I’ll miss this.
Get a ride to St. John Fisher from Mrs. Astro at 8:03, arrive 8:08. Walk to the far field where the grass is, far corner near the press box by 8:16. Watch the players –our players– saunter to their spots. See #17, the future, wave to the crowd as he hits the field.
Make note of who’s out there early –Taron, Olstad (maybe –the name plate isn’t on it today–and he shakes hands with Daboll like they’re just meeting for the first time, weird), ‘Schmidttykicker’ and Tyler Davis, Reid Ferguson (who I’ve messaged, along with his Dad Kevin on Twitter, since before the draft 2 years ago). See Mike and his two sons once again, availing myself of the additional sets of eyes. Yes, I’ll miss this. Even these write-ups.
Marshall Newhouse and Ryan Groy, Miller and O’Leary are stretching their legs on the giant tractor tires next to the field. Adam Redmond, who’ll be on this club one way or another, joins them. As he’s done all camp, A.J. McCarron walks onto the field in his backwards ball cap, carrying his helmet. Also helmet-less, RayRay McCloud, with his amazing ’70’s afro, shakes hands with a guy on his way to the field. Harrison Phillips carries his brace in one hand. I yell, “Harrison!” and sport my 99 Phillips jersey. He yells, “Nice! Thanks!” and I’m geeked out.
At the JUGS machine are Croom and Streater, taking 17-yard bullets with soft hands, made tougher by the rocket arm of #17. Shortly, they’re joined by Malachi Dupre and Andre Holmes. Streater exits first. On the other field, Julian Stanford and Mike Love, and Tremaine Edmunds are doing warm-ups of their own.
Garnering the most applause on his entrance today is Sean McDermott, and rightfully so. His attention to detail, his vision, his ability to induce purpose into these players, has made for a great start and a training camp that’s served its purpose, mainly determining who will go and who will stay through September 1’s only cut.
Practice is about to start, and most players are already on the field, and the stragglers (Lacey, McCray, Charles Clay, Micah Hyde, and Tre White, Boesen, and Khari Lee) hit the sidelines just as the Marrone Memorial Air Horn sounds.
Kick returners are taking turns catching kicks, with RayRay McCloud (in red jersey), Marcus Murphy, and Austin Proehl back there. When they do it for real, the same three are catching, in that order. Punt returns were in this order: Marcus Murphy, Kaelin Clay, RayRay, and Kerley.
Vontae Davis walks gingerly; he’s not 100%, and my sidekick, Mike notes the same thing. He walks in a measured gait, almost hesitant.
Calisthenics stars of the day go to Marcus Murphy (who gets the Super Star), Harrison Phillips, Jordan Mills, Jason Croom, and Trent Murphy. These guys are putting themselves into their work.
Brandon Beane is on the hash marks throwing a pigskin across the field to an assistant at the other hash marks. He has a nice throwing motion, sometime not over the top, but his footwork is flawless.
Now Beane and Daboll are talking, as Kyle Williams and Micah Hyde lead the defense off to the third field for positionals. In positional drills, the TEs are blocking.
Khari Lee and Logan Thomas are together, Clay’s with O’Leary, and Croom gets Towbridge. After that, they take throws from Josh Allen. You wonder if there’s anything to the groupings. For instance, the RB order is McCoy, followed by Murphy, then Taiwan Jones, then Keith Ford. No idea where Chris Ivory was.
The WRs do dig routes then “go” routes, and I think their thrower has thrown it too far to Zay Jones, but he one-hands it and makes the impressive catch. Not 15 seconds later, I see the same thing, with Foster putting it in fourth gear to haul in a supposedly “too-long” pass.
McCarron and Peterman take turns throwing, and Streater’s the only one who drops one. Brandon Reilly has no helmet or hat, and he’s in street shorts, talking with a trainer and gesturing to his right underarm.
The kickers and defense return from their respective fields, and the Marrone Memorial Air Horn sounds; it’s like a well-produced play. After some boring-but-necessary substitution drills, and wholesale platoon substitutions, we come to the meat of the practice: the 11 on 11’s.
McCarron is first, Allen is second, and Peterman has the threes today. I’d bet that this is the order of appearance for Friday’s preseason game.
McCarron’s grouping has Bodine at Center, with Ducasse LG and Dawkins LT as the left side, and RG Miller and Newhouse RT as the right side. One play later, Mills subs in.
McCarron changes his first two plays at the line, giving Ivory and Ford the handoffs. The crowd is 65% to capacity today. The Ryder trucks are filling during practice. Like I said, it’s like a well-produced play. Josh Allen’s handoffs are to Marcus Murphy and Cadet. Peterman’s handoffs are to Keith Ford and Taiwan Jones, both draw plays.
In the second round, McCarron starts, giving handoff to McCoy, then a fake end-around to Holmes, and a handoff up the gut to Ivory. Josh Allen comes in, with a line of Newhouse LT, Teller LG, Groy C, Boettger RG, and the behemoth De’Ondre Wesley RT. He gets some double-TE work with O’Leary and Clay, followed by the pairing of O’Leary and Towbridge.
A coach is holding up a clipboard (See? I’m not the only one) for the offense to see; they’re doing installation here. McCarron returns without Peterman getting a series.
