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Five players to watch for in Bills-Eagles

Week two of preseason action sees the Bills travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles Thursday night, with many roster spots still up for grabs and several established veterans fighting for jobs.

Here are five players to keep an eye on during the game:

Rod Streater: He’s been hailed as one of the best players at camp so far this summer, but Streater was held off the box score in the team’s first preseason game against the Vikings. He saw decent playing time in that game, but needs to get some targets against the Eagles so that Buffalo’s coaching staff can see exactly what they are getting from the veteran in game action. Wowing the coaches and fans in practice with one-handed grabs is nice, but with many questions remaining at the wide receiver position, Streater needs to start making some of those plays against opposing defenses to secure a roster spot.

Reggie RaglandIt is time for the former second round selection to step up, whether it’s for a spot on Buffalo’s roster or to impress a potential suitor via trade. It’s been no secret that Ragland hasn’t done much this summer to distinguish himself in Sean McDermott’s defense. While questions remain about his fit in the scheme, lingering injury problems, or simply if he can be a starting 4-3 linebacker in the NFL, the 23-year-old still has a chance to turn things around in the coming weeks. Ragland figures to play at least two full quarters against the Eagles, and even if he won’t be going against a first-team offense, his play will still be watched closely by McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

 

Nate PetermanThe rookie was strong in the first preseason game and was rewarded by getting second-team reps in practice this week. With the Bills only carrying three quarterbacks this summer, each quarterback on the roster will get more playing time than in years past. Tyrod Taylor will probably only play a couple of series over the final three preseason games, so it will be a true competition between Yates and Peterman for the backup job. While Yates hasn’t been a complete disaster, the rookie has outplayed him so far and now has the added benefit of being able to play on the field with Buffalo’s primary backups. Although the Bills wanted a veteran quarterback to play behind Taylor, the performance of their fifth-round selection could cause the team to alter their plans and put skill above experience.

 

Austin Rehkow: Punters are people, too. Rehkow was signed as an undrafted free agent in the offseason by the Bills in hopes to motivate Colton Schmidt after a rough 2016 season. Rehkow, also a tremendous kicking leg, led the Sun Belt in points scored last season and has missed only rarely during training camp. Rehkow was used sparingly against the Vikings, only kicking one extra point (which he made), as the Bills used Schmidt for all six punting opportunities. While Steven Hauschka’s job appears locked up, many thought that Rehkow’s versatility could serve as the extra push in the battle with Schmidt, and Thursday could be the first time he shows that in game action.

Ronald Darby: I couldn’t leave him off the list. Less than a week after being traded by the Bills, Darby will have a shot to square up against his former teammates. It’s been confirmed by reporters in Philly that Darby will at least see the field for a couple of series Thursday, as the Eagles probably just want him to get his feet wet with the limited practice time he’s had so far with the team. Darby’s matchups against Boldin and Jones will bring some much needed excitement to a week 2 preseason game. We will see just how motivated he is to prove that his sophomore slump was just a fluke last season.

Other players that could use a big game: Vlad Ducasse, Dez Lewis, Ryan Davis, Bacarri Rambo, and Shareece Wright.

 

Episode #30 New Format, ‘17 Class Engram, Mccaffrey, Godwin, ‘18 QBs

Join us for a brand new Cover 1 The Podcast with new hosts, Russell Brown and Jesse Fritsch! The guys will be bringing you premium NFL Draft content on current NFL Draft prospects and previous draft prospects! There will be live draft evaluations, positional rankings and so much more!

A look back at the 2017 NFL Draft Class

Evan Engram

Christian Mccaffrey

Chris Godwin

Jamal Williams

2018 Prospects

Sam Darnold

Josh Rosen

Baker Mayfield

Luke Falk

Mason Rudolph

 

8-16-17 Training Camp Awards, Bills vs. Eagles Preview

 

Nate Geary and Kevin Massare hand out their training camp awards and thoughts on guys that stood out. Next they give a preview of what they are looking for Thursday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles Primer

The Buffalo Bills head to Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday at 7:00 P.M. for a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Where an ordinary preseason game wouldn’t feature an especially compelling storyline, this match holds some special significance due to the nascent (and more aged) cross-pollination of rosters. Bills head coach Sean McDermott is a native son of Philadelphia, growing up in the area and spending thirteen seasons on the Eagles’ coaching staff. The Bills traded for superstar running back LeSean McCoy three years ago, one of the most iconic modern day Eagles. Juan Castillo, David Culley, and Leslie Frazier make up the former Eagles coaches in Buffalo, while Philadelphia’s defense is coordinated by Jim Schwartz, who spent a memorable season in Buffalo finding new heights of quarterback pressure with Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Jerry Hughes in their primes.

