The Buffalo Bills continued OTAs on Tuesday and as they entered week 2, the coordinators spoke with the media on Tuesday. Below we have the transcript of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who discussed the running game, injuries, the offensive line, and most notably second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
OC Brian Daboll
Q: There’s been a lot of discussion about Josh [Allen]’s growth, obviously between year one and year two, what have you seen from him in the short time that you’ve been back? Where he ended last year and where he has started?
A: A lot. I think from year one to year two, for any player, is huge. Usually you make a big jump because there are so many unknowns when you come in here. You can talk to some of these young rookies that are going through rookie meetings and they don’t know their way around to a Tim Horton’s, shortcuts to the stadium, all the little things that you take for granted, it’s all new to those guys. On top of that, you’re playing a pretty difficult position, both physically and mentally, and you have so many things going through your head. I was just talking about this to Tyree [Jackson] after practice the other day, “You have to lead and you have to do this.” Heck, some of these guys can’t get the play call out just yet. Josh is understanding of what we try to do here. His input, too, it’s a give and take. I have a lot of respect for him and I really appreciate coaching him. He has grown mentally, physically, off the field, on the field as a leader. Again, it’s a short time, we have only had three OTA’s. Back to phase one, he’s been really helpful for all of the new guys, whether it’s the rookies, whether it’s the guys we signed, trying to build relationships with them and grow off the field as well as on the field.
Q: What is the approach like for year two, versus a rookie and year one of Josh Allen? Now that you have had a whole year with him, what are some specific things you will address with him?
A: You’ve got to think, too, last year Josh was taking reps with the threes a bunch, then he was taking reps with some of the twos and some of the ones. To build camaraderie and consistency, particularly in the passing game, you’d like to throw to the guys you’re going to throw to as many times as you can. So, I think having him out there is very helpful because he’s going with the ones, for the most part. We don’t have a depth chart, but the guys he is working with, some of the new guys like Smoke [John Brown], and Zay [Jones], and those guys. I think that’s very beneficial for him because he’s taken reps with a lot of the guys that he’ll be working with throughout the summer.
Q: How much does a quarterback in his second year need to take more command, add to that the presence of leadership and adopt that to build upon, after swimming through his first season, how much does a quarterback need to do that and how much do you need to see that from him?
A: That’s the nature of playing that position. It’s going out there and being able to compete at a high level and also being a good leader. Again, whether that’s off the field or on the field. Josh is going to lead how Josh leads. I don’t think he can take any cookie-cutter example of leadership and say, “This is the way you have to lead.” I think Josh is a good leader. I think the guys, you can ask those guys but I think they respect both his work ethic and his ability and his command in the huddle. We just have to keep growing that and building it with him. He’s done a good job.
Q: From what we see, we see this “Aw shucks, I just want to win,” kind of guy, which is the way he’s been. Have you seen him change and, maybe, hone his message in some ways?
A: That’s a good thing to have, is just a win method. You want that from your quarterback. His preparation habits, even how he is around the building with all facets of the building. From the training staff, to the cafeteria workers, to the people in the weight room, to the equipment guys. It’s not just the players. He is, quote unquote, the face of the franchise. There’s a lot that goes with that, particularly when you’re a young guy who was picked as high as he was. I think that his mindset, though, is to get better everyday and he’s got good leadership, good ability, he’s a good guy to work with. I’m happy we have him.
Q: Are there specific ways, and if you can explain what they are, to address the questions of Josh’s accuracy? Aside from people catching the ball, what can you address to try to improve that?
A: I think that the more reps we get the better off it is for him. That’s just not out there in a 7-on-7 or a team skelly, or a perimeter period. That’s routes on air that we have been doing since phase one and phase two, making him move off the spot and reset, ball location on underneath throws where we have a better opportunity to catch and run. It’s not just catching the ball from the skill guys, it’s making sure that the skill guy is in the right spot doing the right thing when they’re supposed to do it, too. A yard off here or there can be a big difference in the throw. We have been working on it, Josh has been working on it very diligently along with Matt [Barkley] and Tyree. We’ll keep at it.
Q: [Tyler] Kroft’s injury kind of changed the dynamic of the tight end position, what have you seen early on here in OTAs?
