In the middle of a global pandemic, the NFL has continued largely unhurt. They were able to hold the 2020 NFL Draft and conduct free agency, even if those two events looked very different. The biggest thing that’s been missed to this point is rookie minicamp and the rest of the offseason program. Some of the later-round rookies will be starting behind the eight-ball in terms of making the roster, and those who make the roster will likely have a harder time making an impact at early points in the season.
“I know every coach is anxious to get their hands on them and start showing them what they’re going to need to do to compete for a spot,” said general manager Brandon Beane in April. “That’s what’s so good about the rookie program in the spring. You’re trying to set them up for success when they get to training camp and if there is no offseason and let’s just say, August is when they can come in, it is going to be harder for some of these guys, especially undrafted free agents, because there’s only so many reps and they’re going to miss a lot of these spring reps that they would normally get.”
Rookies have been participating in the virtual offseason and some of the offensive rookies were able to participate in the small group workouts led by Josh Allen in Florida. They are still missing out on the team-building in Orchard Park and the reps with actual coaches.
“There’s still a gap that we’re not able to replace at this point,” said head coach Sean McDermott in June. “So, you take reps and there’s 500-plus reps that we are not able to replace for new players, for existing players, and building some of the chemistry and continuity that we’re going to need. I think you also go into it knowing that all the teams are on the same level playing field with that and no one’s been able to get together in and around facilities. So I think we’re all starting around the same place and that as we head into training camp. So is that a concern of mine? Yes. ”
Buffalo is counting on several rookies to play roles for the team in 2020. On defense, A.J. Epenesa wasn’t picked in the second round to stand on the sideline. Running back Zack Moss is going to be a major part of the ground game replacing Frank Gore while Gabe Davis and Isaiah Hodges could be in line to replace veterans Robert Foster and Duke Williams.
McDermott and the Buffalo Bills have been working on a plan for training camp to address the situation. Training camp will be held in Orchard Park instead of at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY.
“I think the better question is and a better thing that we have to, what is our plan and what is our solution come training camp to try and close that gap? And so that’s some of or a large part of the communication that we’re having here is what can we do in training camp?” said McDermott. “What do we need to do to find those solutions that we may not have had the same challenges in prior years? So that’s where you have a strong staff and the value of communication comes in and then hey, when we start it’s all hands on deck.”
No date has been announced for the start of training camp. It usually kicks off at the end of July.