Sunday. Another nice day in what has been a Chamber of Commerce’s dream. Heath Farwell’s out walking the track with his kids. He stays with his daughter. He’s not wearing the white gloves yet. I’m told that Brandon Beane was on the golf course at C.C.R. yesterday, but he didn’t draft or sign anyone. Andre Roberts shot a 78 and Barkley was in the low 80s. I shot a 68 at PuttPutt Golf. I forget what I got on the other holes.
Tyree is the first player to appear, making him 7-for-7 in that department. He’s doing all the right things: he signs 3 autographs and heads through the tunnel past at least 20 uniformed men and women of our armed forces to get to the field. They’re on both sides of the entrance facing each other, and all four branches of the armed service are represented. It’s awesome.
We have Mike McDonough (his boys are already in line for a Josh Allen autograph), Brian Phillips, his wife Mary, Hawk, and Andrea. I can’t say enough about these spotters; they know what to look for, even when it’s away from the ball. Pat Kirwan’s book by the same name is still one of the best books on spectator-ing. I highly recommend it.
Here comes the team’s mascot. I find that Billy Buffalo walks like a duck, too. He’s surely bringing the heat today, which is 78* outside, and 118* inside that suit.
Chase McLaughlin, who can kick and punt, is over throwing a medicine ball against the main field bleacher wall. He then rolls over the Plyometric boxes and does bungees hung from the goalposts. The fact that McLaughlin can both kickoff, do field goals, AND punt (and the fact that Cory Carter or BoJo aren’t punting great, and Hauschka’s a FA in 2020) still has him in the running.
Darryl Johnson, again walking alone, is one of the first today. He waves when we call his name. Was that a goodbye wave?? Cory Carter, OL Coach Bobby Johnson, and Josh Allen are next. Josh’s hair is on point today. He shakes hands with every single one of the military personnel on both sides, thanking them for their service. He’s wearing the blue nylon shirt with the Bills logo and carrying his red jersey. With his white pants, he even looks like the perfect spokesmodel for “America’s Team”. We’ll debate that on Thanksgiving this year, when Josh throws 2-3 TDs to this guy.
RayRay’s hair is also on point, with nice dreads. Bodine shows how useful he can be, getting the blocking sleds out for Bobby Johnson’s OL pre-practice. Daboll (or as I can now call him, “Dabes”, after he friended me on Twitter) is sporting a black longsleeve emblazoned with a red-and-white “Buffalo Bills Equipment” logo on the front. It’s a nice look; very slimming.
My feet are sticking to the bleachers. I’m only hoping it’s soda pop.
Gore is setting the tone. He’s out there, all in dark grey, doing his own warm-up, kicking with alternating legs shoulder-high. When he retires in 2049, he’s a shoo-in for a second career with the Rockettes. Jordan Phillips and Ed Oliver are cut from the same cloth. They are now playing catch with Josh, and later they’ll start the whole DL in some “So You Want To Be a Football Player” moves, all in unison. Darryl Johnson gets in on that action, and it was impressive.
LorAx hand-slaps people along the Entitled Fence until a youngster holds up a Bills football and a Sharpie. He stops abruptly to sign his ball. D.J. Milk and D.J. Yes actually did a good job today, sprinkling in some Metallica and Foreigner, even “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, which I think is a song about adult autograph-seekers.
Our favorite coaches, WR Coach Chad Hall and RB Coach Coach Skipper come by, and wave to us. More new hairstyles come down the runway: Wyatt Teller, looking like he got a barber’s touch-up, L.T. Walton, and Ike Boettger, who got some looks at Center today.
The OL is already into it: Ford backwards-walking with deep knee bends. Ike Boettger pushing a blocking sled. Boettger then gets advice from Bobby Johnson about quickening his readying step (the first step you make after the snap). It looks like he’s got it, too, as he demonstrates it. Wyatt Teller’s practicing the getoff after a snap. LG Quinton Spain is just standing there, looking huge.
QBs are in the center of the field, practicing quick throws left and right. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde also shake hands with each member of the military, as did John Brown. I could be wrong, but I think #96 NT Robert Thomas is this year’s winner of “So You Think You Can Dance Like a Football Player”. It started with him, then Eddie Yarbrough joined in with Eli Harold not far behind. Pretty soon, pretty much the entire D-Line was dancing in unison to DJ Milk’s “The Electric Slide”. Good Morning America featured their footwork the next morning. The feeling I got about this football team is reminiscent of 1990: It has soul, heart, and focus, just like the AFC Super Bowl Champs.
