AstroNotes: Bills Practice 2

Photo (L) to (R)… Hunter Phillips, Mike McDonough, Brian Phillips, Dean Kindig, Joe Reagan, Brian Rossignol (blame the photographer:)

Thank God It’s Friday. I’m blessed with great “color analysts” today, all contributing great information. Hunter Phillips is sporting his college’s awesome William and Mary cap, hearkening back to that famous William and Mary alumnus associated with the Bills. Yep, QB Dan Darragh, 1968-1970. Mike McDonough wasn’t going to be with us (medical equipment sales trip), but an operation was postponed (patient got better, we hope). Brian Phillips was very helpful, and yesterday’s texter Joe Reagan moved over to the bleacher side to offer his insight. Finally, Brian Rossignol (who is cut off in the picture; sorry), with his binoculars, kept us up on who was on the far side of the field and playing in the trenches.

I got a ride from Todd in a John Deere XUVB835M down to the bleachers, saving me a half a mile walk, which my FitBit Charge2 didn’t credit me for. Mrs. Astro drove me to practice in our Ford Fusion. [Commercial break over.]

The first players in the parade today: For the second day in a row, it was third-stringer Tyree Jackson, followed by D’haquille Williams (I like the name and we already had a Duke Williams). Coach Skipper and Darryl Johnson both waved to us. Tone-setter Frank Gore is the first running back out, looking cut in cutoff black Buffalo Bills muscle hoodie and black sweats (which he’ll remove later; it was scorching out there). He signs some hats, shirts, and a helmet for The Entitled Children from the Restricted Area below us. Brian Daboll is next, smiling, also all in black. Perhaps there’s a funeral this afternoon. He signs 4 autographs and fist-bumps the staffers enroute to the practice field. Brian Gaine (who hasn’t signed Clowney or Mike Williams yet), parted-afro-ed RayRay McCloud (who signs 7 autographs, a new record), and long snapper Reid Ferguson are next. Finally, The Franchise appears. Will Josh sign an autograph today? YES!! In fact, he one-ups RayRay, signing 8. The DJ is playing “Whip It”.

Ed Oliver, Velcro sneakers undone and flapping as he swaggers over to The Entitled Children, has a magnetism with people as much as he does horses. I noticed that Ford, Singletary (who signed everyone’s), and some of the other draftees all signed autographs.

Again the team did 11 on 11’s as the first order of business. Beasley and Taron Johnson compare tans. Foster poses for the videocamera on the way over. I notice Sean wears my bucket hat better (at least mine looks better than Jauron). Darryl Johnson does a little moonwalk on the ladder drill. The 2’s get to work first today. That includes Shaq Lawson and Eli Harold. Barkley leads the twos in a 2-minute drill. Barkley connects with 6 of the first 7 receivers, with the first 4 being McKenzie, Sweeney, Cam Phillips, Robert Foster. The next pass was Losmanlike. It was over the head of any crows flying over to Route 490 in search of carrion. Bark settled down and hit Victor Bolden (who has a clause in his contract for receptions –too bad camp won’t count), then a beauty out of the backfield to Singletary and D’haquille Williams in traffic. On the next play, D’haquille clears out the flats for a WR coming underneath, but Bark doesn’t connect. The #2 DL is Lawson, Oliver, Horrible Harry, and Love.

Jon Feliciano is watching the twos, busting some dance moves. We’ll add him to the growing troupe of players who are auditioning for Astro’s “So You Think You Can Be a Football Player?”

It’s the 1’s turn again, and Murphy, Lotulelei, Lorenzo, and Hughes are the defensive line bringing the heat. Long has come in as the RG, with Levi Wallace now in at RCB. Josh takes a lot of time, in the pocket (doesn’t that sound refreshing to say?), and Micah Hyde and Taron Johnson are all over Cole Beasley like a cheap suit. Josh tries to force it in there, and Beasley can’t reel it in (sort of like Poyer with the fishing segment on “Embedded”).

