1. Ed Oliver impresses
When you’re a top 10 pick in the draft and it’s rookie minicamp, you’re expected to flash and make some plays. Mission accomplished for Ed Oliver in his first practice as a Bill.
Oliver during team periods of practice put his elite physical skill set on display early.
His swim move was most effective in practice Friday. A quick left hand off the snap to push the lineman to the right and Oliver’s right arm is swimming over said lineman quickly as he bears down on the quarterback. This happened almost half a dozen times during the team segments of practice.
The most impressive move was when his initial hand placement turned the opposing lineman sideways. Then as he continued up the field, he punched again and had the offensive lineman completely spun around to the point where he was facing his quarterback.
Oliver then continued on his path to the quarterback with his progress virtually unimpeded. Despite being short in stature, Oliver is so quick off the ball that he gets his hands on the offensive lineman before they can get their hands on him. And in the one-on-one situations, the battle was over early and often.
“I just go out there and compete to the best of my ability,” said Oliver. “Try to get the guys around me to increase their level of compete. I had fun out here competing with the guys.”
2. Blustery day no problem for Tyree Jackson
It was a pretty windy day in Orchard Park on Friday with winds steady at 20-25 miles per hour during practice. For Bills undrafted rookie QB Tyree Jackson however, the wind wasn’t an issue.
In fact, the coaches ran the first segment of team practice into the wind. Jackson, whose 6-7, 249-pound frame stood out on the field, had no problem cutting passes through the wind, with a good number of them more than 20 yards downfield.
Jackson didn’t always hit the target, but he had his share of accurate throws.
Through the pre-draft process, Jackson has been working with former NFL QB Jordan Palmer, who also works with Josh Allen out in California in the offseason. Jackson has been diligent in sharpening his mechanics, especially his footwork.
Jackson has been laser focused on his craft since he declared for the draft and that hasn’t changed since signing with Buffalo as an undrafted rookie.
“I’m going to be focused on getting better each day,” he said. “Listening to the coaches and improving each day. That’s my goal since I arrived here and the goal the coaches have for me. Go out every day, work hard and improve.”
That improvement will be crucial in refining Jackson’s skills knowing he was widely seen as a developmental type prospect.
“We’re anxious to see what he can do,” said McDermott. “Certainly, the talent is there in a lot of different ways but there’s also a process involved of taking it one practice at a time.”
Click through to see photos of Buffalo Bills' newcomers from the team's rookie minicamp.
3. Tight ends involved early
Buffalo used two of their eight draft choices on tight ends in the form of Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney. The two new teammates initially crossed paths at the NFL Combine and kept in touch through the pre-draft process.
That friendship will have a chance to grow in Buffalo as the two work to earn roles in the Bills offense.
“Obviously with both of us playing tight end we’re helping each other learn the offense a bit better,” Sweeney said. “It’s cool to have a guy to pal around with on and off the field.”
On Friday, Sweeney was a frequent target of Jackson during team portions of practice. He pulled in four passes in all. The first came on a roll out by Jackson as he found Sweeney over the middle.
Then Jackson hit Sweeney deep down the left side for a gain of more than 20 yards. Later on in practice Jackson found him on an underneath route and finished with a toss to him in the left flat.
“It did (click today),” said Sweeney. “Tyree is a really good quarterback. He’s the size of a tight end so maybe that was why he was able to see. He did a good job today and threw the ball phenomenally and I was able to get open.”
Dawson Knox was also a frequent target. He took a nice route to the far side of the field and got just enough separation from fellow rookie Vosean Joseph to make an acrobatic catch along the sideline for a 15-yard pickup. He couldn’t come up with a couple of other targets, but demonstrated his athleticism and speed in the open field.
He was also very elusive in one-on-ones against linebackers and safeties.
4. Duke Williams brings an edge
It’s very evident that former CFL WR Duke Williams knows this opportunity with the Bills might be his best shot at an NFL career. At the outset of practice when the team opened with special teams drills, Williams was on punt return and when he locked up with his blocking assignment he stuck with his block well beyond the whistle.
He then took that approach to the team segments of practice. Though he didn’t win on every play, he made four receptions. His best came on a crossing route to the sideline where he had to jump and contort his upper body twisting back to the line of scrimmage while his feet were still pointed toward the sideline. But Williams was able to get both feet down inbounds for the reception.
Williams also had a couple of strong reps in one-on-ones with defensive backs. On an inside route he put his strength on display as he was able to throw the DB by him and come back to the ball to make the catch.
Now 27-years old, Williams off the field troubles at Auburn were a big reason why he went undrafted. He toiled in the CFL the last two years in Edmonton in an effort to prove he can be a playmaker for an NFL team.
“I’ve made my mistakes and I’ve learned from them, so I’m just grinding right now,” said Williams. “That’s in the past. I can’t even worry about that. I have to get better and attack each and every day. Now that I know every day it’s in the back of my head to go get it. I’ve got no more chances to mess up or slip, so I’m just grinding and having fun with it.”
5. Players who flashed
There were a handful of other players who flashed on the first day. Third-round pick Devin Singletary gets through high traffic situations well. There were times where he disappeared into the pile only to come out the other side and into the secondary on a few run plays.
International player Christian Wade, in his first true football practice, had a couple of quality runs where he effectively pressed the hole and then bounced a pair of runs outside. The UK import has some wheels.
UB product Cam Lewis was competitive in both his one-on-one drill matchups with wide receivers and during team segments.
Undrafted WR Nick Easley came across as a sharp route runner and got good separation at times.
Tryout players LB Montavius Atkinson had the only takeaway on an interception off a pass that deflected off the helmet of WR David Sills.