What can fans expect of the Buffalo Bills offense during the first game of the preseason, when they welcome the Minnesota Vikings to New Era Field for a 7 p.m. game Thursday night?
"I wanna see tempo,” said offensive coordinator Rick Dennison on Monday. “I wanna see 'em up and down, have a sense of urgency every play," Dennison said before Day 10 of training camp at St. John Fisher College Monday morning. "I wanna see being physical on the ball, see if we can do that, and we'll just operate, whatever call we have."
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is in a make-or-break season with the Buffalo Bills after his contract was restructured during the offseason. Same goes for talented wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has battled his fair share of injuries during his first three seasons in Orchard Park and did not have his fifth-year option picked up by Buffalo. LeSean McCoy is a dynamic playmaker on offense who is able to make plays through both the running and passing game. Add in an offensive line that helped the Bills once again lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (164.4), and first-year offensive coordinator Dennison certainly has weapons at his disposal.
Through nearly two weeks of training camp, Taylor has been up and down, but he seems to be grasping Dennison’s offensive scheme better of late. During Monday’s 11-on-11 drill, Taylor went 6-for-7 with a perfectly-tossed 20-yard touchdown strike to tight end Charles Clay as time expired during a 1:25-minute drill.
Being more accurate and decisive in the pocket are two areas Dennison said he has focused on when it comes to further developing Taylor, who has thrown 37 touchdowns compared to only 12 interceptions during his Bills career.
Cutting down on sacks (78 in two seasons) has also been a major focal point for Dennison, Taylor, and the Bills offense. Dennison has instructed Taylor to “listen with his feet,” when it comes to reading the field and deciding who to throw to.
Fans will want to see Taylor and the rest of the offense, including new acquisition Anquan Boldin and talented rookie wide receiver Zay Jones, carry over that momentum into the preseason and, eventually, the regular season.
While coaches want to see progress from their players during any preseason game as they figure out their team’s roster and depth chart, the number one goal is emerging injury-free: no one wants to lose a player during a game that doesn’t count.
As for Taylor’s number one receiver, Watkins? He gave the team a brief scare when he appeared to tweak his ankle during Sunday’s practice, but was a full practice participant Monday and Tuesday and like his fellow starters will play the first quarter vs. Minnesota.
Thursday’s preseason opener against the Vikings will be the first chance for Dennison, first-year head coach Sean McDermott, and Buffalo’s fans to see how well the offense has taken to this new offensive scheme, though McDermott has already stated his starters “will go about a quarter, give or take,” in their debut.