That’s not to mention the most notable story of all: the trade, which occurred less than a week ago, of Bills cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles in exchange for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third round pick. The events lost some of their luster after Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum during his first Bills practice, but Darby is already working with Philly’s first string and will play against his old team on Thursday.

Bills fans are well-versed with Darby’s ups and downs. Who else should they keep an eye on? These are the Eagles to know.

QB Carson Wentz

Philadelphia spent a ransom of picks to trade up to the second overall pick for Wentz, and the North Dakota State product had a mixed bag of a rookie season. While he completed 62.4 percent of passes and threw for nearly 3800 yards, it was at a measly clip of 6.2 yards per attempt, and he nearly threw as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns (16). As a quarterback, Wentz is a tantalizing combination of size, athleticism, and arm talent, but his lack of experience reading complex defenses and refining his footwork often held him back last year.

Doug Pederson‘s offense is structured to make things easy for his quarterbacks. Using motion, misdirection, play fakes, and simpler passing concepts, he structures plays that force defenses to show their intentions and create basic decision trees for the passer. Here’s a classic example of a Pederson play, run during Philadelphia’s first preseason game of the year:

The Eagles fake a run to the left side while Matthews jets across the formation in the other direction. Wentz shows the ball, turns his back, then hits his receiver in stride with space ahead.

Wentz showed encouraging signs of his processing speed during his first game of the season. With two seconds remaining on the playclock, he successfully identifies a blitzing defender here, gets the snap off in time (barely), and delivers to the receiver vacated by the blitzer.

Wentz has had an issue, dating back to his college days, of standing like a tree in the pocket. He’ll take the snap and put down roots. The lack of footwork would make it impossible for him to accurately throw beyond his first read, or to lead defenders away from his target. Heading into his second season, it was crucial that he figure out this part of his game. Wentz only played one drive in the Packers game, but each pass he threw either put him on a bootleg to get him in space, or saw him successfully stepping around the pocket. On this play, Wentz steps up against edge pressure, uses his strength to escape a tackle, and identifies an open Matthews, delivering the ball for a first down.

Wentz’s most exciting play of the day came on his touchdown pass to rookie receiver Mack Hollins. It showed off his athleticism and his ability to create plays under pressure. Dom Capers throws a confusing look at Wentz pre-snap. Linebacker Clay Matthews is lined up as a defensive tackle, there’s a linebacker sugaring the B gap near the right guard, and safety Josh Jones is at a depth of five yards, as if he were a middle linebacker.

As the weird look indicated, this play turned into a blitz. Jones stayed in coverage, but the four down lineman, the sugar linebacker, and the slot cornerback all rushed Wentz. Matthews ran a stunt, coming behind the linebacker and getting free range at Wentz.

Wentz ducks and manages to sidestep Matthews, and keeps his eyes downfield. He notices Nelson Agholor pulling Jones to the sideline, opening up room in the middle for Hollins. Wentz delivers the ball, with Hollins making a nice grab without breaking stride, and the rookie takes care of the rest.

WR Nelson Agholor

The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to free agent deals this offseason, but lingering injuries have limited Jeffery’s time on the field so far. Third year receiver Agholor will see plenty of time on the field, both outside and in the slot. While he managed to outlast Matthews this season, he’ll need to cure his catching woes if he wants to stick with the team.

Agholor is a very athletic receiver — he ran a 4.42 forty yard dash at the Combine, combined with a 125″ broad jump and 6.83 three cone drill at his pro day. His combination of speed and size gives him the versatility to work inside and outside (with Matthews gone and Smith and Jeffery on the field, Agholor will likely spend large amounts of time in the slot), and he can also work as a moving chess piece in the offense. On this play, the Eagles use him on a jet sweep:

Agholor deserves credit for effective route running. Playing at the top of the screen here, he doesn’t get targeted (thanks to a sack), but watch the nuance he throws into his route:

This route begins with an in-breaking motion, and as the defender gets inside position against him, Agholor begins to bring his route toward the sidelines. As the defender turns his body, anticipating an out route, Agholor watches him flip those hips and breaks inside for easy separation.

Of course, as Lee Evans could tell you, all the separation in the world can only help if you can be trusted to come down with the ball when it’s thrown your way. Agholor’s hands have a tendency to bounce the ball away. Here, Agholor fails to haul in a potential two-point conversion following Wentz’s touchdown throw:

This is a basic modern NFL goal line pass play. Hollins, stacked ahead of Agholor, will set a pick against the close cornerback, while Agholor runs a slant pattern. The deeper cornerback will be out of position to make a play on the ball, giving Agholor a free shot at the catch. The throw is a bit high, but it careens harmlessly off of Agholor’s hands before a defender makes any contact. If Wentz wants a reliable third down receiver, he’ll be looking somewhere else.