No Foster with the ones. It might be a ploy to keep the heat on Foster, but who would he replace? Brown has looked very quick, Beasley catches Josh’s eye, and Zay Jones is getting work. Heck, even Andre Roberts is catching passes. McKenzie says, “Don’t forget about me”, as he makes a quick-n-tasty turn upfield after a neat hands catch on a play that featured Tommy Sweeney and Cam Phillips split to the near side. On the coverage was Pitts (who wins the “Who Wore It Worst” Award, with camo pants that featured a tasteless green, where olive would obviiously have been the better choice). Moral: If you suck, just make sure you at least stand out.

Most of the practice dealt with third down, with down and distance flags, with headsets (first time I’ve seen that at camp). The OL right now is LT Nsehke, Teller, Bodine, Feliciano, and Waddle. It might be a mashup of 1s, 2s, and 3s. Sweeney is the TE on the near side. Barkley fires a nifty throw to Bolden on the slant. Bark looks sharper today than yesterday. Subs for the OL included my man McGhin (who can play all 5 positions, and has some quickness) and my man Nick Easley. Barkley connects with Ray Ray McCloud on an out pattern to the near side. Tyree Jackson almost kills Sills with a bullet that’s too hard; he’ll need a “touch” throw, but he’s nowhere near where Josh was a year ago.

Edmunds is described by my color analysts as “quick to diagnose and early to communicate”, and that’s a huge sigh of relief. We wanted to see Tremaine seize the power, and we’re seeing it here.

Josh Allen to John Smoky Brown. Remember that combo. It’ll be your third-favorite combo, after Josh to Beasley, and me to Nick Tahou’s. Josh might have gone to Beasley here, but Tre White grabbed Beasley’s jersey.

Morse got a breather in the middle of practice, but he’s back at Center with Long at RG. Dawkins and Ford are the Tackles, and Spain’s at LG.

Frank Gore has trouble with the playcall, and has to be diirected by Josh where to line up. No matter; Allen to Beasley with plenty of YAC is the result of the play.

Brian Rossignol at the binoculars notes that Tommy Sweeney and Dawson Knox are very similar body types. I’m noting that as a prototype TE for the Bills going forward. Croom is nowhere to be seen today. In positionals, Sweeney misses a cone, and Coach Boras talks with him. I love that about this coaching staff, as they are constantly teaching, diagnosing, and remediating on the fly. Towbridge comes out quickly from his stance square and low. Don’t write him out of the script just yet. Knox comes out too upright, and Boras once again takes the player aside and teaches what he wants. Sure enough; the next time Knox fires off the snap, he’s lower and square. Lee Smith is not a dance for our “SYTYCBAFB” show, I’m afraid. He blocks powerfully, and uses quick feet to keep with his blocking target. Nate Becker stays square, but looks awkward in his movements compared to the more-fluid guys. Later, the TEs move with the OL and practice combo blocks. We saw this last year, but it’s now a different level. It’s nice to have the same OC for two years in a row, isn’t it? We should do this more often!

Singletary is a revelation. He’s smooth, but then he jukes you out of your cleats. He’s catching the ball and is decent at blocking, neither of which he was called to do regularly at Florida Atlantic.

Sal has been talking to Josh Allen’s girlfriend and mother; I’ll pass the last 4 paragraphs on to him to catch him up.

The WRs have been working on getting off press coverage. These teaching elements are vital in assuring the success of a young quarterback. Given time afforded by a jelling OL, a HR-threat running back room, and WR/TEs who can attain separation off press and at target, Josh can prove he’s the next big thing at quarterback.

Heath Farwell has energy and command with the ST groups. We caught him teaching often during this practice. His developmental focus and teacherly style is a welcome respite from Crossman’s barking. He wears white gloves, and his white-glove treatment of his kickers plus long snapper Reid Ferguson will provide dividends as camp goes on. The punts are still wobbly and erratic at times, but Ferguson delivers the snap cleanly and on target like clockwork.

Long is in at RG, Spain at LG, Dawkins and Ford your Tackles, with Morse at Center. Lots of third-down stuff, with Gore clearing the flat for a nifty John Brown catch. Stanford is now the Mike, giving Tremaine Edmunds some relief on this “hot-if-you’re-not-from-the-South” day. E.J. Gaines gets a pass breakup, having another good day (and it’s all about consistency, right?)

