Training Camp is coming to a close as the Bills completed Day 11 of practice at St. John Fisher University on Wednesday morning. Thursday will mark the final day the Bills are in Rochester and the team will depart back to Buffalo tomorrow evening.
With the penultimate practice in the books, here's the top things to know from the day.
Defense holds up in red zone, offense surges late
RB Damien Harris (knee soreness), DT Ed Oliver (back soreness), DB Cam Lewis (groin), Reggie Gilliam (groin), LB Von Miller (PUP) and LB Tyler Matakevich (PUP) did not practice on Wednesday.
To start Day 11, Buffalo's defense had the upper hand when the team worked through red zone drills.
LB Leonard Floyd, who has only gotten better as camp goes on, flashed around the edge on the first play to force an incompletion from Josh Allen on a pass intended for TE Dalton Kincaid. That set the tone for the rest of the period as they forced five incompletions in that span. On one play, CB Tre'Davious White broke up a pass for Kincaid on what would have been a TD.
Then, Allen was unable to sync up with James Cook on two pass plays underneath to the second-year RB. Allen and the offense finally broke through for a score on the last play of the period in which Allen rolled to his right on a play action from inside the 5-yard line and found an open Dawson Knox for the TD.
The defense maintained its edge when the second and third units rotated in.
LB Shane Ray has been a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage in training camp and that continued on Wednesday as he sacked Kyle Allen in the 11 on 11 period. DT Poona Ford used his strength on the interior on multiple occasions, sacking Kyle Allen on one play and forcing a dump off to the running back on another. CB Siran Neal picked off Kyle Allen later in the day and had a decent run back.
Josh Allen and the first team offense finished practice on a high note with several big plays. Allen's first throw after the red zone period came from around his own 30 yard line and he fired a bullet over the middle of the field to Knox for a 20+ yard gain to midfield.
The ensuing play, the QB found his star receiver in one-on-one coverage and hit Stefon Diggs in-stride for a gain of 40 to the 10-yard line. Diggs has had a phenomenal camp with both his play on the field and how he's approaching the season as a leader.
"I think he really lays a foundation for that room in terms of work ethic, in terms of the energy that he brings and everything so he's done a tremendous job with all that," offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said.
Allen capped off that drive by taking it in for the score himself after the pocket collapsed and provided a running lane for No. 17.
The largest gain of the day came toward the end of practice when Josh Allen found RB Latavius Murray uncovered coming out of the backfield. Murray had nothing but green grass and blockers in front of him and ran 50+ yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
The 11-year veteran Murray, who rotated up with the first team with Harris sidelined, made the most of his opportunities on Wednesday.
Dorsey believes competition is making the Bills offense better
Bills OC Ken Dorsey said Wednesday one of his coaching philosophies is to install as much of the team's offense as possible throughout each stage of the offseason and challenge his players to absorb it.
From OTA's, to Mandatory Minicamp, to now Training Camp, Dorsey believes the install phase of the offense is close to done.
"We're probably at about 90% or so of the offense is in. We try to get everything in as early as possible," Dorsey said. "Really put the pressure on guys early to learn stuff. And that way things match up through OTAs and minicamps as they do in training camp."
Dorsey explained that he feels this approach is beneficial because it creates a repetitive nature of learning as the players are mastering concepts they've been seeing since early in the offseason.
"They're kind of learning the bulk of your offense multiple times. And so then, when you get into the season, they've learned it in Phase 2, then they've learned it in the OTA/Minicamp phase. And then they learned it again in the Training Camp phase," he shared.
There's been several position battles along the offense to watch for, one of them being at right guard. Ryan Bates and rookie O'Cyrus Torrence have each gotten first team reps throughout camp.
"It's one of those things where it's still a great competition and we're still kind of evaluating that," Dorsey said. "And right now, I would say it's really close between those two guys."
With Torrence being in his first year in the NFL, the coaching staff has put an emphasis in camp to give him additional reps to both help build his confidence and have a better evaluation on him. He's expected to continue seeing those reps in the preseason.
"I think at times you definitely want to see him, especially going in with the 1's and those types of scenarios," Dorsey said. "We'll have a good look in these preseason games as well if you really want to evaluate especially somebody new to the offense."
Bass uses mental reps to prepare for big kicks
Coming off arguably his best season as a pro, it was no surprise that fourth-year kicker Tyler Bass signed a four-year contract extension with Buffalo this offseason.
"It's a dream come true," Bass said following Wednesday's practice. "Super exciting and I can't wait to see what happens."
Bass had three game-winning field goals last year and shared that one of the reasons he's been able to handle the high-pressure situations so far is because of his preparation leading up to a game. He said that the mental component of kicking is just as important as the physical, so he's built in a habit that gets him in the right mindset.
A day or two prior to each game, Bass meets with Dr. Desaree Festa, the Bills' Sport Psychologist and the two work through mental reps, discussing Bass' approach to each scenario.
"We just go through certain situations. And every week, one of them's a game winning field goal. So when I go out there if that situation comes up, I know in my mind that I've already done it," Bass said.
In the previous three seasons, Bass has had to adjust to a new holder on field goals and extra points. This year, however, the team brought back punter Sam Martin on a three-year extension to keep the specialist core intact along with long snapper Reid Ferguson.
"Sam and Reid are two of the best in the league. Having them, they make my job easy and without them I wouldn't be where I'm at," Bass said.
During training camp, Bass has been superb once again in field goal situations. He made all five of his attempts on Wednesday, hitting from as long as 50 yards. He went 6 for 6 in the team's Return of the Blue and Red last week.
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