A: Whatever happens, it’s kind of good for, it’s not good to not have anybody out there, you’d like to have everybody that you signed to be out there, you’d like all the young guys to be out there, all the old guys to be out there. But that’s your job as a coach, to go ahead and adjust and whether it’s a different personnel grouping or using a different guy in a different spot. I think Rob [Boras] does a good job with all those guys, obviously we have a couple of young guys who we selected in the draft and then we brought on Lee [Smith]. It’s a good group to work with. Again, it’s a tough break for Kroft, but we’ll just keep on grinding away.
Q: When Josh left here in January, what did you send him away with, in terms of, “Look, do these things in the offseason,” and then he goes and works with Jordan Palmer. The second part of this is did you contact Palmer to help set a plan for Josh?
A: We spoke at the end of whatever month that was, in terms of some of the things that we wanted to try to get accomplished. I have a lot of respect for Jordan and what Josh does. Josh goes out there and unfortunately the rules are the rules out there. They’re out there working on, look, you can only do so many different drills with so many different people. Jordan does a good job with him, he knows what’s expected of him, in terms of his footwork and the throws we’d like him to make. Then, another good example of Josh is that he brings a bunch of guys out there to throw routes with, that were on our team. He’s had a good offseason in phase one and phase two. These first couple of days we’ve put him in a lot of different situations. The first three days of OTAs we’ve done red zone already, we’ve done two-minute, we’ve done third down, we’ve done first down, we’ve done start of the game. There’s been a series in there where I’ve said, “You got it bud, take it, call it, go no huddle and you call it on your own.” We’ve put him in a bunch of situations, both physically and mentally. And that’s what we need to continue to do.
Q: You have a lot of new guys, from free agency especially, to work in and get on the same page and maybe to rebuild the O-line. What has that challenge been like for you?
A: It’s been fun. We’ve added some coaches, some players, and this is the time of year to build those relationships, not just in the building but outside the building because you have to have a trust factor when you’re in this job. I think the guys that we’ve added, both player wise and coaches wise have done a good job. We’ve got good interaction. We have a long way to go but each year is a different year. This year is a little different than last year, which was a brand new deal. Now we’ve got a bunch of new guys added. We just have to make sure that we’re all on the same page, we’re all rowing the boat the same way.
Q: It’s a larger number of undefined roles up front maybe to last year and most years probably. How do you and [offensive line] coach [Bobby] Johnson try to navigate through that to get to the endpoint while also keeping it a fair competition for all the guys that are battling?
A: Sure, good question. This time of year, particularly for that position, it’s really physical but it’s not as much physical as it is mental and making sure we are doing what we need to do. This is more of a teaching deal for those guys. They are all getting rotated around just like we did last year and once the pads come on and they are able to see them extend their arms and move people out the line of scrimmage and keep the depth and the width in the pocket. Right now you are teaching the system, you are implementing it, you are moving guys and different pieces and seeing how they communicate with one another and then once the pads come on I think that’s a better time to really evaluate that spot.
Q: Knowing how committed the coaches are to the calendar so to speak, when you get to camp do you and Coach Johnson already have in your mind’s eye when you want to try and get those roles solidified?
A: Sure, well I think the earlier the better but you don’t want to push it to where you don’t have the exact answer that you think is best for the football team. It will all play out but obviously the sooner the better so you got a cohesiveness working together with those guys because that’s an important aspect to it.
Q: What are Josh [Allen] and Mitch Morris doing to at least try to build chemistry now knowing that they can’t practice right now?
A: Well there’s a lot of communication that goes on in the meeting rooms and I’d say Mitch is out there with the script watching practice, they are talking back and forth. Again it’s tough when you aren’t out there actually physically doing it and getting the reps but as much communication as we can encourage between those two guys, that’s important.
Q: Along several lines you don’t have Cole Beasley working right now, either. In your offensive scheme, this guy has been a true producer in that slot, he’s just one of those guys. In your scheme, how important is it now to account [for] a guy like him?
A: He’s a good player and I think Brandon, Joe, and their staff did a really good job of what you’ve seen in the draft. Again you’d love for them to be out there and to be able to throw with Josh but you know the slot is a tough spot to play inside and I think Isaiah [McKenzie] and Ray-Ray [McCloud] have done a good job here but it’s a tough spot to play. There’s a lot of moving pieces that are going inside with ‘backers and drop down guys, it’s like playing inside an interior quarter line versus playing outside where you basically got a defensive end or you got a corner. You need really good instincts. At least the guys that I’ve been around that had been successful in slot have really good instincts and good short space quickness and he falls into that category.
