1. Tremaine Edmunds headlines defensive effort
There were a good number of plays turned in by the Bills defense over the two days of joint practices with Carolina. On Wednesday there were a couple of sacks turned in by Jerry Hughes and Eddie Yarbrough, and a host of pass breakups with a couple of near interceptions.
Among the most eye-opening plays was the one turned in by Bills MLB Tremaine Edmunds, who dropped into man-to-man coverage on Panthers TE Greg Olsen about 15 yards, flattened out to the sideline and was able to knock the Cam Newton pass away and shove Olsen out of bounds for an incompletion.
Seeing a 6-5, 253-pound linebacker move that fast in reverse and then laterally was astounding.
“Very impressive,” said a smiling Leslie Frazier. “Greg Olsen is one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL. To see him run down the field stride for stride and make a play like he did you’re like, ‘Wow.’ This is only his second season in the league against a guy like that. The sky is the limit for what he’s capable of doing.”
“He’s a good player,” said Olsen. “He’s a big, physical guy with a lot of strong physical attributes that will help him in this league. Everything I’ve heard from the guys in Buffalo that I know there is that he’s a great kid, smart, works hard, so there are not a lot of guys running around who look like that. I think he’s got a bright future.”
Edmunds wasn’t along in making plays on the ball Wednesday. There were a host of defensive backs who got in on the action as well.
Siran Neal punched a ball out after a completion for a forced fumble.
Jordan Poyer and Matt Milano combined to break up a pass intended for Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey.
Tre’Davious White knocked a pass away from Curtis Samuel about 15 yards downfield.
Taron Johnson and Abraham Wallace also had near interceptions, but had to settle for pass breakups as they couldn’t corral the ball.
And LB Deon Lacey had what likely would’ve been a pick six early during the 11-on-11 team segment of practice.
2. Kevin Johnson’s role coming into focus
When Kevin Johnson was signed as a free agent it was to add experienced and talented competition to the cornerback depth chart as well as some versatility. In the early stages of training camp, Johnson was working both at outside corner and in the slot as he was part of the nickel corner competition.
But the fifth-year corner has not seen a snap in the slot in over a week as it looks like Johnson’s role will be the third corner outside.
Wednesday’s practice only reinforced that notion, as Johnson rotated in with the first unit at both left and right cornerback for starters Levi Wallace and Tre’Davious White. It was the third consecutive practice where this rotation was implemented by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
“We’re trying to develop a rotation,” Frazier said. “You’re one injury away from Kevin having to play. So you’ve got to get him some reps on both sides. The fact that we lost EJ (Gaines) to injured reserve, so you’ve got to get that third and fourth corner right. We think Kevin has a chance to be our third corner so we try to rotate him both ways to get a lot of different looks and let him get his confidence back too, because it’s been a while since he’s had a lot of live situations.”
Johnson missed most of last season due to injury, but he has performed well in camp and had an acrobatic pass breakup in practice Wednesday.
“It felt good just getting out there just having the opportunity to compete,” said Johnson of rotating in with the starting defense. “I’ll play wherever the coaches want me to play and just try to get better day by day.”
Frazier also confirmed to Buffalobills.com that Johnson, for now, is not a part of the competition at nickel corner.
“We’ve left him at corner of late, especially now with the injury to EJ,” said Frazier. “We’ve got a couple of guys working at nickel with Taron (Johnson), Siran (Neal) and Cam (Lewis). It’s probably better for Kevin to be outside in the long run. That slot can get physical at times as well. We’ve worked him there, but not right now.”
The addition of Captain Munnerlyn gives Frazier and his defensive staff even more confidence to have Johnson focus on outside corner to be that first man in should Tre’Davious White or Levi Wallace succumb to injury.
As for Munnerlyn, he got some second team nickel reps as the defensive staff works to get him into football shape after a lengthy offseason waiting for the phone to ring.
“His familiarity with this scheme definitely helps him,” said Frazier. “The fact that he hasn’t been involved in football for a while has set him back a bit. So we’re trying to get him up to speed from a conditioning standpoint. But the mental part is pretty much there.”
Frazier said the plan is to try to get the veteran cornerback “a few” snaps in the game Friday night against Carolina to see where is from a football conditioning standpoint.
3. Beasley-Allen chemistry budding and Daboll’s experimental nature
Cole Beasley was a busy receiver on Wednesday pulling in four passes during team segments of practice. John Brown had a team-high five with Ray-Ray McCloud turning in three. But what was impressive about Beasley was the synchronized thinking between him and QB Josh Allen.
The execution between the two in the passing game has been tighter of late. The major factor in that result is the two players are seeing opposing defenses similarly, which caters to quicker playmaking. Beasley referenced one specific play where Allen got the ball to him very fast, enabling him to get yards after the catch.
“It makes all the difference especially on option routes when we’re both reading the defense at the same time,” said Beasley. “A lot of the time you have to hold it just to make sure you know what a guy is doing, but now we’re starting to get on the same page where he sees it just like I see it and he’s anticipating. I got out of one break and the ball got on me so fast and I almost didn’t expect it that early. I told him right after that play, ‘Dude if you get me the ball that fast I’m going to get a lot for you after.’ That makes it so much easier for me and will make us so much better as an offense.”
At this stage of camp, the offense has everything installed in terms of play calls. Allen confirmed that they’re in the refinement stage where they’re polishing up plays to make them as tight as possible. And if there are some that need a little more polish, Beasley said offensive players can make suggestions to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll about what plays they need to work on the next day in practice.
“That’s why I love Daboll so much,” said Beasley. “I have so much respect for him and I’m so appreciative of the opportunity and the belief that he has in his guys. You feel that. And when you feel that from a coach you’re not afraid to go up to him and suggest things.”
Beasley even went so far as to suggest a new play concept that he thought could work well for the kind of personnel they have on offense.
“I gave him a play idea that I got from June (Jones) in college three days ago,” Beasley said. “We put it in and ran it twice. There was no hesitation. He was like, ‘I like it. Let’s put it in and see how it works.’ It’s really cool to work with a guy that’ll do that who is humble. He doesn’t take it like you’re trying to do his job. He just likes to try things and have fun with it. We love that about him. It makes it a lot of fun to come to work.”