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Notes from the sidelines at Buffalo Bills training camp, 7/28

A better day for the defense, but the offensive line looked strong

NFL: Buffalo Bills-Training Camp
This is not me.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

My second day at Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher went similarly to the first—I came in, I watched a coach’s press conference (today was Sean McDermott) and then I scrambled over to the field to take in the action. The weather cooperated for us, as the clouds kept things a little cooler than yesterday, and the rain in the forecast held off, as well.

Today’s practice flowed beautifully, and although it was the same length as yesterday’s, it seemed to fly by. I tried to focus a little more on the defense today, so I hung out on the back field during position group drills to watch what went down on the other side of the ball.

For the most part, the pass rush and secondary looked good, but the run defense lost some gap integrity when the teams went full-field. The offensive line was able to wall off defensive linemen and linebackers consistently, opening big holes for all of Buffalo’s backs.

Here are my bullet-points for the day:

  • Rest days for three starters (Mitch Morse, Lorenzo Alexander, Stephen Hauschka) meant that other players saw some chances.
  • At center, the Bills ran with Jon Feliciano with the ones. He had been playing right guard. Subbing at guard for Feliciano was Spencer Long. In the last 11-on-11 session, Feliciano shifted back to his guard spot so that Russell Bodine could take some snaps.
  • With Alexander out, the spot went to Corey Thompson whenever Buffalo ran with three linebackers. Thompson was the first person out whenever they went nickel, and Taron Johnson remained the guy there.
  • Chase McLaughlin took advantage of the chances he had, displaying quite a bit of power on kickoffs and solid leg strength and accuracy on field goals. The rookie from Illinois looked good as the veteran Hauschka took a day off.
  • Contrary to yesterday, where a lot of focus on the passing game was the story, today it was the running game. Frank Gore, in particular, looked strong and decisive going through holes in the middle. If he’s lost a step, I think he found it, because he looks spry.
  • Devin Singletary was mighty impressive again. I wasn’t high on the pick when it happened, but I’m eating my words now. This guy is agile, he’s tough, he’s quick in space, and he can catch the ball. If given the opportunity, I think he could be a star.
  • LeSean McCoy and T.J. Yeldon each took advantage of a strong day from both the first and second team offensive lines, as well. Shady only saw reps with the ones and Yeldon only saw reps with the twos, but both players looked good on outside runs and in the passing game.
  • Ed Oliver struggled to shed blocks initially when working in double-team drills, though he managed to find some success towards the end of the session. The coaching staff was all over him on the back field about taking a better angle to the quarterback on his pass rush--specifically, that he was too wide. When the team period came to pass, however, he looked good, rotating in with the ones and putting that work on shedding doubles to good use.
  • The top-eight on the defensive line were pretty consistent over the last two days. The starting group was Jerry Hughes, Star Lotulelei, Jordan Phillips, and Trent Murphy. The second group was Shaq Lawson, Harrison Phillips, Oliver, and Mike Love. The third group was Eddie Yarbrough, Robert Thomas, L.T. Walton, and Eli Harold. Barring an injury, that appears to be the coaching staff’s lean.
  • Kevin Johnson looked good today in coverage, as did Levi Wallace. Both players saw time with the starting group. Wallace broke up a good slant pass from Josh Allen intended for Robert Foster, and Johnson stuck with Keith Towbridge on a fade to the end zone during a red zone portion of play. Johnson saw plenty of time in the slot with the second team, leaving E.J. Gaines and Lafayette Pitts--primarily a special teams player--as the outside corners. Johnson’s versatility has been touted as a huge plus for the Bills, and the coaches are putting it on display early in camp.
  • In his press conference, Sean McDermott said that he really liked the competition in the secondary, and though he was noncommittal about a starter, he did mention that there was “concern” with Johnson’s injury history. He said it would take a great deal of communication between staff and players in order to ensure that players receive the care and treatment they need.
  • Josh Allen didn’t have as good a day as he had Saturday, but following up a performance that scorching-hot would have been hard. He threw a really bad interception over the middle on the last play of one of the team portions, missing his receiver to the inside, allowing Tre’Davious White to pick it and make a big return. Fifteen minutes later, he started the next team portion by lofting a beautiful ball to Cole Beasley on an out-and-up, so he put the throw behind him quickly.
  • Speaking of Beasley, he and Allen are going to start doing karate in the garage, because I think they are about to become best friends. The versatility he shows in just how he can free himself from tight coverage is remarkable, and while he doesn’t possess the breakaway speed of someone like John Brown, if teams sit on short routes for him, he has the ability to change direction without losing any speed on wheel/out-and-up routes.
  • Want a dark horse candidate for the roster? How about Cam Phillips, the second-year man out of Virginia Tech. He had a really strong practice today, and he saw some time with the starters. At yesterday’s practice, he made a few really nice plays with the reserves—I kept having to check my roster card because I constantly found myself wondering who that number 87 was making plays. In the last team session on Sunday, he laid out to make a great catch on a corner route from Allen. If the top five receivers are set, then the gambler in me wants to put Phillips and Ray-Ray McCloud a cut above everyone else for that sixth (and possibly seventh) spot.
  • David Sills V saw some time with the second unit today, but he really didn’t see many passes thrown his way.
  • If the success the offense had running the ball today is any indication, the team has accomplished a major goal in improving the offensive line. Even without Morse, the offense was gashing the defense all day on the ground. At one point, after Devin Singletary broke a fifteen yard touchdown run that he was able to bounce outside, Lorenzo Alexander was coaching Corey Thompson about his pursuit on the play. It was a great show of veteran leadership, the kind that we’ve come to expect from ‘Zo throughout his time in Buffalo.

That’s all for me, folks! Now, it’s time to head home. To paraphrase the immortal Jake and Elwood’s 289 miles to New Paltz. I’ve got a full tank of gas, an 11-pack of delicious beverages from Fifth Frame, it’s cloudy, and I’m wearing sunglasses.

Hit it.