The Bills are finishing up their final week of OTA practices before mandatory minicamp begins next week. Here are five things we learned from Tuesday's open practice.
1. Tremaine Edmunds mindset in year 5
Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is entering his fifth season and final year of his rookie contract. Like many, Edmunds is fighting for his second NFL contract. After four seasons of more than 100 tackles, the linebacker knows the contract is looming but understands the most important thing to do is focus on what he can control.
"All I can control is how I come out each and every day, and just work," Edmunds shared. "All that kind of stuff, you kind of just put it on the top shelf and do the stuff that you've been doing this whole time. And like I said, that's just me coming out working, me continuing to get better because there's still a lot of stuff that I know I can get better with."
Edmunds said he wants to trust himself more in 2022. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier explained he wants to see more splash plays out of his middle linebacker this season.
"I think it's a little bit of everything," Edmunds said of how he can accomplish getting more big plays. "Whether it's seeing stuff, whether it's stuff you pick up in the classroom, just being in the right position at the right time and trusting what you see. I think you can kind of take everything with making splash plays. Obviously, we all play this game to make big plays and to be the best player that we can be so I'm going to continue trusting myself, continue trusting the people around me and those things will come."
2. Tavon Austin's opportunity with Buffalo
Wide receiver Tavon Austin signed with Buffalo just last week. Even though he's only been a Bill for a few days, Austin is feeling like his new team is the right fit.
"One of the main reasons why I love it though is because when you go to certain organizations, everybody doesn't make it feel like home," Austin shared. "When I first came here, everybody definitely made me feel like that."
Austin explained quarterback Josh Allen has a touch that every receiver dreams of and knows if he works hard, the opportunities will come his way. One thing that's been a bit of a surprise is learning the offense.
"It's the most difficult offense I've been in," Austin said. "It's very hard to learn but if you learn it, you'll have a lot of success."
The former first-round pick knows people doubt his ability, but he's ready to prove that he still has a lot left in the tank.
"That's my dream again," Austin said of his want to show off his versatility. "Like I said, I took some tough injuries back in the day when I was with the Rams and that kind of turned my career a little bit. I feel like a lot of people forgot about Tavon Austin. I can say I'm healthy now. And I am looking forward to do those type of things, catch out of the backfield, slot or outside, whatever the team may need."
3. Expectations for younger defensive linemen
Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are expecting a lot out of their defensive line this year because of their new additions and growth in younger players. They want to see an uptick in production and expect some of it to come from younger players like A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham.
Frazier is looking for more consistency out of the three.
"They're past that point when they were rookies and it was kind of up and down, lulls here, break out here, we should be past that point," Frazier said of the younger defensive linemen. "Even with Greg. As much as he played a season ago and as well as he played, just the consistency. We definitely need that from A.J. We need that from Carlos (Boogie) where we can kind of know what we can expect every time they walk on the field."
Basham said their comfortability with the team and playbook will play into having a bigger role on the team in 2022.
"I would definitely say for me and Greg, we came in together and we spent a lot of time together off the field and on the field so it's more of us just feeding off one another," Basham explained. "We had okay seasons last year so we are building off of that so we can have a great season. Adding A.J. into the equation as well, we're all three young guys so that competition between all three of us, I feel like it will help us in the long run."
Eight-year veteran DaQuan Jones has enjoyed practicing with the younger group and sees a lot of potential in them.
"It brings you back because you were once there and you know how hungry they are to make the team," Jones shared. "And to see them come in here and work and the fact that they grasped the playbook so fast already is a true testament to themselves. They're doing a great job and really time will tell what's going to happen with them going forward."
4. A revamped defensive line
The defensive line group has added several new players to the roster this season in an attempt to take a step forward. Some of the new players are on their second stint with the Bills and some are experiencing Buffalo for the first time. Veteran defensive lineman DaQuan Jones is new to the team and loves the versatility he sees in his position group.
"They're all jack of all trades," Jones said. "They all can move around and play different positions, which I think is very important at this level. So to be able to have guys that can play on the inside and outside and then move all around, it will truly help the team to be more diverse in what we do."
While rotating positions can be a big strength for the group, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is using OTAs to make sure everyone is on the same page with the basics.
"There's a lot of turnover at the position so we really had to go back to the drawing board when it came to introducing them to how we do things on defense," Frazier said. "And I think the guys will grasp that and they're growing through the process. But it's a process and there's a lot more to come and training camp will be a big part of our progression."
Frazier was excited to welcome guys like Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson back to the team and knows they can be of help to the younger group of linemen.
"It just warms your heart when guys that left for what they thought were greener pastures come back and say, `You know what, this is the best place for me, no matter the money or anything else. This environment, this culture is the best place for me,'" Frazier shared "And so those were two guys who played at a high level for us. They're bringing a lot of juice, a lot of energy to our practices, to our meetings because they are excited about being here. And I look forward to the both of them really helping our team this next season."
5. Learning from Luke Kuechly
Seven-time Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly attended Bills practice last week to check in on the team and lend a helping hand to the linebackers group. When he was around, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds wanted to soak up every ounce of knowledge he had to offer.
"I take my hat off to him, and I can't thank him enough," Edmunds said. "Just with getting here and taking time out of his busy schedule, just to come back and just give back because he doesn't have to do that. I don't take it for granted. So, every time he's here, I try to get in his head anyway I can.
"Obviously, he was a great player and played the game at a high level, and there's a lot of things you can learn from him. So anytime he's here, whatever questions I may have I just shoot it out to him. And even if I don't change my game to how he played it, I could at least get that in and have options to see how he defended something, or understand how he saw something."
Edmunds isn't alone in appreciating Kuechly's presence. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the former LB can pop in whenever.
"I've never been around someone that absolutely wants to do nothing but be around ball," Beane shared. "He knows he's got an open invitation here with Sean and myself. I hope he'll come back again at training camp. But he's just a great resource. He's so humble. And I know that just talking to some of the guys, they got a lot from him."