Dawson Knox is the first-string TE, and they’re practicing 3rd and 3. This isn’t your Daddy’s offense; they’re in 5-wide with a mobile QB. Then, they’re in 4-wide with Gore, then Singletary. Good luck with that, defensive coordinators. Brandon Beane is schmoozing with fans along the hospitality fence. Nsehke’s in at LT, with Feliciano LG, Morse, Long RG, and Ford RT. Gore is over taking off those black pants. Dawkins and Spain interchange with Nsehke and Feliciano. There’s still a couple of unsettled positions there.

Other thoughts:

Milano had a wonderful PBU against Zay Jones. Corey Thompson came in first to spell Milano. The offense unveiled a couple of razzle-dazzle plays I think we’ll see against CAR, so I won’t pull a Spoiler –unlike a certain RB who’ll be involved with one of the plays. Lafayette Pitts couldn’t keep up with Victor Bolden on a fly pattern. Bolden and Gore lined up wide on this side with trips left, and the pass was just over Isaiah McKenzie’s fingers. Tee Higgins (Clemson, 6-4) or Collin Johnson (Texas, 6-6) would’ve had it.

The DL is dropping guys into coverage now and then, looking more and more exotic. This is good unless they try and get too cute. RayRay McCloud was covered by Shaq Lawson on a 10-yard out route, and Shaq stayed with him. Trent Murphy covered the TE for a moment, then dropped over to cover Andre Roberts. Jordan Phillips dropped into coverage against Foster, but Foster got the better of that tilt.

Two defenders got pulled offsides today: Trent Murphy had to do the Lap of Shame while Shaq Lawson took his place. The other was against Eli Harold, I think, with Barkley’s bark doing the job.

Josh Allen actually threw the ball away today, and I clapped like McDermott. IT was an exotic blitz look, with one LB falling back in coverage at the last minute and blitzes from two other players forcing Josh’s hand. This is growth.

Dean Marlowe got an INT in the final period, and nearly got a second A ball that came in too hot from Josh left Frank Gore feeling his age today. Andre Roberts made a diving catch of a Josh Allen pass for my Catch of the Day, and John Brown’s deep slant was nearly a COTD. Ed Oliver exorting the DJ to “turn the music” up for a particular song was a favorite with the crowd (I don’t have Shazam on my clipboard, so I don’t know the name of it), and TJ Yeldon’s catch out of the backfield was as smooth as GIF Peanut Butter. Yeah, I said GIF.

17 Replies to “AstroNotes: Bills Practice 2”

  1. Thanks again Astro for another great, detailed report.

    Sounds like we can expect a lot of Allen to Brown and Beasley this season. I imagine if defenses try and focus on those two [Brown and Beasley] it will leave Jones, Foster and others open. I’m interested in seeing what Gore can bring to the offense as well as seeing Singletary in action. Another thing I noticed is that Allen/Daboll are focusing on the area of the field between the LB’s and the safeties, which is music to my ears.

  2. Hey Dean, just an FYI. I was sitting just below you, and at one point the head lady in an orange shirt came up to talk to the older orange-shirted gentleman and told him to keep an eye on you to make sure you weren’t recording the practice.

    Jay Rosen (The Stadium Wall)

    • I spent a lot of time talking to Dick, the older orange-shirted gentleman, so he knows what I was doing. He’s a major Bills fan in the AFC and a Giants fan in the NFC. His wife, who was also working the bleacher area, and he take turns going to Buffalo and NYC to watch a game. They were at Met Life a year or so ago, and his wife goes, “Look at all the Giants jerseys!” Her husband had to remind her it was a Giants home game!

  3. Thank you for camp notes. You do such an amazing job, and I love how you insert your personality into your write up.

    Rank Rou

    • Rou’re relcome!
      I think any sportswriter runs the tightrope between accurate reporting and adding their touch. I’m a little more touched than accurate.

  4. Thanks very much for your insight. You are spot on about the downfield intentions of Daboll. The threat deep from Foster and Brown will open up the run for all RBs as well as Josh.

  5. Once again Astro leaves no stone unturned in describing today’s practice..great work!
    Keep it coming as I won’t be able to make it to training camp this year

  6. thanks. matt milano wasn’t mentioned in the first day’s report and only once today.
    is he seeing full reps in workouts and drills? how does he look?