DE Derek Barnett

One of the rookie MVPs from the first preseason game was Barnett, the defensive end drafted from Tennessee with Philadelphia’s fourteenth overall pick. Barnett holds the Volunteers’ career sack record, breaking the mark set by Eagles legend Reggie White. No pressure, eh? He didn’t seem fazed by that, tallying two sacks against the Packers.

Barnett isn’t an elite athlete for an edge rusher, but he has two exceptionally polished traits – his ability to bend around the edge without dropping his speed, and an array of handfighting techniques. Building on those, he can be a difference-maker on the defensive line.

Matching up against Packers 2016 first round pick Jason Spriggs, Barnett didn’t win initially. At 6’3″ 259 pounds, he’s not built to win with a bull rush. Spriggs withstood the first blow from Barnett, stayed balanced, and neutralized him.

That’s when Barnett started to take the momentum, by shifting his own momentum. On a subsequent pass play, Barnett started to the outside, clubbed Spriggs’ arms to the side, then ducked back inside. Spriggs was left dumbfounded as Barnett wrapped up Hundley on the sack.

Barnett flashed his ridiculous bend on the second sack, which was more of a lucky trip of the quarterback (but we take those!). He dips to the outside edge and uses a rip move to get underneath the 6’7″ Spriggs. Watch Barnett flex to a nearly 45 degree angle, and even more impressively, stay within about two yards of the initial depth when he began the dip-and-rip. That strength and flexibility is important in a pass rusher, and it’s something Eddie Yarbrough and Jerry Hughes can do effectively, too.

At the moment, the Eagles have Chris Long, Vinny Curry, and Brandon Graham at defensive end. They don’t need Barnett to start for them, but he’ll find his way onto the field before long if he keeps playing like this.

CB Rasul Douglas

The Eagles spent a second round pick on Washington cornerback Sidney Jones, who isn’t expected to see the field this season after suffering a pre-draft Achilles injury. But third round pick Rasul Douglas, drafted out of West Virginia, is. Until Darby was added, there was an outside chance Douglas could find a starting role over veteran Patrick Robinson, who hasn’t had a great camp. Now, Douglas is more likely going to be used on special teams and as a backup defensive back.

Douglas stood out as a prospect after he notched a nation-leading eight interceptions in his senior season. The 6’2″ 203 pound cornerback has length to spare, and he knows how to use his body like a power forward’s to win at the catch point. On this play against Kansas State, Douglas timed his jump to the incoming pass and wrestled it away from the receiver to snag the interception:

Douglas is a smart player who worked in a mixture of man and zone coverages for the Mountaineers. He can read a quarterback’s eyes, and he took great pleasure in baiting throws that the quarterback would regret. On this play, Douglas sees BYU quarterback Taysom Hill under pressure, stays aware of the hot route, and jumps the pass for an easy pick six when Hill tries to check down.

The weakness to his game is a lack of overall athleticism. With his height and long arms, Douglas looks like an appealing cornerback prospect, but most of his workout numbers would put him closer to safety range – a 4.59 forty yard dash, 33.5 inch vertical leap, and 6.97 second three cone drill are all worse than more than two thirds of NFL cornerback prospects. Because of his lack of speed, Douglas sometimes gives larger-than-ideal cushions on deeper routes. He can also struggle to stop on a dime and contest hitch routes and other quick patterns. On consecutive plays against Kansas State, he gave up chunk yardage because he wasn’t able to stick with his receiver:

 

Cover 1 | The Podcast

 

We are proud to announce that Cover 1 | The Podcast will now be hosted by Russell Brown and Jesse Fritsch. The focus will be the NFL Draft and Scouting. You’ll experience on-air prospect breakdowns, prospect evaluations, positional rankings, draft rewinds and so much more!

 

Russell is an avid football fan and football coach, recently started writing for Cover 1 but has been writing about and evaluating the NFL Draft since 2010. You can find him and his breakdowns about draft prospects on Twitter @RussNFLDraft.

 

Jesse Fritsch is a Wisconsin native who has spent 12 years independently evaluating NFL draft prospects and following the draft process. He happily spends most of his free time researching players and watching games in his man cave while occasionally coming up for air to share. You can find him, his database and awesome breakdowns on Twitter @CalhounLambeau.

 

Join us for the 2017 season and the 2018 NFL Draft!

 

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Bills Vs Vikings Impressions

Courtesy of Vikings Corner

 

The first preseason game is in the books, and the Bills have been handed their first loss of the season, losing 17-10 to the Vikings Thursday night. But I am sure the coaches couldn’t care less about the score, as their priority is evaluating their players en route to finalizing their 53-man roster.

Notably, the starting units looked very organized, structured, and were effective.

