1 – Ford moves to guard, Waddle carted off
Rookie Cody Ford was given 24 hours’ notice that he would be moving to right guard for Sunday’s practice. With Spencer Long (knee) and Jon Feliciano (shoulder) both sidelined, Ford would move to the position he manned for two years at Oklahoma.
“Obviously I was repping everything at right tackle, today was the first day at guard, but I mean every day in the film room you know I’m taking notes, writing down everything from tackle and guard so I mean at this point it was just getting out there and going to play,” said Ford. “Communication went well, I mean we didn’t miss a step or go backwards or anything like that. That’s just me going out there and putting my mind to it and working hard.”
Knowing it was Ford’s first action at guard since he was drafted by Buffalo this past April, the rookie held his own. Ford ran with the starting unit at right guard with Ty Nsekhe manning right tackle and Russell Bodine still at center for Mitch Morse, who remain in concussion protocol.
Unfortunately, Buffalo’s offensive line sustained another injury in practice Sunday. OT LaAdrian Waddle, who was lined up as the second team left tackle in practice, got twisted up on a play and went to the ground during an 11-on-11 team segment. Waddle never got back up. He remained on the ground until he was carted off by athletic trainers.
Waddle joins a list of linemen who have missed time at camp. Over the past week, four other linemen have missed practice time ranging from a single day to several.
Starting LT Dion Dawkins downplayed the latest injury to the offensive line feeling the fluidity of the unit’s play has largely remained intact despite the compromised availability of players.
“This is just part of ball,” Dawkins said. “With hard practices and bigger guys… guys are going to go down. Our line now the mass is bigger overall. For us it’s just a hiccup. Guys aren’t banged up too bad. It’s kind of like pain and recover.”
Dawkins pointed to experienced players like Russell Bodine and Nsekhe as valuable pieces to maintain their level of play up front.
“It’s definitely good that Russ knows what he’s doing and he’s got a bunch of (NFL) starts,” Dawkins said of Bodine. “The coaches put guys in that room who offer depth and have experience. So if anything does happen like what’s happening now we can just keep the train moving.”
Click through to see the best photos from Day 9 of 2019 Buffalo Bills Training Camp, presented by Connors and Ferris.
2 – Kevin Johnson getting more 1st team reps
The first week of training camp Kevin Johnson’s didn't see many reps with the first team. Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace had virtual strangleholds on their positions. In the second week of camp however, Johnson is being sprinkled in regularly on both sides.
On Sunday, he spelled both Wallace and White at times with the first unit during team segments of practice. It’s clear the defensive staff is trying to have Johnson prepared to play with the other starters in Buffalo’s secondary.
“Those guys, they’re so sharp on the back end,” said Johnson. “They know the defense like coaches. Being out there with them and being a part of that communication it helps you play to a higher level as a defense as a whole.”
In no way have Tre’Davious White or Levi Wallace loosened their grip on their starting roles, and knowing they have more experience in the Bills defensive scheme likely gives them the upper hand on Johnson despite his diligent efforts to nail down the system.
“There are still some things I want to master in this scheme,” said Johnson. “I want to get to a point where I can focus more on what the opposing offense is trying to do more than thinking about what I have on the back end. I try to master that every single day and take steps forward.”
Whether Johnson can reach a level of comfort within the scheme to unseat Wallace for the starting job on the right side remains to be seen, but even if he can’t the Bills will have a heck of a player to step in should Wallace or White succumb to injury.
The other interesting development concerning Johnson is he is no longer getting nickel corner reps, which brings us to our next note.
3 – Changes at the nickel?
As Day 9 of camp got underway there was a change in the nickel corner competition. Kevin Johnson was not a part of the rotation in the slot among the cornerbacks. While he got more first team reps out on the boundary, Taron Johnson, EJ Gaines and Siran Neal got the work inside.
Then early in the team segments of practice, EJ Gaines left practice with an undisclosed ailment and did not return.
With Gaines out of the rotation, Johnson still was not rotated in for nickel reps. Instead the defensive coaches moved undrafted rookie Cam Lewis into the slot.
Taron Johnson ran with the starting unit, Neal with second team and the UB product Lewis ran with the threes.
Neal, who has a multi-faceted role in the subpackages, has a greater comfort level of the nickel corner role now than he did back in the spring.
“It actually feels like home again for me,” said Neal. “In college I played outside corner and some nickel, so stepping inside that box isn’t all that different. Coach McDermott just tells me to take one rep at a time and play fast.”
Neal said he’s not yet at the point where he’s just reacting and playing, but he’s no longer thinking so much that he’s slowing down his ability to play.
“I’m in the middle,” he said. “I’m out there playing and thinking a bit too. There’s a lot of moving parts out there for the nickel. There’s still a little bit of thinking, but I’m definitely moving faster now than I was.”
Lewis did not look out of place inside as his short-area quickness combined with his more compact stature at 5-9 and 183 pounds looks like a fit inside.
We’ll see if Johnson is brought back into the rotation in the coming days, but on Sunday, Johnson was squarely focused on cornerback.