After a day away from the fields at St. John Fisher, the Bills returned with another padded practice on Tuesday. It was a damp practice with a steady rain through much of the day, and tempers ran high throughout the practice. There were a few skirmishes and hard hits, though nothing blew up into a full-on fight. First, safety Dean Marlowe was leveled on a screen play by Jon Feliciano. A few plays later, he laid out Ray Ray McCloud on a route across the middle, and McCloud came up throwing punches. McCloud whacked Marlowe on the helmet, cutting his wrist in the process. A few minutes later, Siran Neal and Duke Williams traded punches after a play.
The rain also meant a rough day for Bills receivers. There were several drops, and Tre’Davious White forced a Cole Beasley fumble after a catch. Matt Milano’s rounding back into form after his late-season injury, and he caught an interception after Jordan Phillips tipped a pass. The defensive coaches set the tone early by hyping up their players to start “thudding,” and it paid off on the field.
The offense did have some success in the running game, led by LeSean McCoy. He broke off several big runs during the 11-on-11 practice session.
Mitch Morse spent a second consecutive practice working with conditioning staff on the sideline, so the Bills continued tweaking their lineup. On Sunday, Jon Feliciano was the substitute center for the starters. Today, it was Spencer Long at center, and Russell Bodine (who had been the second string center) played right guard with the starters. Ty Nsekhe also played with the first string in place of Cody Ford today.
So far, the only constants have been Dion Dawkins at left tackle, Quinton Spain at left guard, and Mitch Morse at center (when he’s practicing). Wyatt Teller’s also “locked in” as the backup left guard. Everything else seems to be up in the air.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was the coach being interviewed before today’s practice, and he explained the current pecking order across from Tre’Davious White. He said that Levi Wallace “solidified” the starting job with his play in 2018, and that “he’s the starter, whether there’s guys gaining on him or not.”
Those guys gaining on him, E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson, have been rotating between first string outside cornerback and a few spots on the second string. A new face joined them with that group today: undrafted UB rookie Cam Lewis. While Gaines played in the slot, Lewis and Johnson were the outside cornerbacks.
Ed Oliver has been mixing more and more with the first string with each successive practice. The Bills still operate with a heavy rotation in their defensive line, but he seems to be on a trajectory to outrank Jordan Phillips by the start of the season. Trent Murphy has locked up the starting defensive end role, and reporters remark every day how much faster he looks than the previous preseason.
Mitch Morse, for a second consecutive practice, didn’t participate in drills. Instead, he worked with the strength and conditioning staff on the sidelines. For what it’s worth, he didn’t seem to be suffering from any ailments, so it’s possible the Bills are just being extra-careful with their new high-priced center.
Although he cut his wrist when he punched Dean Marlowe, Ray Ray McCloud’s injury wasn’t serious. He got it taped up and went back out to continue practicing.
Defensive tackle Robert Thomas left the field with a leg injury during 1-on-1 drills.
Backup OL Isaac Asiata wasn’t present at practice for an unknown reason. LeSean McCoy got sick at one point during practice, but recovered and finished the session.
At the very end of practice, Tyler Kroft was spotted in regular shoes, without a walking boot. A positive sign for his injury rehab.
- A few Bills legends came to visit today. Kyle Williams held court with Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips, and Darryl Talley spoke with Tremaine Edmunds at the end of practice.
- The Bills defense flashed a dangerous personnel grouping at one point: With five DBs on the field, Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, Ed Oliver, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Milano, and Tremaine Edmunds were all positioned on the line of scrimmage. Any of those players could’ve rushed or dropped into coverage.
- Rookie wideout David Sills took some reps with the second string today, and he had his best play of camp, a 25-yard reception from Matt Barkley.
- A kid offered Josh Allen a Dolphins jersey, and he was not having it: