Training Wheels Ripped Off Of Training Camp; Will It Work?

Welcome to the Marrone Era style of training camp. Play until you puke. Slacking? Blast the music until the players and coaches pick up the tempo. Can’t handle the pressure? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. This isn’t our old Marv, Dick, or Chan training camp. Fans attending Buffalo Bills training camp are reporting one common theme; “up tempo” is the buzz word equivalent for “get off your butt or get out of here.”

Photo by Frank Coleman.
Photo by Frank Coleman.

Is this what @RussBrandon meant when he said “the one thing I can promise you about this team is that we will not be out-worked”? If reports from camp are accurate, you can check that box affirmative. Of course the salient question then becomes whether or not this change of pace and style at training camp will result in more wins at the end of the season.

We are about to get a glimpse where all this is headed when the Bills face the Colts on Sunday for their first preseason game. Normally I don’t hold too much stock in what happens in early preseason games. Not this year. My eyes will be glued to this game for many reasons.

If you haven’t been listening to the @JohnMurphyShow every night from 7-9 PM ET, then you might have missed a few pearls along the way to figuring out how the Bills stack up halfway through training camp. Last night I found myself totally tuned in to Mike Mayock’s analysis about what he saw at #BillsCamp yesterday for several reasons.

Mike Mayock is more than just an astute evaluator of talent. He is a meticulously organized man who keeps 32 separate notebooks on teams that he refers to throughout the season. He constantly tries to improve his assessment skills by comparing results during the season by players with his written observations of them at camp. That level of personal accountability lends validity to his observations as he develops his own skill set.

Mayock focused commentary during this off-season on two Buffalo Bills related issues that should be of interest to Bills fans. The first was a guy who was drafted the previous year, Cordy Glenn. Many probably remember Mayock projecting Glenn at OG instead of LT and how Buddy Nix responded to that issue.

Buddy was adamant that Glenn could play LT at a high level in the NFL. Mayock wasn’t necessarily buying that theory, and was outspoken in his support for Glenn to play inside at guard. So, when out of the blue Marrone inserts Glenn at LG for “swing position” purposes this week, it triggered even more of a response among Bills fans than one might expect from this type of camp move. Then Mike Mayock magically appears at camp.

Mayock told John Murphy on his show Thursday that if the Bills found a strong LT and moved Glenn inside, it “might make them one of the best offensive lines in the NFL”. That certainly got my attention. Is this what Marrone may be seeing as well? Only time will tell, but for now it appears we are back to the Brown & Legursky show at LG. This will be one of the key positions to look at during this first preseason game against the Colts.

The other interesting question John Murphy asked Mayock about was the pace of Bills training camp. Mayock said though the Bills “up tempo” camp was very fast, it was not the fastest he has seen during his training camp tours. According to Mayock, that honor goes to Chip Kelly and Eagles Camp. He said, “They are getting plays off in less than 15 seconds”.

Mayock might be right, but it seems like the Bills were doing exactly the same thing during their recent scrimmage. One issue this Bills fan will be watching during the first preseason game is the amount of time it takes between plays. If the Bills and EJ Manuel are able to pull off that kind of timing during parts of the first preseason game, it could prove very interesting.

Without a doubt, this offense will require elite conditioning if the intention is to get plays off within 15 seconds. This will test the mammoth offensive line when they march down the field at that kind of pace.

However, Bills fans know only too well from ‘K-Gun’ days that the team also must have elite level conditioning by defensive players as well. They may become easily gassed by a number of ‘three and outs’. Furthermore, if the Bills offense becomes adept at moving the ball down the field and actually scoring just as fast (insert gasp here), then the Bills defense must also be able to quickly recover and respond.

Marrone made it abundantly clear that he believes training camp should not be approached with a ‘fear of injury’ philosophy. He played the game at the NFL level, so he has some personal experience with what might work best for getting the players to perform to their potential.

Judging from the number of horrible injuries to players on other teams this summer, his philosophy seems to hold some merit, at least early on. Rubber mats could turn out to be more risky than physically intense training camps. Let’s hope so.

The other lingering question with high intensity training camp styles is about whether or not it will wear down rookies who could “hit the wall” late in the season. Only results on the field will answer that question as the season progresses.

In the meantime, pay close attention during this first preseason game about how these players look from a conditioning standpoint. If they are lights out ahead of previous Bills teams at this point, it might be a sign of good things to come.

We are about to see whether or not ripping off those training wheels at camp will prove to be the more successful approach. As former Bills GM Tom Donahoe used to say, “stay tuned.” I don’t know about the rest of of you Bills fans out there, but I’ve stayed tuned for 13 years of playoff drought and welcome any change from previous coaching regimes at this point. Take off the training wheels and let’s just see how this team rolls!

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at BillsMafia.com. She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the glorious Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @robynmundyWYO.