McCoy gets the handoff. He’s wearing a BLACK HOODIE under his jersey; it’s freaking 80+ degrees out here. Marcus Murphy gets the call second with the ones; he makes a deft move on a RB screen. The third play goes over the middle to Kerley, who’s been given a nice clear-out by a WR.
It’s now time for 7 on 7’s, and all three QBs get their turn, with Allen first, Peterman second, and McCarron third. You see the clipboard before many of the plays, and even now and then the defense gets a look at the clipboard.
Allen’s throw is a nice slant to Coco Coleman, the first time I’ve seen Coleman run that route. Peterman’s throw is just a yard or two long to Marcus Murphy on his sideline route, then a completion to Austin Proehl over the middle.
Nice to see Proehl getting some snaps with the twos today. McCarron has McCoy, Streater, Holmes, Ford, Khari Lee, and Cam Phillips in an interesting grouping. McCoy makes a catch, whereupon Holmes comes out and Dupre subs in. Dupre’s catches on the next two passes by McCarron are so smooth.
It’s 11 on 11’s again, and 2nd-string MLB Tanner Vallejo, from my Boise State Broncos, breaks up a Josh Allen intermediate throw to Jason Croom. Clipboard comes out. Allen hits Jason Croom in the hands, but he drops it. Clipboard. Peterman throws the ball behind Towbridge, but he makes the catch. Clipboard. Kaelin Clay comes in with Peterman’s group, and Peterman looked his way, but he’s the king of progressions. He throws complete on the far side of the field to Cam Phillips.
McCarron comes in (Bodine’s the C) and makes one of my Plays of the Day, a perfect outside-shoulder throw, with an all-hands catch by Andre Holmes, who frankly had been outplayed by Streater thus far. McCarron follows it up with a 25-yarder to Kaelin Clay. Of the three 30-year-olds (Kerley, Streater, Holmes), I think you only keep one, maybe two, and I thought Holmes was the odd man out before today.
RayRay’s in the right slot as Josh Allen comes in. Logan Thomas is in motion. Josh fakes the handoff to Cadet, and throws a nice completion to Khari Lee. Allen follows it up with a throw behind the LOS to Murphy, who scampers for a gain.
On the sidelines, Mike Love and Shaq Lawson are dancing to the music, which is loud enough to shake the aluminum bleachers we are sitting on.
Peterman’s turn. He throws a nifty slant pass to Cam “Not Ready For the Practice Squad” Phillips. Peterman shows the best eye manipulation, command at the LOS, and movement through his progressions, and it pays off on Play Of The Day 2, a sweet outside-shoulder sideline throw to Robert Foster.
Foster is also interested in a spot on the 53, but has to catch a Go Route on Friday or get more consistent. Keep in mind that Peterman’s working with future burger-flippers in front of him, yet keeps cool enough to throw that one on the money.
McCarron has the veteran presence in there, but is the most hesitant. The first team of the NFL’s Gonna-Be-Top-3 defense is giving him all he can handle, with a MLB blitz by Tremaine Edmunds, then a Safety blitz, then another Safety blitz by Hyde, and ending with a Safety blitz by Rafael Bush.
Josh Allen comes in, and RayRay’s route was perfect, but Allen’s throw wasn’t, and its was incomplete. Clipboard. Peterman’s subsequent throw to Cam Phillips was my last Play of the Day, a deep slant in traffic.
Field Goal practice for Tyler Davis. Cory Carter held, and Davis kicked FGs if 43, 47, and then, with the team running in from the sidelines, a 45 yarder from the right hash. They all looked good, and I have to say that our backup kicker is vastly improved from the beginning of camp, and should be ready if Hauschka is –knock on wood– incapacitated.
Last 11 on 11s. Clipboard comes out again. McCarron’s under center. Rod Streater with Vontae Davis all over him, makes a nice grab down the sideline. It was a perfect ball where only the receiver has a shot, and Streater made it count.
McCarron changes the next play at the line (easy to do with Daboll’s scheme), and throws over the middle to Kerley, the other 30-year-old. Complete. McCarron finishes his series with a long completion on a slant to Charles Clay.
Shaq is dancing on the sidelines. He’s fit. OR underworked. Allen steps under center, and, with solid pass protection from the second unit, throws to O’Leary over the middle. Peterman gets his chance, and throws over the middle to Logan Thomas on a similar play. He also gets a pass deep to Keith Ford.
Teller was the LG and Adam Redmond hiked the ball. Redmond would be a nice addition to the PS as an extra Center, or freeing up Groy to play Guard and ending the Bodine experiment.
On my way out of the bleachers, @KMan101 stopped me to say hi. He calls me Dr. Kindig, and I kinda like it.
I’ll keep updating the BillsMafia Depth Chart here, and writing up the Bills’ picks in DraftTek mock drafts as your DraftTek Bills Analyst, but my 2018 Training Camp Astro-Notes have come to an end for this season. It has been a privilege to keep you informed in a narrative way, and I’ve loved serving that purpose. Stay in touch on Twitter, and …Go Bills!
Editor’s babble: We are blessed to have Dean Kindig contributing to our blog. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro. We thank him for sharing his expertise and observations with us!