AstroNotes: Bills Practice 3

Photo of (Middle) Alley Phillips and (L) friend Emily , (R) Mike Phillips and sons Conner (L front) and Patrick (R front).

Our spotters really put in the work today. The group got cuter, mainly because Brian Phillips’s daughter, Alley, and her good friend Emily, joined Brian Rossignol, Mike McDonough, his two charming and polite sons Connor and Patrick, and me. Joe Reagan was texting in his impressions, but joined us at the start for the Parade of Players. I’m grateful for their insights. Truly, it takes a village.

For the third day in a row, Tyree Jackson is the first player to arrive, but TE Coach Bob Boras has him beat for the first on the field. He’s halfway through his first circumnavigation of the practice field by the time Tyree greets his first autograph seekers at the Entitled Fence. WR Coach Chad Hall isn’t far behind, and he’s running onto the field. He’s not likely in over his head as a coach; he was an assistant coach before, and an Actual Player before that. Bobby Johnson is wearing a hoodie again, this one a tasteful grey with the red standing buffalo (editor babble: I love this man). Looking straight on, you’d think Bobby J looks like Brian D, but turn them sideways and you’ll be able to tell them apart. Just saying.

Josh trots in next, signs a few autographs, gets a selfie taken, and then enters the tunnel but doesn’t come out the other side. This is because his girlfriend and mother are in the tunnel.

Mike McDonough has a great story. On his way in, he and his sons are going through the Fisher courtyard/quadrangle, and then about 100 players and staff from the Dining Hall come out. He’s standing there with a security guard, and not many acknowledge him until this tall Wyoming fella comes up. “What’s up, guys?” Josh Allen says. And away he rides on his motorized Razor scooter. That’s my quarterback.

Gore, Reid Ferguson our long snapper, and Quarterback Whisperer Ken Dorsey are next in the Parade of Players. Next is WR Ray-Ray McCloud, with a more-definitively-parted afro haricut that’s more curly than yesterday. Joe Reagan says, “Bet he didn’t wake up that way.” His locks resemble the parting of the waters –except the waters are hairier and curlier. RayRay signs autographs for The Entitled. Our attention has turned to DT3t Ed Oliver, whose walk resembles that of a duck. A very big, muscular duck that you wouldn’t bring up his toe-out problem. He signs some autographs, as does EDGE Darryl Johnson, who is doing well with all the attention, given that he came from North Carolina A&T.

Some players who’ve been over at the plyometric training boxes are making their way over. Center Mitch Morse, who’s been throwing a medicine ball sideways against the wall of the main stadium (note: core injury =healed), comes over with a big grin.

Jeremiah, nephew of our texting spotter Joe, sees Shady. Jeremiah grew up 2 miles from Shady’s HS in Harrisburgh, although Jeremiah’s older –and brawnier. Jeremiah says, “I helped build Shady’s house, the one for his mom and brother. It has a shower that’d hold 18”. He said something after that about $4.6M for the house, but my attention was still back on that shower for 18. They slapped me back to reality in time to see Shady salute Jeremiah. Shady comes out of the tunnel on the other side and Josh and Shady pretend to box. Wyatt Teller fist-pumps a cop (hopefully for his no-call at the Pittsford Pub from the previous night –jk). I like the state of mind and spirit I’m seeing emanate from this team. I have a Bills team-signed AFC Champs football from 1991 where the spirit was similar. We get a wave and smile from Sean McDermott. All’s right with the world now; I got one of those from Marv almost 3 decades ago.

Photo of OT Cody Ford by Dean KIndig.

RT Cody Ford signs autographs down below us. A little scary-looking at first glance, Ford’s polite and gentle with the Entitled Children, especially those in therapy for their beardophobia or OTA (Oklahoma Tackle Allergy). Ford’s a different being when he crosses the sideline, though.

T.J. Yeldon looks bigger than yester… oh, they’re in pads today? Never mind. I’m told Yeldon never really liked Marrone in JAX, and hated Coughlin even more. He thought Ramsey was a “knucklehead”. I love sports.

Tre White and E.J. Gaines come in together, talking, sort of like …bookends.

Last in are Deon Lacey, Denzel Rice, Ryan Lewis, Shaq Lawson, and Siran Neal.

Hey, let’s talk some football! It’s 11 on 11s first again, with headsets on and down/distance markers up. It’s Dawkins at LT, with LG Spain, Morse at Center, Feliciano starting at RG and Cody Ford on the “Line That Will Deliver Us To The Promised Land”. Zay, Bease, and Smoky are your starting three, with a heavy infusion of Foster. Beasley catches a curl, Foster catches an out pattern, then Beasley catches a TD early. He’d lined up in the slot on the near side with Zay next to him, with Smoky on the far side. The separation was exceeded only by the chemistry Josh and Beasley are developing. “Give it a week”, my foot.

