1. O-line doing the shuffle again
There was some give and take on Buffalo’s offensive line as minicamp opened Tuesday. While the starting unit was able to add Mitch Morse back into the lineup as a full participant for the first time this spring, they were without the services of six other offensive linemen.
Ike Boettger, Jon Feliciano, Garrett McGhin, Ty Nsekhe, Jeremiah Sirles and Quinton Spain were all sidelined for practice.
“It’s all part of the game,” said Morse, who was just cleared this week from offseason core muscle surgery. “It’s been weird and exceptional with the number of people we have out, but it’s the nature of the beast. It’s terrible being injured and you want to be participating. I think every one of those guys will be ready to roll at training camp and that’s all that matters. It’d be nice to be out here, but we don’t want to get guys really hurt.”
With a half dozen linemen out it prompted some significant juggling from offensive line coach Bobby Johnson.
The starting unit left to right was Dion Dawkins (left tackle), Vladimir Ducasse (left guard), Morse (center), Wyatt Teller (right guard) and Cody Ford (right tackle). Spencer Long, who has largely been with the starting unit all spring had to play center on the second unit since there was no other healthy center available for practice.
The second unit left to right was LaAdrian Waddle, D’Ondre Wesley, Long, Teller and Conor McDermott.
The linemen themselves are taking new assignments and new roles as they’re handed to them. They know such situations come up in the regular season, so they’re taking these absences in stride as best they can.
“We just take it as, this is football,” said Dawkins. “Things happen, pieces move and getting hurt is a part of football and the NFL. We just focus on what we can and keep practicing like we have been and stacking days.
“What people don’t understand is going from left to right or right to left, that’s extremely hard because they get comfortable in their stance and they have to switch the next day. For those guys who are doing it, they’re doing a hell of a job and I’m very proud of the way this line is moving forward.”
2. Receivers rotating up
Cole Beasley is still sidelined by core muscle surgery and Zay Jones has been out since last week with an undisclosed injury. Added to that wide receiver injury list Tuesday was Robert Foster with a foot injury suffered last week.
Those three absences left a lot of reps on the table for players like Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams and others, who lined up opposite John Brown.
“The rotation was good,” said Brown. “We have everyone rolling in to help out and we make each other’s job easy. We’re blending in really well. We’re catching on to the playbook well and we’re helping each other.”
Among the receivers who saw the most work with the first unit were Brown, McKenzie, Ray-Ray McCloud, Roberts and Williams.
Roberts, who was signed primarily as a return man, is keen on proving he can contribute as a wideout too.
“I think all the guys have to be ready to step up when they have the opportunity,” he said. “I think about making a play all the time whether I’m getting a few extra or one rep in practice. I think that all the time. I know that I’ll be ready if that time ever comes.”
There were not a ton of opportunities for the receivers in Tuesday’s practice since there was a heavy focus on the run game. But during the blitz period, Brown turned in a few receptions underneath and he and Josh Allen just missed on a couple of deep passes.
Duke Williams flashed at times in the passing game Tuesday, which was an encouraging sign. With the pads still not on, it’s anticipated that Williams’ physical game will be more evident on a day-to-day basis at training camp.
The only other receiver who saw some reps with the first unit was Victor Bolden.
The tight ends were a big focus during blitz period with Dawson Knox, Lee Smith and Tommy Sweeney all working with the first unit at times, often together.
3. Penalty runs, now a full unit thing
During the three weeks of OTA practices, a player who committed a pre-snap penalty would need to step out of the lineup and miss a play for a penalty run.
In mandatory minicamp who was doing the running changed considerably. Though there was only one pre-snap infraction the entire practice, when it was committed by the offense, the entire offensive unit did a penalty run down to the goalposts at the end line and back to the line of scrimmage.
The offensive unit on the field, the subs behind the play and the coaches. Every last one of them did the penalty run.
That change was enacted by coach McDermott.
“The head honcho,” confirmed Mitch Morse when asked where it came from. “The head man himself put an onus on us. To be honest I think we only had one today. That’s amazing. It’s something to work on. You strive for none, but from where we started in the beginning of OTAs, it’s a real leap. I don’t know if it’s because we’re all scared to run and then get back in and try to catch our breath. It’s an interesting call from the head man.”
As interesting as it may have been, it had the desired effect. It will be interesting to see if the offense and defense can be as error free over the next two days as they were on Tuesday.