The offense led by QB Tyrod Taylor was able to move the ball through the air. Taylor looked decisive and even showed off some field awareness, hopefully indicative of some long term growth.

 

The run game was the catalyst and focus, which should be no surprise. Running back Jonathan Williams got the start and ripped off a couple of nice runs. He finished with 39 yards on four carries, and he seemed to have a level of quickness and vision we haven’t seen since his junior year of college.

This play was called back because of the hold, but I just love the vision Williams exhibited on this iso play. This is a play that the Bills ran a lot of last season under OC Anthony Lynn. The second year running back reads the backside 3 technique defensive tackle really well, but the hold on LG Richie Incognito nullified the gain.

 

One of his longest runs came when Richie pulled and dropped linebacker Eric Kendricks. As I have mentioned before, Dennison will be keeping a good chunk of the playbook, including gap runs like this one.

 

The run game looked alive and healthy as the Bills averaged 5.3 yards per carry against one of the best defenses in the league. The ‘big uglies’ upfront dominated, and they did so with a concept that has become all the rage in the NFL. The play is called ‘Duo’; It is a play that I will break down in the near future, as I believe it will become the Bills’ bread-and-butter play in 2017.

 

DE Eddie Yarbrough

The 2017 darling of training camp at St. John Fisher, hands down, has been Eddie Yarbrough. The hard work and domination he has shown camp shined through on Thursday, as well. There wasn’t much film on him since entering the league, so I quickly went back and looked at some of his Wyoming film. What I saw there was no different than what I witnessed in his first game action of the season.

 

Yarbrough isn’t super athletic; he doesn’t possess top end speed to beat a tackle and run the hoop. But he knows his strengths and weaknesses, and that self awareness makes him effective. He sets up tackles with slight shoulder movements and speed changes that often leave linemen guessing, unable to determine which line he is going to take to the quarterback. Once the two way go is set up, he then uses sound technique to win.

 

In the previous clip you saw him win with power and the inside move. On his first sack of the preseason he sets the tackle up with a two way go by utilizing a stutter rush.

 

The stutter rush causes the tackle to stop his kickslide. Yarbrough then diagnoses the spot that Bradford will settle on, then rushes wide for the sack.

 

He has a bevy of pass rush moves and counters, and he showcased them versus the Vikings. On 3rd-and-4 he puts together a double handed chop and transitions into a spin move. The spin move inside forces Bradford out of the pocket, which is where he typically struggles. It leads to an incompletion and forces the Vikings’ offense off of the field

 

Yarbrough was the highest-graded defender, per Pro Football Focus, grading out at a +4.6. He finished the game with one sack, one QB hit, one tackle, and two stops. It is fairly evident that he knows how to use his power and stoutness to disrupt the run, as well as the pass.

 

LB Reggie Ragland

On to a player that has been in the news quite a bit, and one who will continue to be, considering the moves the Bills just made: Reggie Ragland. If you look at the box score, Ragland’s name certainly shows up. He finished with three tackles, two assists, and one stop. It was a solid game for the second year player, which is a relief for him, I’m sure, as he admitted he is struggling with the defense and isn’t quite 100%. The narrative right now is that he is not a fit for the defense, and I will not say it’s wrong. I just believe it’s too early to confidently assert that. But when you watch plays like this, you can see why some might disagree. Let me start off by saying that he carried out his job by leveraging his gap correctly. He executed it so well that it forced the back to enter the line of scrimmage one gap wider, which is good.

 

But his feet stall, and he doesn’t ‘fire his gun’ through the gap. He then is unable to continue to scrape and leverage the ball wide, which is a tough pill to swallow, as he is the only unblocked defender. Again, he did his job, but as a Mike linebacker in this defense, as I have mentioned on our podcast, the lack of burst or explosiveness needed to scrape and make plays outside the numbers could be an issue.

 

Ragland hasn’t played in a live game since the BCS National Championship dating back to 2015, so his play speed isn’t yet up to snuff. However, his mental awareness and ability to process what happened and what was about to happen popped. A few plays later, the Vikings run a similar play, and this time Ragland ‘fires his gun’, but is unable to make the tackle deep in the backfield. That’s alright, though. He completely blew up the timing of the zone run play and forced the back to make a decision before he wanted to.

 

As the game wore on, Ragland became more comfortable and began to trust his eyes. The Vikings run outside zone here, which is a play that could give Ragland issues.

 

But he diagnoses the concept and entry point of the back and quickly shoots the gap for the stop.

 

As you can see, he got his game legs under him and began to make plays against the run. He wasn’t really tested in the pass game, though, and it is tough to tell his drops or responsibilities. From what I saw, he appeared to take good depth on drops to his landmarks, and with how vanilla the game was called, not much can be concluded in that facet of Ragland’s game.