During calisthenics, we’re always watching you. Astro-Stars were Feliciano, Hughes, Foster, Kyle Peko (prayers up; we love you), Ed Oliver, and Star Lotulelei, with both Mitch Morse and Wyatt Teller spotted by two different members of our crew. Victor Bolden challenged himself at one point by turning as he did a stretching exercise, and Super Josh did the deepest squats.

QBs and DL went to “The Field Nobody Can See”, a.k.a. Field #3. Josh led the way, with Tyree and Matt Barkley on his heels, then Ed Oliver (who runs less like a duck than he walks), and Trent Murphy. Bringing up your rear (did I just write that?) are Jordan Phillips and Robert Thomas.

Positionals are usually boring, but I’m drawn to Bobby Johnson’s OL group. He’s a great teacher. He knows that predictability=boredom for any learner after about Kindergarten. Here’s a quick impression of each lineman: Nsehke is efficient all the way around, well-coached, experienced, getting the max from the least effort needed. Quinton Spain finishes extremely well with powerful arms. He’s so quick off the snap he may get called on it. Ford’s strength is in-your-face, coming from both his arms, hand placement, and a sturdy (duck-like) base. Ike Boettger was unremarkable, but remarkably consistent. Wyatt Teller gets low, maybe lower than anyone else, nice and square, pushing up from his “chair” with very strong arms (he led his team at Iowa with a 385-pound power clean and 420-pound bench press, then had the 4th-highest bench score at the Combine), getting max leverage with those arms parallel with his shins. No one drive blocks like Dion. He’s going to be fine. Strong, square, and unrelenting with his leg drive and balance. Garrett McGhin is agile, but overrelies on his forward momentum. A smart EDGE would just use his momentum against him by stepping back and around him.

The punting problems continue unabated. After BoJo shanks one out of bounds, Joe Reagan texts me, “Scanning the waiver wire for a punter”. Cory Carter wasn’t much better. Carter’s punts went for 38, 38, 50, and 35 into the end zone when the aim was to down it inside the 5, then a dropped snap. I’m required to note here that the snap was perfect from Reid Ferguson, or his father will ask me on Twitter. BoJo did punt to land inside the 3.

TEs and OTs are working on doubling up blocks, where one gets to the next level to block a LB. Nate Becker caught our attention as a blocker, as did Tommy Sweeney, who I said “might be the best pure blocking TE in this class, the pure-grit and perseverence type that Beane and McD are drawn to.”

Josh and the starters were practicing long passes vs air. He completed 5 straight passes on the money to McKenzie, RayRay, Foster, Victor Bolden, and Smoky Brown. On his one deep shot, Tyree Jackson didn’t lead Sills enough, although Sills caught the ball with his wide catch radius.

The stands are packed, and there’s still a line this late, and I’m already on page 3 of my notes. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, insight into the future NFL stars and burger fry chefs.

Sweeney’s in-line on the near side, in a 3-TE set. There’s a FB in front of the RB, with no WRs, just “The Cold Front”: Spain’s at LG and Feliciano is at RG. Morse, Dawk and Ford are in. This is known as the “We’re gonna run, and you know we’re gonna run, and you can’t stop us”. Pure Slobberknocker Football, 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Unless Singletary’s the back, and he smells your end zone (did I just write that?)

Josh is now throwing to WRs who are obviously practicing dekes, jukes, ankle-breakers or (if you’re Foster or Brown) just getting separation with speed. Josh’s throw to Robert Foster is outside-shoulder, a deep bucket throw to the corner of the end zone. My first Catch of The Day. The ball was perfect, Foster burned the Levi Wallace and a safety, and his focus did the rest. TD. Next, top Buffalo goalie Tre White is juked by Smoky Brown, who really adds a top layer of shiftiness to Foster’s speed. Taron Johnson has to commit DPI on RayRay McCloud to contain him on Josh’s next pass. The ball falls to the turf, but it’d be a DPI penalty (unless you’re the Saints in the NFC Championship, of course). Denzel Rice gets turned about by Zay Jones, and D’haquille Williams catches a ball (missed the number of the defender).

There’s a lot of jawing going on at the opposite end of the field. Spotter Brian Rossignol says, “There’s going to be a fight pretty soon”, looking up from his binoculars. Barkley has the OL starters (can I say that yet?) going against the starting D. Kevin Johnson gets a INT defending Zay Jones. Then Sills connects on a curl, with Pitts defending him. The chess match continues, the defense causing an ebb, then the offense getting a flow.

