It’s AstroNotes spotter Joe Reagan’s birthday today. He turns LorAx years old. I can’t go to lunch after practice, because (1) I’m obliged to write these notes, and (2) Lawnmower Man is coming at noon to fix my John Deere 130, which was unable to mow the top of a manhole cover (sounds expensive). Joe is here with Linda and daughter Jenna, and Brian Rossignol is here with his son Wyatt.
It’s a gorgeous day today, 74 at the beginning of practice, thanks to generous cloud cover. The security guard, Dick, says they had over 7,000 people here at the ticketed practice at St. John Fisher Sunday. It got so full they were redirecting people to the far side of the field.
Tyree’s the first player we saw, so his record stands at five consecutive practices. He signs a few autographs, then heads onto the practice field for some early stretching. Daboll is the first coach we spy. He’s wearing red sneaks, complementing the grey hoodie. Some cool shades complete the ensemble. He walks the track as he studies his notes. He looks to have lost at least 5 pounds this camp. Other players file out, a little slower than usual. Bodine, Gore in his customary dark grey muscle shirt and sweats, then McLaughlin. Signed yesterday, TE Kyle Carter has taken over Juwan Foggie’s number 48. RD7 EDGE Darryl Johnson comes out alone. He stops and turns back to the locker room. He’ll return a bit later with Ed Oliver. Ray-Ray’s hairdo is covered by a helmet today.
Josh Allen is in the next group. He fist-bumps an entire classroom of students who are along the fence of the Community Relations Tent. He signs several jerseys, balls, and photos along the Entitled Fence, and gets a cheer from the growing crowd when he trots out onto the field. Your 2020 starteer at running back, Devin Singletary, signs autographs, too.
New faces appear next. …No, not Michael Thomas or Jadeveon Clowney. The referees are here for their first day at Bills Camp. Their sneakers have metallic swooshes that catch the sunlight as they parade past the autograph seekers. Nobody wants a ref’s autograph. They want Lorenzo Alexander’s autograph, and he signs many. Horrible Harry fist-bumps the Community Relations classroom, and stops to adore the white round sunglasses of one of the kids. He signs a t-shirt of the teacher. Nick Easley, Levi Wallace, and EJ Gaines trot by.
11-on-11s commence with a drill on killing the clock “fire drill” style. This is where the offense runs off and the kicking team runs on without wasting a timeout. Hughes is likely on a vet rest day as Shaq is the Right DE, J-Phillips is the DT3t instead of Oliver, and Bodine is the Center with Morse still not back. Brown, Beasley, and Zay Jones are the receivers, Lee Smith is the TE, and Devin Singletary is the RB for this.
Calisthenics follow, and two players get double Astro-Stars, since more than one spotter picked them out: Abraham Wallace, the rookie Safety and Conor McDermott, the 3rd-year OT. Others receiving a single shout-out for extra effort: Cam Phillips, Maurice Alexander, Lee Smith, Wyatt Teller, Quinton Spain, Jordan Poyer, Tyree Jackson, John Brown, Ike Boettger, Horrible Harry, and Nick Easley.
Corey Carter and BoJo are kicking from the far 40 to the End Zone, trying to lag that ball dead at the 1-yard line. Carter seems to be getting the power, spiral, and height that the coaches are looking for, but they’ll still be looking for a punter elsewhere. Carter had the best result (landing the ball on the 3), the highest punt, and the best spiral. Bojo’s punts are sometimes traveling the same distance, but the lower arc means less hang-time for that coverage team. Life is good when the biggest negative you can find in camp is your punter.
Work is also being done on release from the line vs. 2-man press. These players were involved at trying to break press, and in this order: Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Lafayette Pitts, Denzel Rice, Ryan Lewis, EJ Gaines, Abraham Wallace, Nick Easley, and Taron Johnson. Mitch Morse is doing ladder drills briskly on the sidelines. McKenzie is getting KR work, too, so he’s a special teams stalwart. Will he be one of the 6 WRs they keep? No, but some of those last spots will be special teamers. Andre Roberts gets first crack at KR (no surprise), but McKenzie is second, followed by Micah Hyde. Cory Carter is booming spirals now, with good hang time. The objective is punt coverage, and Roberts had to let them go over his head, and two players from the coverage team had to down it inside the 5. Successful at this were Taron Johnson, Cam Lewis, and Siran Neal.
John Murphy huffs up the steps toward the press box. Will this be the day he finally takes one of my rosters? I proffer my roster (which is 100% Foggie-free and contains TE Kyle Carter). He laughs and says, “Here, you can have one of mine”. It’s a nice 20-lb card stock roster by position, impressive. Is it 100% Foggie-free? No. What a disappointment. It’s like your big brother is giving you one of his old Bills jerseys, until you realize it’s a Posluszny. Bummer.
Bobby Johnson’s OL is doing two-man blocking. I spot Barkley is wearing a left knee brace and wonder if he’d been wearing that all camp. McCoy is at large today, hopefully settling things financially (for us fans, that means going to the ATM, taking out their maximum withdrawal about 200 times). MCDermott is off to the side of the OL drill, just watching.
