. Marlowe had an interception off a tipped pass from Jake Fromm. The safety looked like he was down, but Duke Williams punched the ball out. Marlowe was close to intercepting a second pass on a ball intended for Brown from Allen. Brian Allen broke up the pass, and Marlowe almost picked it off.
- Cole Beasley caught a short touchdown reception from Allen with Levi Wallace on him tightly. Beasley ran crisp routes today.
- T.J. Yeldon scored a touchdown on the ground. Yeldon made it in on a short carry by plowing through the defense to get into the end zone.
- Levi Wallace also looked like he had an interception today. Allen was pressured by Bryan Cox Jr., and once Allen got the ball out White provided great coverage while Wallace dove to the ground to pick the pass off. What wasn't obvious was if the ball hit the ground before Wallace made the interception. Either way, the secondary had a great practice.
- Out of practice: OL Quinton Spain (foot), WR Stefon Diggs (back), OL Jon Feliciano (chest), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), TE Tommy Sweeney (foot), CB Josh Norman (hamstring), RB Christian Wade (quad), FB Pat DiMarco (neck)
- Limited in red jersey: RB Zack Moss (neck)
- Returned: DE Bryan Cox Jr., LB Corey Thompson
MY FAVORITE PLAY:
- Watching Davis score two short touchdowns during team period was great, and I'm pumped to find out what type of impact he will have on this offense. But, my favorite play was watching Cole Beasley juke Dean Marlowe. Even though it was just during one-on-one drills, I love watching a receiver get out of his breaks quickly and blow past a defender because his feet are just too fast and his routes are too crisp.
- This goes to the secondary today. Dean Marlowe almost had two interceptions. It looked like he pulled in that first one before Duke Williams knocked it out. Levi Wallace had what looked to be an interception if the ball didn't hit the ground as he was picking it off. White almost had an interception and was giving the offense a tough time all through practice. It's good to see this group shine in a practice because they are just as important as the defensive line and linebackers to having another top-three group this year.
- Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell said rookie kicker Tyler Bass won the kicking job fair and square. Farwell said they did everything they could to make it as tough as possible, but the rookie excelled at everything. Bass made all six field goals in practice on Sunday. His longest attempt came from about 50 yards.
2. How the Bills evaluate the roster with no preseason games
Without preseason games, the Bills coaching staff has had to do things differently to evaluate the roster during training camp. They've had to implement more tackling portions of practice to put players in game-like situations.
"I think we have put them in different situations, whether it's a scrimmage and we're going live out there really getting more tackling reps that you're not able to get without preseason games," Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell said. "So put them in those situations of making open field tackles, that helps them on defense but also helps them on special teams. So getting as many situational reps that we can that will help them on game day, and that's how we evaluate it. We're putting them out there in spots that are really tough positions."
With a packed roster full of talent, sometimes the only way players can make the final roster is by adding something to the special teams units. Farwell mentioned two young players who have stepped up during practices by bringing competitiveness and leadership qualities to the special teams room.
"Jaquan Johnson he's our personal [punt] protector, he's a special player," Farwell said. "He excels in all the phases, there's not a phase that he's doesn't do very well. So he's a guy that we look to as a leader. It was his rookie year last year, so he didn't have the sort of the leadership pieces as he does now."
"Siran Neal has done a good job, he's been a really good gunner for us," Farwell explained. "And just getting all his game together, putting it all together because he is loaded with talent, he cares and he's passionate about it. Those two guys are really young players for us. They have been really exceptional during training camp, and I'm looking for big years for both those guys."
3. Veterans do their part to make rookies feel at home
For rookies, training camp may seem a bit intimidating. You're in a new city, with a new team, and you probably don't know too many players or coaches. Rookies always hear about how veterans give the young players a tough time during their first training camp. But with the Bills, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
After two weeks of training camp, kicker Tyler Bass is thankful for how helpful the veterans have been.
"I've met a lot of veterans, and I was actually really surprised that they'll come up to you and they'll talk to you and they have respect for you," Bass explained. "I thought that for me, that was awesome because I could ask a million questions and they would still give me an answer.
"As soon as I got here Reid Ferguson and Bojo [Bojorquez] just took me under their wings. They've played here for a while, and just having them to kind of talk to me and give me advice. With Heath [Farwell] and Smiley it's been so valuable for me because they're telling me about how to kick stadium, just certain situations we're going to go through, so it's been a fun camp."
Farwell said after a few practices of watching Bass kick, all the veterans wanted to know about the rookie with the strong leg. Instead of giving Bass a tough time, they wanted to do anything they could to show they appreciated how hard he worked in practice.
"That was one thing I noticed pretty quickly was how many veteran players came up to me within a week or two of work in training camp, going, 'This guy's pretty good. What's that kicker's name? He's pretty good. He's talented.'", Farwell said. "So I think he's earning the respect of the veteran players, and they're realizing how talented he is and his mindset. And I think that's just only builds confidence."