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Buffalo Bills training camp recap: defense dominates, quarterbacks play well

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The pass rush was incredible, but the QBs persevered

Six days of training camp are in the books for the 2018 Buffalo Bills, and quite a few trends are emerging from St. John Fisher. With each passing day, competitions come closer to a resolution. Head coach Sean McDermott and his coordinators on offense and defense, Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier, have done plenty of mixing and matching throughout the opening portion of camp.

With some players missing time due to injury or rest days, the lineup shifts are of particular importance. With different wide receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, safeties, and quarterbacks all shifting between units, the coaching staff is able to see multiple players and how they may fit on the final roster.

The sixth camp day included plenty of good lineup notes and some excellent pass-rush, as well as some in-depth description of the quarterback play in Rochester. Here are some of the dominant storylines.

A.J. McCarron is QB1?

While all three men on the quarterback carousel have seen first-team reps this spring and summer, the oldest of the group seems to be separating from the pack a bit. McCarron’s play has been described as steady throughout camp, and Thad Brown tweeted that McCarron had “a day” today by doing just that: remaining a steady force and playing within the offense.

With a highly touted rookie waiting in the wings, McCarron and Nathan Peterman are merely placeholders for what will eventually be Josh Allen’s starting job. That doesn’t mean that the job is Allen’s immediately, however, so McCarron has the chance to begin the season as a starter for the first time in his NFL career. Even if his time as Buffalo’s starter is short-lived, a solid performance from McCarron might turn into opportunities elsewhere.

Joe Buscaglia had stats for all three quarterbacks during 11-on-11 sessions:

Peterman, Allen strong, as well

All three of Buffalo’s signal-callers seemed to have a good practice today. Peterman was wirth the second team today, and he threw quite a few good balls that led to touchdowns. He hit Kaelin Clay for a touchdown, and Clay was wide open due to a miscommunication on defense. He also threw a nice ball that was immediately followed by yet another practice fight. This one may have been caused by trash talk from the offense; since they were routinely beating the defense early, the offensive players were letting the defenders know about it, which obviously did not sit well with some in Buffalo’s stop unit. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo was knocked to the ground while trying to break up the fight, but players were able to drag him out of harm’s way before he was injured.

Allen had a familiar sounding day—there were inaccurate throws and there were incredible throws. Among his stronger portions of practice was the end, where it seemed that he was repeatedly able to use the back-shoulder throw to his advantage, hitting Ray-Ray McCloud on a nice anticipation throw. He went back-shoulder to Taiwan Jones at one point and made a solid throw, but the running back dropped the ball. Overall, it was a solid day for the rookie, including one big milestone: he had two consecutive series with the first team for the first time this summer.

Ferocious pass rush

According to Chris Brown, Kyle Williams was an absolute monster today. He had sacks on three consecutive plays at one point, torching Vlad Ducasse on each play, and then he added a run where he had two sacks in two minutes. Brown also noted that the offensive line was struggling to create a solid pocket for the quarterbacks in general. This is obviously good news for the defensive unit, but it’s a bit concerning for an offensive line that has lost quite a bit of talent since last season. Sal Capaccio noted that the line was a mix-and-match unit today, with the team shuffling and having everyone work with different combinations up front. Hopefully, that explains some of the struggles.

Hauschka was money

Buffalo’s kicker, Stephen Hauschka, lived up to his nickname today, nailing a few field goals in succession during a hurry-up portion of special teams work. The team hustled on to the field in a “fire drill” scenario, simulating a late-game kick where the Bills were out of timeouts. Overall, Hauschka was 5-for-6, missing only a 35-yard boot. He hit on kicks of 45 and 51 yards, however.

Tremaine Edmunds playing well

That may actually be an understatement; Edmunds has, by all accounts, been fantastic thus far in his first camp. He came down with an interception on a 4th-and-long play, and he also had a sack on McCarron during a two-minute drill. Overall, the rookie has played less like a 20-year old and more like an established veteran throughout the early part of camp.

Lots of lineup shuffling

There were a lot of interesting tidbits about different positional groups today, so I’ll try to list them here. If I missed one, please add it in the comments or ask and I’l try to find it!

  • Rod Streater and Robert Foster ran with the first-team receivers, and Andre Holmes was also with the starters for plenty of reps. Holmes, though, did not take a rep during the final 11-on-11 session. Malachi Dupre was with the second team for most of the day
  • Ryan Groy was back as the first-team center, with Russell Bodine back with the second team
  • Shaq Lawson and Adolphus Washington worked as starters with the first team for a bit, spelling Trent Murphy and Kyle Williams for a time. Lawson worked at his normal position, left defensive end, but also worked a bit at defensive tackle. It makes sense for him to kick inside on obvious passing downs, as it allows the Bills to use their four best pass rushers at once.
  • The Bills used Raphael Bush, Dean Marlowe, and Kelcie McCray together on the second team, going with Sean McDermott’s “big nickel” formation. The three safeties involved all make sense, as they’re among the bigger-bodied defensive backs on the Bills’ roster (McCray is Buffalo’s tallest defensive back at 6’2,” and Marlowe is next at 6’1”).
  • UDFA running back Keith Ford had a strong day. He had a long touchdown run early in practice.
  • Lorenzo Alexander played a little at defensive end, with Ramon Humber and Deon Lacey checking in behind him.