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

QB Nathan Peterman

The rookie quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh had a lukewarm day. There were passes that sailed completely off target, but then there were passes that couldn’t be any more accurate. By the end of the game he compiled a 52% completion percentage for 112 yards and one beautiful touchdown in the back corner of the end zone to WR Dez Lewis.

 

The Vikings didn’t ease him into the NFL by any means, as they blitzed him on 16 out of 28 drop backs. But I thought he handled it well, standing in there and taking some big shots, and also running the ball when the defense was in man coverage. Although the Bills’ drive stalled, he showed poise, anticipation, and trust in his receiver Daikiel Shorts on two straight plays late in the fourth quarter.

 

DL Marquavius Lewis

Finally, there is defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis, a very good defensive end in college known for his run stopping abilities. The Bills have been experimenting with him at defensive tackle, which really mystified me. Depending on how they plan on using him, though, it could work. He led the team in stops, showing that he has the quickness to be an effective disruptor and the ability to stack and disengage against the run.

 

It is good to have football back, but most of all it is good to have some more film to break down. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all season.

 

 

Recapping a busy Friday at One Bills Drive

Once the shock and awe wore off after two of the biggest Bills trades in recent memory, a clearer picture has begun to emerge of the events that transpired. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane helped to clarify some points during an afternoon press conference, but stayed pretty close to the company line while doing so. Just like draft picks and any trades, the full magnitude of, and return on, these trades can’t be fully judged until years down the road. However, there is no doubt that these moves have immediately changed the course of the Buffalo Bills for 2017 and beyond.

To recap, the Bills shipped away Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for a second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines. In a corresponding move announced only minutes later, Buffalo sent Ronald Darby to the Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round selection in the 2018 draft.

 

While it took fans and the media some time to dissect the moves, each Bills player had his own share of baggage during their time in Buffalo, and they were by no means perfect players. For Watkins, there were no guarantees that he would be a member of the Buffalo Bills after the 2017 season regardless, so the Bills decided to get something for the former first-round pick rather than let him walk away for nothing. As for Darby, his sophomore slump last season definitely didn’t help his cause with the new front office and coaching staff. Another reason he was shown the door was that Darby is better suited (and was drafted) to play corner in a man-to-man defense like the one Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman ran the last two seasons. With McDermott’s defense relying more on zone coverage, it put Darby in an interesting spot. I think Darby has the talent to make that switch in only his third season in the NFL, but now he won’t get the chance to.

 

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The Bills are now especially loaded in next year’s draft, having at least two picks in each of the first three rounds. That bodes well for the future, but the Bills also have ample ammunition if they desire to use some of those draft picks in trades next spring to try and move up to acquire a coveted franchise quarterback.

The loss of Watkins is still going to take time to process, especially after all of the resources the team put into him, but this deal will most likely help his career and the future of the Bills for the long haul. Matthews and Gaines fill roster spots for now, but who knows how long either will spend in a Bills uniform or the impact they will have in the Queen City. Watkins is going to go down as another first round pick who just didn’t work out in Buffalo, but he still has potential to lead the league in receiving one day.

Overall, it was a franchise-altering day in Buffalo that still leaves a ton of unanswered questions with the three weeks of preseason football left to play. After Watkins and Darby, it begs the question as to who and/or what is next. Beane and McDermott have shown they aren’t afraid to make the moves that they feel are best for the team long-term, and Friday’s blockbusters may have just been the beginning.

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Five players to watch for in Bills-Eagles

Week two of preseason action sees the Bills travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles Thursday night, with many roster spots still up for grabs and several established veterans fighting for jobs.

Here are five players to keep an eye on during the game:

Rod Streater: He’s been hailed as one of the best players at camp so far this summer, but Streater was held off the box score in the team’s first preseason game against the Vikings. He saw decent playing time in that game, but needs to get some targets against the Eagles so that Buffalo’s coaching staff can see exactly what they are getting from the veteran in game action. Wowing the coaches and fans in practice with one-handed grabs is nice, but with many questions remaining at the wide receiver position, Streater needs to start making some of those plays against opposing defenses to secure a roster spot.

