On Wednesday the Bills headed over to Steelerville and began what will be 2 join practices before playing each other on August 16th. This is a good opportunity for the Bills as this gives them an opportunity to hit other players beside themselves and they get to leave New York. Here is a recap of the key storylines from the joint practice as well as observations since the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
1) Offensive Line Makeover continues
Cordy Glenn was cleared to return to camp but according to Coach Doug Marrone may not play for a long time, meaning Seantrel Henderson will continue to hold the fort. With the lack of depth the Bills have at Left Tackle, this has forced Chris Hairston to move from competing for the Right Guard job to playing 2nd team Left Tackle which pretty much takes him out of the running for the starting Right Guard job, however he might make the team as a super reserve. The right side of the offensive line is still not figured out as both positions are locked in intense battles. For the Right Guard job, Kraig Ubrik has been facing 5th round pick Cyril Richardson. Early on Ubrik had looked to have the job locked up but recently Richardson has made a push and he could potentially win the job. For the Right Tackle job, Erik Pears has been playing with the 1st teams as Cyrus Kouandjio is struggling in pass protection at the NFL level. While Kouandjio has been getting better, the Bills might go with Pears early on as he has played the most with 1st team. The bad news is due to Glenn’s unknown illness forcing him to miss so much of camp, Henderson has not been able to play Right Tackle, pretty much taking him out of the running for the job, even though he is the 2nd best tackle on the team.
2) Bills looking sloppy on Wednesday
In their 1st practice with the Steelers, the Bills looked extremely, extremely sloopy. The secondary got eaten up by Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had his way with Stephon Gilmore. The low point had to be when 4th round pick Martavis Bryant aka Stephen Hill 2.0 beat Corey Graham deep. The receivers also had a bad practice. Drops were ubiquitous and even The Legend of Sammy had a drop.
It was the most physical practice for the Bills as every play there was a hard hit or a scuffle between two players. There were a few fights that broke out and EJ Manuel (a QB who isn’t allowed to get touched) got hit hard and knocked onto the ground during 11 on 11 drills. Lot of heckling and trash talking and the Steelers clearly dictated how the practice would go. Hopefully the opposite is true today.
3) Sammy and Mike are a legit duo and other notes
So far through training camp it has became clear the top 2 WRs are Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams. Watkins gives the Bills that underneath guy and Mike Williams is the jump ball, red zone/deep threat that will go up and get the ball from EJ Manuel. Hello Sportscenter Top 10.
Chris Hogan looks to be the starting slot receiver. So far in camp he has been starting with the 1st team as the slot receiver instead of Robert Woods. This is a continuing trend as last year Robert Woods was the clear #1 for Manuel but now he may be as low as 4th on the totem pole. This is something to watch closely in the future.
The #3 Tight End on the roster looks to be a position no one wants to get. Tony Moeaki has been hurt all camp, Chris Gragg has been extremely inconsistent and Dominique Jones looks like a camp body. Maybe they should have drafted Eric Ebron (I kid).
Finally the player who has been taking advantage of his opportunities is Defensive Tackle Landon Cohen. Cohen has been a bit of a wanderer as he has moved from team to team and not really sticking. The Bills picked him up in late July due to his familiarity with the Jim Schwartz defense and he has thrived being a disruptive defensive tackle and making play after play. If he continues he looks to be a guy who can make it as the 1st sub defensive tackle.