Wednesday marked the first practice of Bills Training Camp.
Before practice started, General Manager Brandon Beane announced that DE Jerry Hughes would start camp on the Active/Non-Football Injury list due to a calf strain he suffered while training this offseason. Beane also announced that linemen Ike Boettger and Dion Dawkins tested positive for COVID and that they will return to the facility once they pass all protocols required.
Here are 3 things to know from Day 1 of Bills training camp:
1. High energy on both sides of the ball
The Bills had high participation throughout OTAs and minicamp and the team put in a lot of hard work in the spring. As a result, on the first day of training camp, the Bills were able to hit the ground running and practice with a lot of energy. Teammates were cheering each other on from the sidelines and both the offense and defense were giving it their all to make a play.
During Wednesday's practice, there was a lot of emphasis put on red zone work. The team worked on many drills from inside the 20 and the defense won the first rep with Levi Wallace breaking up a pass from Josh Allen. The offense responded and both tight ends Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeny had diving touchdown grabs. Knox's catch was particularly impressive because he had Tremaine Edmunds all over him as he caught the ball and hit the ground. After practice, Josh Allen spoke about the team's mentality heading into training camp and the level of energy they are practicing at.
"Everybody understands it's a brand-new season, Allen stated. "Whatever we did doesn't translate to what we're going to do this year. It's a new team. We've got completely new pieces. Honestly, we're bringing back a lot of people. But when you substitute and add a couple of pieces here and there it changes the whole dynamic of the thing. That's why when we're coming out here we're going to bust our tails and try to be the best team we can be. Our defense is going to be fun to go against in training camp because they're moving around, they're flying. You saw that today. They're bringing some things. It's good to get that on Day One. Hopefully, it's an eye-opener for some guys here, just seeing how we work and how we compete as a team. It's really an iron sharpens iron mentality and it's fun to be part of."
2. Isaiah Hodgins returning from an injury-riddled season
Bills wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins was sidelined all his rookie season with a shoulder injury. After ditching the red non-contact jersey he wore in the spring, Hodgins looked focused and ready to compete for a spot on the roster at the start of training camp. Hodgins said earlier this offseason that not playing all season was difficult for him, but he was able to fully grasp the playbook and now he's ready to show what he can do in bewteen the lines. Hodgins made many quality catches during the first day of training camp with one being a toe tap in the corner of the end zone. Bills All-Pro receiver Stefon Diggs has high hopes for Hodgins as he saw all the hard work that Hodgins put in to get back on the field.
"Hopefully it translates, that's what I want to see," Diggs said. "As far as like you coming out here and being able to compete when you are healthy, that's going to be the true test. But I can see it clear as day. You look different. You look good. You look like you're learning because being a receiver is learning on the fly, picking up from the guys next to you and the guys that are pushing for you. So, he's done a great job up to this point, hopefully, he continues to do that and hopefully he can have a role on this team."
3. Bills defensive line looks revamped
Without pads, it's tough to get a real look at the offensive and defensive line. But there was a notable difference on the defensive line just from them lining up. The Bills defense line looks taller and bigger than last season. With Star Lotulelei returning and the additions of Efe Obada and the two draft picks Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham, the defensive line should improve as a unit. In Wednesday's practice, most notably Harrison Phillips and A.J. Epenesa were able to beat their blocks and get in the backfield.
Brandon Beane said before practice, that the return of Lotulelei will not only help the defensive line but the linebackers as well. With Lotulelei's ability to eat up space and take on double team blocks, it helps the linebackers roam to the ball more easily and play faster. Tremaine Edmunds spoke after practice about what it means to have Lotulelei back this year.
"Man, I'm glad to have him back," Edmunds said. "Star's a dog. Anytime you have somebody like that playing in front of you. It's going to be good. He's a guy who lets his work speak for itself. He may not say too much but he lets his presence be known. Star's just going to go to work and I know I can count on him. I know he knows what he's doing out there and he's a heck of a player."
Scroll through to see photos of the Bills from Media Day 2021.