Reggie RaglandIt is time for the former second round selection to step up, whether it’s for a spot on Buffalo’s roster or to impress a potential suitor via trade. It’s been no secret that Ragland hasn’t done much this summer to distinguish himself in Sean McDermott’s defense. While questions remain about his fit in the scheme, lingering injury problems, or simply if he can be a starting 4-3 linebacker in the NFL, the 23-year-old still has a chance to turn things around in the coming weeks. Ragland figures to play at least two full quarters against the Eagles, and even if he won’t be going against a first-team offense, his play will still be watched closely by McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

 

Nate PetermanThe rookie was strong in the first preseason game and was rewarded by getting second-team reps in practice this week. With the Bills only carrying three quarterbacks this summer, each quarterback on the roster will get more playing time than in years past. Tyrod Taylor will probably only play a couple of series over the final three preseason games, so it will be a true competition between Yates and Peterman for the backup job. While Yates hasn’t been a complete disaster, the rookie has outplayed him so far and now has the added benefit of being able to play on the field with Buffalo’s primary backups. Although the Bills wanted a veteran quarterback to play behind Taylor, the performance of their fifth-round selection could cause the team to alter their plans and put skill above experience.

 

Austin Rehkow: Punters are people, too. Rehkow was signed as an undrafted free agent in the offseason by the Bills in hopes to motivate Colton Schmidt after a rough 2016 season. Rehkow, also a tremendous kicking leg, led the Sun Belt in points scored last season and has missed only rarely during training camp. Rehkow was used sparingly against the Vikings, only kicking one extra point (which he made), as the Bills used Schmidt for all six punting opportunities. While Steven Hauschka’s job appears locked up, many thought that Rehkow’s versatility could serve as the extra push in the battle with Schmidt, and Thursday could be the first time he shows that in game action.

Ronald Darby: I couldn’t leave him off the list. Less than a week after being traded by the Bills, Darby will have a shot to square up against his former teammates. It’s been confirmed by reporters in Philly that Darby will at least see the field for a couple of series Thursday, as the Eagles probably just want him to get his feet wet with the limited practice time he’s had so far with the team. Darby’s matchups against Boldin and Jones will bring some much needed excitement to a week 2 preseason game. We will see just how motivated he is to prove that his sophomore slump was just a fluke last season.

Other players that could use a big game: Vlad Ducasse, Dez Lewis, Ryan Davis, Bacarri Rambo, and Shareece Wright.

 

Episode #30 New Format, ‘17 Class Engram, Mccaffrey, Godwin, ‘18 QBs

Join us for a brand new Cover 1 The Podcast with new hosts, Russell Brown and Jesse Fritsch! The guys will be bringing you premium NFL Draft content on current NFL Draft prospects and previous draft prospects! There will be live draft evaluations, positional rankings and so much more!

A look back at the 2017 NFL Draft Class

Evan Engram

Christian Mccaffrey

Chris Godwin

Jamal Williams

2018 Prospects

Sam Darnold

Josh Rosen

Baker Mayfield

Luke Falk

Mason Rudolph

 

8-16-17 Training Camp Awards, Bills vs. Eagles Preview

 

Nate Geary and Kevin Massare hand out their training camp awards and thoughts on guys that stood out. Next they give a preview of what they are looking for Thursday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles Primer

The Buffalo Bills head to Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday at 7:00 P.M. for a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Where an ordinary preseason game wouldn’t feature an especially compelling storyline, this match holds some special significance due to the nascent (and more aged) cross-pollination of rosters. Bills head coach Sean McDermott is a native son of Philadelphia, growing up in the area and spending thirteen seasons on the Eagles’ coaching staff. The Bills traded for superstar running back LeSean McCoy three years ago, one of the most iconic modern day Eagles. Juan Castillo, David Culley, and Leslie Frazier make up the former Eagles coaches in Buffalo, while Philadelphia’s defense is coordinated by Jim Schwartz, who spent a memorable season in Buffalo finding new heights of quarterback pressure with Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Jerry Hughes in their primes.

That’s not to mention the most notable story of all: the trade, which occurred less than a week ago, of Bills cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles in exchange for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third round pick. The events lost some of their luster after Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum during his first Bills practice, but Darby is already working with Philly’s first string and will play against his old team on Thursday.

Bills fans are well-versed with Darby’s ups and downs. Who else should they keep an eye on? These are the Eagles to know.

QB Carson Wentz

Philadelphia spent a ransom of picks to trade up to the second overall pick for Wentz, and the North Dakota State product had a mixed bag of a rookie season. While he completed 62.4 percent of passes and threw for nearly 3800 yards, it was at a measly clip of 6.2 yards per attempt, and he nearly threw as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns (16). As a quarterback, Wentz is a tantalizing combination of size, athleticism, and arm talent, but his lack of experience reading complex defenses and refining his footwork often held him back last year.

Doug Pederson‘s offense is structured to make things easy for his quarterbacks. Using motion, misdirection, play fakes, and simpler passing concepts, he structures plays that force defenses to show their intentions and create basic decision trees for the passer. Here’s a classic example of a Pederson play, run during Philadelphia’s first preseason game of the year:

The Eagles fake a run to the left side while Matthews jets across the formation in the other direction. Wentz shows the ball, turns his back, then hits his receiver in stride with space ahead.