Q: I don’t know how much personal coaching experience you can draw from on this issue, but rebuilding a line which you can see is pretty extensive just based on what we’ve seen. What do you draw from to and have you dealt with anything quite like that? There are those that say it can take a half a year of the season to get the line in sync. How do you wrap your head around all of that?
A: I think you give them as many reps as you can. Those guys meet a ton and Coach Johnson and Heff [assistant offensive line coach Terry Heffernan] and Wendy [offensive assistant Ryan Wendell] have done a good job with them. You have to be a physical player and move people out of the line of scrimmage but you have to be a player that communicates well particularly from inside out so everybody’s on the same page. You get in as many reps as you can, you go through it in training camp and you get going again with that and to the question earlier, the sooner you can get that ironed out the better off it is for all five of those guys. But you know how training camp goes. It’s such a competitive deal and you give guys reps and they are competing with one another so it will be fine.
Q: Going back to what you said about Josh and how quickly you put stuff on his plate like the red zone in two minutes, would you say it’s normal this time of year to have done that already? I know last year having a rookie quarterback and I even noticed you were wearing headsets last week during OTAs. Are you ahead of where you would normally be because the roster can handle it more?
A: I don’t know if ahead is the right word. I think Coach McDermott had a philosophy going into his first couple days of how he wanted to handle things and whether you put some stuff on the players and put some pressure on the coaches I think that’s a good thing. Again, to be a good football team you have to be good at situations and red zone third down in two minute we may not be able to necessarily start there in all those cases but the first three days we got a bunch done. I don’t know how all the other teams are doing it I just think that it’s good for the players. You install a lot so there’s a lot going through their head and be able to respond quickly and there’s periods where we don’t have scripts or do anything like that. We just go out there and call whether I’m giving it to Josh or Josh had a huddle period and he did it, I think that’s good for the players and the coaches.
Q: We’ve got almost twelve - fifteen minutes where we have been talking about the running game. How much do you need that, was it acceptable of what happened last year and how much do you need that to better to take the load off everybody in some cases?
A: I think to run the ball, sure. We have to be a better running football team no question about it. Whether it’s schemes or plays or philosophies or whatever it may be, we’re working through that right now and it’s a little tougher during these times to really practice it. That will happen in training camp a bunch but we’ve done a lot of work in the off season both as coaches and then when the guys get back, the players. So we’ll be working to grind that out.
Q: Does every team do that to get maybe a little bit more in the passing game this time of year just because you don’t have pads and you’re not knocking people back?
A: My experience is yes. You try to be smart the way you practice and doing everything within the rules. But the grinding and the double teams and the movement within the line of scrimmage, there’ll be enough time for that in training camp. Do we do some of it, absolutely. Do we do it as much as you would like to do it, no because of the parameters and the rules and how those things go.
Q: How would you describe the impact of the injuries on building team chemistry and the relationships?
A: The guys that we’ve brought in off the field I think it’s been really good. We’ve made some good additions in terms of personalities. Tough and smart, guys that are committed, guys that care and you can see that in the building but you can see that outside the building with the different things that those guys do. In terms of on the field, the more you can rep together the more chemistry you’re going to have. There are going to be plenty of times in the year when we are going to have to use a different personnel group or do something else so it’s not good for anybody to get hurt during this time but you go ahead, you work with what you got and put the guys out there because it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen whether it’s in training camp, preseason, second game, whatever it may be. It’s good to go through those situations.
Q: Just to clarify when you were talking about the stuff you were throwing at Josh, is it your goal to get him to a point by regular season to give him a little bit more rope in game situations or are you testing him now to see if he can do that?
A: We are in the three, four of OTAs so we are doing a lot of different things. Situationally, red zone, low red zone, today we are working some fringe. We are doing a lot of different things right now just to throw on his plate and see what we need to keep getting better at and see what he has got a firm grasp of.
Q: What have you seen from Tyree Jackson so far in your time here?
A: Much like a young quarterback is coming in. Very diligent worker, works his tail off, he’s done a good job with the young guys, all the guys that he’s around and the rookie group. Has a lot to learn, knows he’s got a lot a learn, but a guy who is willing to go out there and improve every day. He’s been good in the room.