Josh comes back and connects 5 straight times (against air, so worse than the Jets’ DBs). Foster makes it look easy catching a 50-yarder from the 40 to the endzone. Shady, having his best day of camp so far, catches a nifty well-placed throw on a swing pass out of the backfield. Zay Jones makes a nice catch. Josh places the next ball in precisely the right place on Lee Smith’s fingertips (and I thought he could only block). Tyree comes in for his one try, and throws it behind Victor Bolden, who still catches it. Remember 12 months ago, when Josh was the one getting the one try?

In this drill, and I don’t know if it’s significant, but Andre Roberts and Isaiah McKenzie got turns before Robert Foster. One time, Foster came in, but perhaps the play called for fewer WRs, and he had to head back to those watching, unbuckling his chinstrap, with a hangdog expression on his face. He spoke to one of the assistant coaches, but something’s going on. He’s catching what he’s thrown, but something’s definitely up.

One more 11 on 11, and then I gotta go thresh the grass (it’s long; a little Wyoming humor there). Josh Allen threw an errant swing pass to Shady, a little high and outside, as Bob Ueker would say. Shady caught it! Josh got back into rhythm, throwing a dart to Cole Beasley with a CB all over him. Poyer’s jawing at #25 as he trots back. John Brown burns a CB and S and Josh throws a rainbow 50 yards to him for a TD in my Catch of the Day #2. The ball was placed so well that only Smoky could catch it. After a bad hike by Mitch Morse (for which he did not run a penalty lap), Josh runs a jet sweep perfectly with Andre Roberts the beneficiary. Victor Bolden and Cam Phillips disagree on who should be up on the line so as not to leave an uncovered receiver, and the whistle blows. I can’t tell you who’s at fault because Cam’s a pet cat.

Running Smoky Brown deep on the next play does just what Daboll wanted it to: it clears the underneath for Ray-Ray. Foster runs a medium-depth out pattern and dives for a Matt Barkley throw, collecting the ball before hitting the turf. He holds his thigh. It looks grim for a moment. Barkley throws too deep for Andre Roberts, but comes back with an excellent fade pass to McKenzie. Tyree comes in and hands off once to OJ –I mean Senorice Perry. It’s rough sledding in the middle against the NFL’s best run defense. Tyree’s second play is a Trent Edwards pat-pat-pat-sack. He who hesitates is Jackson.

Josh returns and lofts a TD to Robert Foster, saying, “This is how it’s done”. Oh! Foster! I guess his thigh’s all better. Foster had to track that ball over his head. There’s plenty of time for him to do that as the bomb traveled 50 yards.

The other highlights of the series were a brilliant touch pass rainbow to Shady that gains 15 yards, and a nice Dawson Knox catch that got lost in the shuffle due to the scuffle that ensued. Nsehke was in there quick to help his TE, and Micah Hyde was in there. The fact that the rookie took on the big dogs right in front of the D bench sure gained some respect.

I’ll spare you the details of Hauschka’s wonderful FGs from 48, 43, 38, and 45 with Cory Carter holding, or the lead passing to Shady, or how Josh changed another play at the line for a bootleg TD, or a nice over-the-middle catch by Smoky Brown, or how much more pressure Star Lotulelei is exerting, or how bored Ed Oliver looked at the end.

Because now I have to go rent a combine.

Editor’s babble: AstroNotes are golden.Thanks to Dean Kindig (@TCBILLS_Astro) for all the hard work. So pleased with Josh Allen’s progress so far in camp :) You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

10 Replies to “AstroNotes: Bills Practice 3”

  1. Thank you for your excellent write up. Please please keep it up….keeps me from losing my mind…cant make comments to son if I’m not there and others share zero info.

    • I call em like I see em, and your son is showing he’s a natural for this game. His coach knows what good strong Guard play looks like, and he is it!

  2. Dean, I know it’s just three days into this year’s training camp, but can you give us some of the things that you see are different/better from this years squad compared to last years.

    Thanks again for another great report. The more I hear about Allen and Smokey Brown making great plays, the more excited I am for the regular season.

  3. Astro- is it just me, or is there less run plays called than in the past, during training camp? I’m sure Roman’s offense was somewhat an outlier on how frequently they ran during TC, but by the sounds of it, this year they are running even less than I’ve ever seen them do in person, at least in the 6 or 7 years that I’ve been coming to TC.
    Is this observation true, or do you just leave some unsexy runs out of your otherwise very thorough recaps?

    • I’m seeing fewer runs, too.
      I don’t think they require as much work, but good point.
      The newbies are on the line, and TE positions, so I think they’re getting pass pro and chemistry clicking.
      I bet game 1 of preseason will be 50-50 between run and pass.