The last practice before the Buffalo Bills take on the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017 NFL preseason opener was also the first practice of the year for veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He did not disappoint in his first day with the Bills. There were multiple positives to take away from today’s session, with some question marks and ominous signs also beginning to emerge. Here are the major storylines.
All about Anquan
Obviously, much of today’s media focus centered on the veteran newcomer’s first practice, and he looked every bit the part of a strong fit. Boldin was immediately with the first team in 7-on-7 work, and he caught the first pass thrown his way for a first down and then some. Matthew Fairburn noted that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was feeding Boldin the rock, looking for him early and often.
Perhaps most impressively, Boldin was taking the last set of reps during positional drills, allowing the guys who have been with the squad longer to go first. The wide receiver position is most well-known for its divas, but when someone with a resume as long as Boldin’s can cede his time to players who can only dream of doing what he has in the NFL, it shows a certain humility and grace that is worth highlighting.
Oh, and he can still create separation in a short period of time. Watch him absolutely mauling Charles James on this short hook route:
Ronald Darby looked very good in 1-on-1 drills, consistently playing the ball and preventing catches. Shareece Wright, on the other hand, was abused by both Brandon Reilly and Walter Powell. with the top four corners (Darby, Tre’Davious White, Kevon Seymour, and Leonard Johnson) most likely set, Wright will need to prove that his veteran savvy is more valuable than the upside of young players like Bradley Sylve and Charles James in order to make the final roster.
Streater continue to impress
Another day, another strong practice for the veteran Rod Streater. He bailed out T.J. Yates on a deep throw that was too low, making a tremendous grab in bounds. After the play, Mike Rodak reported that owner Terry Pegula sought Streater out on the sideline and shook his hand. Not a bad endorsement of your play when the big boss comes out and recognizes it.
Josh Reed noted that Streater’s hold on a roster spot is tenuous with the addition of Boldin; however, I disagree. Sure, he might be the fifth wideout on the final roster, but cutting him does little to help the team’s financial situation (he’s signed to a 1 year deal worth the veteran minimum of $775,000, of which only $615,000 counts against the salary cap). Also, after last year’s debacle at the position with regard to injuries, having a top-five of Sammy Watkins, Boldin, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, and Streater is a pretty good deal.
Other lineup notes
Joe Buscaglia had plenty of notes about the wide receiver rotations. Watkins and Jones were the first pair in 11-on-11 work, with Boldin and Holmes coming out as the second grouping. When the first-team came back out, Watkins and Boldin were the pairing. The first three-wide set went Holmes, Boldin, and Watkins. He mentioned that Corey Brown, who was working with the first-team not so long ago, was relegated to third-team duty exclusively. That does not bode well for his chances at making the final roster, especially with Streater’s strong camp.
Regarding the quarterbacks, it was Nathan Peterman who began the day as the second-team quarterback. T.J. Yates continued to struggle with holding the ball too long, while Peterman continued to take shots downfield, albeit with little success.
In some potentially more ominous news, Reggie Ragland was limited to third-team duty today. Of course, this may be part of the plan to make sure he’s back up to speed, but it wasn’t long ago that Gerald Hodges was relegated to third-team snaps; today, the veteran free agent signing ran almost exclusively with the second team. It’s a situation that bears watching in the coming weeks.
Odds and Ends
Charles Clay was looking good, and we wanted to make sure that we wrote it down...the Bills were running some scout team today in preparation for their preseason opener on Thursday night...Boldin and Tyrod stayed after practice to keep working together...the importance of Boldin’s signing was highlighted by multiple drops by other receivers...Zay, however, was not one of those who had the dropsies.