The QBs are working on quick passes, like under one second after the snap. RBs are working on taking the handoff, and their order is as follows: Gore/DiMarco, Singletary, Yeldon, Perry, Murphy, Wade.
Brian Daboll (in grey with a white Buffalo Bills logo) is making his way around to all of the position groups, but he knows where his bread will be buttered. He spends the most time with the OL and the TEs. Ken Dorsey chest-bumps Josh Allen for a particularly savvy play. Terry Pegula is talking to Beane, hopefully about a new mower deck for my John Deere.
The focus on deep ball throws is noticeable. Allen throws deep balls to slot guys Beasley (and you thought he was just a shallow-route option), then Ray-Ray, McKenzie, and Easley. If I keep two, I keep Beasley and Easley, although I’ll understand if it’s McKenzie, who offers more on special teams at this point. If that happens, I put in my two cents for Nick Easley for practice squad.
More special teams emphasis, with full-on downfield tackling. We see three flags by the refs, so expect some penalties until the tacklers understand where the line is drawn. Zay Jones rips a player to the ground, and got one of the flags. Jordan Poyer defended his block the best, although Siran Neal also showed how it should be done.
It’s 11-on-11 time. Ed Oliver had himself a day. At one point, he really took it to Ike Boettger, swimming past him like Ike was a rubber duck in the shallow end. Bodine is your Center with Mitch Morse on the sidelines, and he lines up at the 15 yard line. Star goes to Tre White’s near-INT, although he screamed loudly at himself for missing his chance. When the twos came in, it was Boettger, Lee Smith, Nsehke, and Singletary that were noticeable. Waddle came in for Dawkins at one point. Even the twos of the defensive line were stout, stopping Singletary for no gain. Yarbrough, Mike Love, and Horrible Harry were notable, along with that Oliver fella.
I watch the WRs for a while, who are on the opposite field. Some impressions: RayRay wasn’t called for a pushoff and the ref was right there. McKenzie deked Siran Neal big-time; he has the separation they’re looking for at that backup slot position. Cam Phillips makes another impressive catch; I still want him on the Bills. McKenzie makes a wonderful dig route catch. John Brown makes a rare drop, and Zay duplicates his drop of his own. RayRay shows great timing with Josh Allen. Beasley beats Taron Johnson deep, although he had to go down (we’ll call this my Catch of the Day). Robert Foster is skunked by EJ Gaines (don’t count him out in the Bills backfield). Andre Roberts makes a nice snag in front of Tre White.
Separation City: Nick Easley put two moves on Ryan Lewis that beat him badly; he was wide open (My second Catch of the Day). McKenzie duplicated Easley’s separation against Cam Lewis, and that’s my last Catch of the Day. We have no WR#1, but –trust me– we have a glut of guys that can get open for a Josh Allen laser.
Victor Bolden continued to make the DBs look silly with his move on Lafayette Pitts. Cam Phillips draws a flag called on Siran Neal, who was beaten on the play. John Brown redeems himself by beating Tre White’s tight coverage down the sideline, and a pass to Zay Jones falls incomplete.
The ones play against air, but it’s situational football with four-wides and down-and-distance markers. Zay, Foster, and Gore are wide right , with Patrick DiMarco lined up out left. DiMarco goes in motion. “Stop the tape”, says every Defensive Coordinator except the Bills, who get to deal with it in practice. The mismatches and commo problems that this causes are everywhere. You have a deep threat, a very good blocking WR, and a huge vet RB on one side, you have a bona-fide FB on the other, and now he’s motioning, and you have a very mobile QB who’s been known to bootleg, so you can’t abandon DiMarco’s side.
A few orchids and onions to give away. Orchids to Victor Bolden, who had his best day and has put out tons of effort that’s noticeable. Onions to Lee Smith, who’s been here long enough that he shouldn’t have to be directed where to line up. Orchids to Cole Beasley, who sidestepped an incoming missile by Kurt Coleman and ran for 25 yards. Orchids to Tommy Sweeney, who shows he can be a force not only in blocking, but in chip blocks and then reliably receiving passes in play-action. Orchids to our training stafff, who had to stretch out several players today, including DT3T Jordan Phillips on the sidelines, and OT Ty Nsehke on the field. Orchids to Corey Thompson who’s still in the fight for LB because he covered RayRay McCloud tightly without drawing a foul. Orchids to Kyle Carter, the new TE, who made an effortless catch after chipping the EDGE. Orchids to TJ Yeldon, whose two runs might have been the longest gains, and who’s not giving up on making the 53. Orchids to Shaq Lawson, who couldn’t be handled by the 2nd stringers and even Quinton Spain at one point. Orchids to Ty Nsehke, who took Ed Oliver down on one play. Finally, orchids to Kyle Peko, backup DT, who tipped a Tyree Jackson pass at the line (that requires major vert, as Tyree’s 6-7 and his arm length is 34.25″ (yes, I looked it up; I’m no nerd).
Josh Allen continues to look like a Real NFL Quarterback. He threw the ball away twice, took off once, and changed the play at the line to a more favorable play. That’s what a Real NFL Quarterback would do. You’ve heard some of the stories about Josh doing Josh things (yesterday’s Miami Dolphins jersey one is great). That’s what a Real NFL Quarterback does.
And he’s ours.