Wentz showed encouraging signs of his processing speed during his first game of the season. With two seconds remaining on the playclock, he successfully identifies a blitzing defender here, gets the snap off in time (barely), and delivers to the receiver vacated by the blitzer.

Wentz has had an issue, dating back to his college days, of standing like a tree in the pocket. He’ll take the snap and put down roots. The lack of footwork would make it impossible for him to accurately throw beyond his first read, or to lead defenders away from his target. Heading into his second season, it was crucial that he figure out this part of his game. Wentz only played one drive in the Packers game, but each pass he threw either put him on a bootleg to get him in space, or saw him successfully stepping around the pocket. On this play, Wentz steps up against edge pressure, uses his strength to escape a tackle, and identifies an open Matthews, delivering the ball for a first down.

Wentz’s most exciting play of the day came on his touchdown pass to rookie receiver Mack Hollins. It showed off his athleticism and his ability to create plays under pressure. Dom Capers throws a confusing look at Wentz pre-snap. Linebacker Clay Matthews is lined up as a defensive tackle, there’s a linebacker sugaring the B gap near the right guard, and safety Josh Jones is at a depth of five yards, as if he were a middle linebacker.

As the weird look indicated, this play turned into a blitz. Jones stayed in coverage, but the four down lineman, the sugar linebacker, and the slot cornerback all rushed Wentz. Matthews ran a stunt, coming behind the linebacker and getting free range at Wentz.

Wentz ducks and manages to sidestep Matthews, and keeps his eyes downfield. He notices Nelson Agholor pulling Jones to the sideline, opening up room in the middle for Hollins. Wentz delivers the ball, with Hollins making a nice grab without breaking stride, and the rookie takes care of the rest.

WR Nelson Agholor

The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to free agent deals this offseason, but lingering injuries have limited Jeffery’s time on the field so far. Third year receiver Agholor will see plenty of time on the field, both outside and in the slot. While he managed to outlast Matthews this season, he’ll need to cure his catching woes if he wants to stick with the team.

Agholor is a very athletic receiver — he ran a 4.42 forty yard dash at the Combine, combined with a 125″ broad jump and 6.83 three cone drill at his pro day. His combination of speed and size gives him the versatility to work inside and outside (with Matthews gone and Smith and Jeffery on the field, Agholor will likely spend large amounts of time in the slot), and he can also work as a moving chess piece in the offense. On this play, the Eagles use him on a jet sweep:

Agholor deserves credit for effective route running. Playing at the top of the screen here, he doesn’t get targeted (thanks to a sack), but watch the nuance he throws into his route:

This route begins with an in-breaking motion, and as the defender gets inside position against him, Agholor begins to bring his route toward the sidelines. As the defender turns his body, anticipating an out route, Agholor watches him flip those hips and breaks inside for easy separation.

Of course, as Lee Evans could tell you, all the separation in the world can only help if you can be trusted to come down with the ball when it’s thrown your way. Agholor’s hands have a tendency to bounce the ball away. Here, Agholor fails to haul in a potential two-point conversion following Wentz’s touchdown throw:

This is a basic modern NFL goal line pass play. Hollins, stacked ahead of Agholor, will set a pick against the close cornerback, while Agholor runs a slant pattern. The deeper cornerback will be out of position to make a play on the ball, giving Agholor a free shot at the catch. The throw is a bit high, but it careens harmlessly off of Agholor’s hands before a defender makes any contact. If Wentz wants a reliable third down receiver, he’ll be looking somewhere else.

DE Derek Barnett

One of the rookie MVPs from the first preseason game was Barnett, the defensive end drafted from Tennessee with Philadelphia’s fourteenth overall pick. Barnett holds the Volunteers’ career sack record, breaking the mark set by Eagles legend Reggie White. No pressure, eh? He didn’t seem fazed by that, tallying two sacks against the Packers.

Barnett isn’t an elite athlete for an edge rusher, but he has two exceptionally polished traits – his ability to bend around the edge without dropping his speed, and an array of handfighting techniques. Building on those, he can be a difference-maker on the defensive line.

Matching up against Packers 2016 first round pick Jason Spriggs, Barnett didn’t win initially. At 6’3″ 259 pounds, he’s not built to win with a bull rush. Spriggs withstood the first blow from Barnett, stayed balanced, and neutralized him.

That’s when Barnett started to take the momentum, by shifting his own momentum. On a subsequent pass play, Barnett started to the outside, clubbed Spriggs’ arms to the side, then ducked back inside. Spriggs was left dumbfounded as Barnett wrapped up Hundley on the sack.

