1. Red zone work + Poyer update
Cornerback Taron Johnson started Tuesday's 11-on-11 period with an interception. A pass from quarterback Josh Allen was intended for wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, but Johnson was underneath McKenzie to be in a position to intercept the pass.
"I probably should have either knocked it down or tried to go get it, or something of that nature," McKenzie said. "But I didn't react fast enough, and he caught it. Like coach said, gotta take the good with the bad, but I'll make sure that doesn't happen again."
When the team transitioned over to working in the red zone, Allen continued to connect with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. Just two reps in, Allen found Davis in the back of the end zone for his first touchdown of the day. Later in practice, Allen rolled out of the pocket to the right side in time to find Davis coming across the end zone for another score.
Diggs also had two touchdowns on the day and his second came in the back corner of the end zone after Allen put the ball in the perfect position for the WR to grab it out of the air to avoid pressure from cornerback Dane Jackson. What could've been a third TD for Diggs, ended up being a great play for cornerback Christian Benford who broke up the pass.
To close the day, both the offense and defense made noteworthy plays. Allen attempted to connect with running back James Cook, but after the ball bounced off his hands and another defender tipped it, linebacker Terrel Bernard came away with the interception in the end zone.
The final play of practice was an Allen handoff to McKenzie who then pitched it to tight end Dawson Knox and the TE ran it in for a touchdown.
Safety Jordan Poyer and wide receiver Marquez Stevenson both left practice early with injuries and are under further evaluation. Poyer is dealing with an elbow injury and Stevenson is dealing with a foot injury.
DT Tim Settle missed a second consecutive practice with groin soreness.
Wide receiver Jake Kumerow returned to practice after working on the sidelines for most of the previous week. Additionally, offensive lineman Tommy Doyle was back at practice in some capacity after leaving practice early on Monday.
2. McKenzie knows his role is getting bigger
Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie's goal is to do whatever he can to help his team win, whether he's a starter or a backup. And with the potential to be one of the team's starting wide receivers up for grabs, he knows what he has to do to earn it.
"I've got to go out there and play my best football and put my best foot forward," McKenzie said. "I still got to continue to stack days and that's what I feel like I'm doing. I just got to keep being consistent and just come out here every day and make plays."
The veteran wideout is among the many players on the Bills who are having a standout training camp and he believes the best is yet to come. The wide receiver shared that while his playmaking has become more noticeable, he was still making those same plays – although not as frequent – the past few years when he was behind former Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley.
"I feel like now everybody's seeing it and I'm just getting more opportunities after those plays," McKenzie said. "And I feel like I got to keep doing that and be consistent. But at the same time, you know, it's more noticeable now that I'm in the slot position."
Eight days into camp and quarterback Josh Allen has connected with McKenzie on a daily basis; McKenzie has routinely had the ball thrown his way during red zone drills. The two have great communication and are continuing to build on the chemistry as the season draws nearer. That development has helped the Bills' WR understand how to run his routes to get open at the right time.
"That means I got to get open, you know, man to man coverage, zone, I got to be in the right position, in the right space," McKenzie said. "And I feel like that's evolved. I'm getting open for him when he needs me open. I'm sitting in zone when he needs me to be there, and it's been awesome so far."
As McKenzie's offensive role on the team continues to grow in, he's been able to appreciate and build on the team's success from the last few seasons, particularly the 2020 and 2021 playoff runs.
"First off, I love being in buffalo. I love the team, I love the coaching staff," McKenzie said. "I felt like me staying here and building with Josh, and building with this team, we have some special. I feel like we have a great opportunity to do something big here and I want to be a part of it."
3. How Josh Allen and Dawson Know influence O.J. Howard's game
Tight end O.J. Howard noticed quarterback Josh Allen's determination to help his team win even before they were competing on the same team. When the Bills traveled to Tampa Bay (Howard's former team) last season, it caught Howard's attention when Allen returned to the field to finish the game with his team after heading to the sidelines with an injury.
"That guy pushed through, and I was like, Josh Allen's a dog," Howard said. "Then I came here and met him personally and it's nothing different. When you step on the field with him, he'll do whatever it takes. When you see that in your quarterback, how can you not go hard for them."
Now that Allen and Howard are teammates, Howard has focused on getting on the same page as his new QB while also communicating with him to understand how he views certain plays, terminology, and route combinations.
"Just talking to him, so now I know how he likes certain things run, and that allows me to play fast," Howard said. "Say Josh doesn't like something or Josh loves that, this is something I need to do. Just that type of chemistry has been really good for us."
Since joining the team, Howard has also developed a connection with fellow tight end Dawson Knox. The bond started when they were in Nashville for Tight End University earlier this summer, and being from the area, Knox showed Howard around town. Their off-field actions have built a camaraderie that has been apparent on the field throughout training camp.
"When you're hanging with someone off the field and then you go over there and you work hard with them, you can just communicate and be boys," Howard said. "You can joke with them, you can say whatever because you've built the chemistry off the field. I think that type of stuff always goes a long way."
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