Your O-Line right now looks different due to injuries: L->R, it’s Dawkins, Spain, Boettger, Cody Ford kicking inside to RG, and Nsehke at RT. Trust me; this will end up just being beneficial cross-training for The Real Season. Andre Roberts is getting some time with the ones at WR. Josh connects with Beasley, Shady, Beasley, John Brown, and Zay. A high throw by Josh resulted in a tipped pass reeled in by Tre White, and Roberts missed on an out pattern. Barkley had an O-Line of Waddle at LT, Ducasse, Boettger again at Center, Teller, and big Conor McDermott at RT. He connected on a handoff to Murphy, a pass to DiMarco in the flats, and a slick rope to Foster on a slant. Bark finished up with a long one to Bolden.
Calisthenics Astro-Stars go to DiMarco, Dean Marlowe, Dawson Knox, Christian Wade, Tre White, and Ty Nsehke, especially in the deep stretches. DOUBLE Astro-Stars go to Sills and Trent Murphy, as two of us spoke up about their effort.
The O-Line stars in positional drills were Dawkins, Ford, McGhin, Nsehke (on drive blocks), and Wyatt Teller. Ducasse has the longest readying step, and Feliciano and Waddle could get lower coming out of the gate, but those are big men; I’m not telling them.
There are different people back for kick return, but when it came time for ST drills, it was Roberts, Bolden, Yeldon, and Perry. Bolden came rocketing downfield in a full-speed kick return, and then Roberts matched his effort. McLaughlin was kicking off, and putting the ball out of the end zone anytime Heath wanted him to; I saw this three times. It’s important, because we don’t have a punter, IMHO. McLaughlin did a couple onside kicks, which Kurt Coleman recovered both times.
After some unremarkable positional drills, we watched the QBs alternate sides while throwing to WRs, who also changed sides each time. This resulted in every QB throwing to every WR in half the time. Very efficient, one of the bywords of this camp and this staff. Only drops were by McKenzie and Bolden. Tyree got a couple reps right at the end. Barkley gets the ball off fast, maybe faster than Josh (that’s Bark’s experience, now in his 7th season). Josh had one overthrow of D’haquille Williams, and it’s unfortunate; Duke needs all the catches he can get.
The same O-Line except Boettger was in for 11 on 11’s, with the possible starting OL on Thursday night: Dawk, Spain, Bodine, Ford, Nsehke your starters. They were working on off-tackle plays, then on third downs followed by getting that punt unit onto the field. The defense was practicing lots of blitz patterns, and the offense was working on blitz pickup. I’m sure they want to see another team real soon, as you can tell the offense is done with this #1 NFL Run Defense. Well, iron sharpens iron.
Allen is feeling the D’s heat, while my spotters are feeling the heat of distraction by the sheer number of Bills’ wives that are down in the Entitled Area. They likely missed a nice run by Singletary, followed by one from Yeldon. They may have missed that Barkley has Conor McDermott subbed in as his RT. They may have missed a tip by D’haquille that was INTed by Abraham Wallace, who’s had a nice camp and a shoo-in for the PS. La’Adrian Waddle, Tyree’s LT with the threes, later is the LT with the twos, with McGhin as his sidekick at LG. Pegula and his wife are down on the sidelines to our left, and they’re on the phone. They’re likely finding out that their daughter just crushed it in her tennis final, 6-2, 6-2.
Foster and RayRay almost run into each other in some work vs air. Daboll calmly talks to Foster, as he’d likely run the wrong route. Mistakes are lessons.
Ed Oliver gets work with the ones in the next 11 on 11, and Jordan Phillips is on the sidelines. RayRay is running with the ones, as well. They’re working on third downs, with Cory Carter doing most of the punting. There’s a Hauschka sighting, a Poyer INT, and a McKenzie tip leading to a Hyde almost-INT. The best throw came on a rope to Cam Phillips along the near side. There are brisk changes of personnel, and lots of third-down work. Another throw that impressed is a Catch of The Day to Tommy Sweeney, who looks like another late-round TE. I forget the name. At DraftTek, we thought of Sweeney as one of the best blocking tight ends in his class, a contributor to a run-based offense, and a Day 3 pick, but Sweeney’s been a revelation. La’Adrian Waddle’s quad tear injury happened when he was with the threes, and it’s a significant loss. Also lost by fans as the medics attended to Waddle’s injury was a rocket to TJ Yeldon by Tyree and a nice Towbridge catch. We’ll be pleased with the depth we’ll see in the second half on Thursday night, although lack of OL depth may mean more time for Bodine, Nsehke, Boettger, Teller, C McDermott, and Garrett McGhin.
The last throw I saw was the Catch of The Day (if it wasn’t Beasley over the middle on a slant earlier). Josh connected with Smoky Brown deep on the far side of the field.
It’s going to be sad to write my last AstroNotes on Tuesday, but I’m really encouraged with what this team is becoming. Astro Out.
Editor’s babble: Well, thankfully Astro left out the gassers that were done at the end of practice. Hopefully they will keep the Coach happy on Tuesday when they reconvene at 9:45 a.m. for their last practice at St. John Fisher College. Thanks to Dean Kindig for all his terrific coverage of training camp practice. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.