After three weeks and 16 practices, the Bills come home from Rochester. They’ll continue the preseason in training camp mode, but the practices, workouts, and meetings occur at One Bills Drive for the next few weeks as they continue to get ready for the regular season.
Here are five takeaways from the Bills training camp sessions at St. John Fisher:
1. THE PROCESS IS REAL
He’s got the word printed on the inside of his cap, for heaven’s sake (see Buffalo Bills: Embedded). For Sean McDermott, the ‘process’ is not just a slogan or a buzzword, it’s a way of life. You can see it in the business-like, button-downed approach the Bills displayed throughout training camp.
There’s no down time, no side discussions when the players and coaches are on the field. It’s all business, and it’s rapid-fire from one drill and practice period to the next. You have to believe it’s the same concept when players and coaches are behind closed doors in meetings.
Bills veterans know what to expect and what’s expected, and they transmit that knowledge to the first-year players. In just his second year on the job, McDermott has created a no-nonsense work ethic that serves his team well.
And the Bills head coach says the 2018 Bills have impressed him with the way they’ve worked during camp.
“This is one of the more focused, hardest working groups, that I’ve been around,” McDermott said as camp ended. “Does that mean we’re going to have success? That’s not guaranteed. The player-driven leadership, in particular, was really good and allowed us to stay focused and to put in a good day’s work each and every day. That’s all you can ask for at this point as we continue to focus on the process of what leads us up to the season.”
Go ahead and chuckle at how many times McDermott and the Bills talk about ‘the process.’ But make no mistake—it’s real and it’s working.
2. THE QUARTERBACK BATTLE IS REAL, ALSO
The Bills leave Rochester with no definitive decision on their starting quarterback. And McDermott’s pledge of an open competition has played out. Nathan Peterman started preseason game one, and there’s no word yet on who starts tomorrow night.
But through training camp, Bills coaches have split the quarterback reps evenly. You have to believe they are close to deciding on a regular season starter, and at that point, they are likely to give their number one choice the majority of the reps.
So far, McDermott likes what he has seen from Peterman, A.J. McCarron, and Josh Allen. He says all three are playing well.
“I think all three have had their moments,” he said as camp wound down. “All three have certainly had their moments, both good and bad.”
3. WIDE RECEIVER BATTLE WORTH WATCHING
The battle for wide receiver roster spots has been fluid and dynamic so far in preseason. The return of second-year WR Zay Jones to full contact practice this week changed the mix. And the addition of wide receiver Corey Coleman via trade 11 days ago adds a potential speed dimension to the picture that was lacking when the Bills went to camp.
Zay Jones has looked talented and focused this past week at camp—ready to go after missing the first few weeks of camp, and most of the springtime workouts, recovering from surgery.
McDermott has noticed a different approach Jones has had this week.
“In my opinion it’s a little bit that he has something to prove,” the head coach says, “but also a young man that’s maturing in his approach. Not that he wasn’t mature last year in his approach, but sometimes you see, as we’ve all been around a team and watched these guys grow and develop and mature, that they’re growing up in front of our eyes. In Zay’s case, I would say that I’ve noticed a little bit of a more serious demeanor, not that he wasn’t before, but he seems focused, which I appreciate.”
Coleman’s trade from Cleveland has been featured on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ show with the Browns this week. But his focus is on making the Bills roster now. This week, he’s been getting plenty of reps up and down the depth chart, as the Bills try to determine what he might offer their offense.
Undrafted rookie Robert Foster flashed early in camp. Sixth round draft pick Ray-Ray McCloud had a good first preseason game and may provide a boost in the return game. Second-year WR Brandon Reilly was getting looks with the first team as a slot man until he injured his ribs.
Behind Kelvin Benjamin, Jeremy Kerley and Jones, it’s an interesting and fluid picture at wideout for the Bills, one likely to clear up in the next three weeks.
4. YOUNG TALENT EMERGES AT CAMP
They may have been marginal players going into training camp, but coming out of camp, the Bills have several players who have made their mark.
One of them is tight end Jason Croom, a former college wide receiver at Tennessee. Last year was spent on the practice squad. Croom had a 22-yard catch in the first preseason game and has made several big plays at camp. He continues to work on his blocking technique; determined to make himself available as an ‘every down’ tight end.
Running back Marcus Murphy led the team in rushing against Carolina and he has consistently demonstrated his mix of quickness and power carrying the ball at camp. Add in his punt and kick return work, and Murphy has made a strong bid for a backup roster spot.
5. EDMUNDS UNDER THE RADAR
It was a quiet, uneventful training camp for first round draft pick Tremaine Edmunds. And that may be exactly what the linebacker and his coaches were hoping for.
Edmunds has shown no jitters as he handles relaying the play calls to the rest of the defense. There’s little evidence of confusion or uncertainty when he’s on the field.
He’s already earned the respect of his more veteran teammates on defense it seems. And the Bills are ready for him to unleash his superior athleticism and playmaking ability any day now. Sit tight.