Barnett flashed his ridiculous bend on the second sack, which was more of a lucky trip of the quarterback (but we take those!). He dips to the outside edge and uses a rip move to get underneath the 6’7″ Spriggs. Watch Barnett flex to a nearly 45 degree angle, and even more impressively, stay within about two yards of the initial depth when he began the dip-and-rip. That strength and flexibility is important in a pass rusher, and it’s something Eddie Yarbrough and Jerry Hughes can do effectively, too.

At the moment, the Eagles have Chris Long, Vinny Curry, and Brandon Graham at defensive end. They don’t need Barnett to start for them, but he’ll find his way onto the field before long if he keeps playing like this.

CB Rasul Douglas

The Eagles spent a second round pick on Washington cornerback Sidney Jones, who isn’t expected to see the field this season after suffering a pre-draft Achilles injury. But third round pick Rasul Douglas, drafted out of West Virginia, is. Until Darby was added, there was an outside chance Douglas could find a starting role over veteran Patrick Robinson, who hasn’t had a great camp. Now, Douglas is more likely going to be used on special teams and as a backup defensive back.

Douglas stood out as a prospect after he notched a nation-leading eight interceptions in his senior season. The 6’2″ 203 pound cornerback has length to spare, and he knows how to use his body like a power forward’s to win at the catch point. On this play against Kansas State, Douglas timed his jump to the incoming pass and wrestled it away from the receiver to snag the interception:

Douglas is a smart player who worked in a mixture of man and zone coverages for the Mountaineers. He can read a quarterback’s eyes, and he took great pleasure in baiting throws that the quarterback would regret. On this play, Douglas sees BYU quarterback Taysom Hill under pressure, stays aware of the hot route, and jumps the pass for an easy pick six when Hill tries to check down.

The weakness to his game is a lack of overall athleticism. With his height and long arms, Douglas looks like an appealing cornerback prospect, but most of his workout numbers would put him closer to safety range – a 4.59 forty yard dash, 33.5 inch vertical leap, and 6.97 second three cone drill are all worse than more than two thirds of NFL cornerback prospects. Because of his lack of speed, Douglas sometimes gives larger-than-ideal cushions on deeper routes. He can also struggle to stop on a dime and contest hitch routes and other quick patterns. On consecutive plays against Kansas State, he gave up chunk yardage because he wasn’t able to stick with his receiver:

 

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Buffalo Bills Red Zone Success | Pistol Formation

The Buffalo Bills coaching staff did a phenomenal job of building the running game around Tyrod Taylor in 2016. Especially in the red zone. Once the Bills entered the red zone, they almost always went into the Pistol Formation.   

The formation makes the defense account for every offensive threat which included Tyrod. Much like old school option offenses of years past, if a defender was undiscipline the offense could easily gain chunk yards.  

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Having Tyrod in the Pistol also allowed Lynn to run a blocking concept he was familiar with. As a former running back of the Denver Broncos, in the Shanahan/Gibbs system, Lynn is well versed in zone blocking. The Pistol allowed Lynn to mesh zone run concepts with ‘option’ tags.

https://youtu.be/WmEVRnnxwCs
Tags such as speed, load, triple and even veer read/option looks became a staple in the red zone for the Bills and were nearly impossible to stop. The tags stressed defensive players’ responsibilities and eye discipline, as there was often deceit built into the play. Take a look at some of those plays.https://youtu.be/xwh5pFqmjlo

Breaking News: Cover 1 | The Podcast is now Locked On Bills. @Lockedonsports @NateGearyWGRhttps://t.co/9E64JSiON5 pic.twitter.com/SwLxO5VUoX

— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) August 7, 2017

Why It Worked: 6th TD of 2016 Pitch to Shady

The 6th touchdown of 2016 was courtesy of Lesean Mccoy and a very good block by Wide receiver Walt Powell check it out:

 

 

 

Football Is Back!

In case you haven’t heard the news, Cover 1 has joined Grandstand Sports Network and we have locked in media passes for the Buffalo Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher. With that brings a lot of responsibility and most importantly the opportunity to bring you top notch content IMMEDIATELY. Cover 1 contributors Kevin Massare and Nate Geary were embedded at camp and they brought you the following footage. Take a look:

Lesean Mccoy Better Known as Cut on a DIME

With training camp underway, I wanted to put out a quick Lesean Mccoy highlight reel. Enjoy.

Audio and video courtesy of the NFL, CBS, FOX, John Murphy, WGR550. Music courtesy of Steve Aoki ‘Without You’.

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Why It Worked: 5th TD of 2016 | Shady from 24 yards out

 

New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn called a beautifully blocked trap play to spring Shady into the end zone from 24 yards out. Mccoy went on to eclipse 100 yards on the ground for the first time in 2016.

 

 

Buffalo Bills Rushing Attack vs Bengals

The Bills’ #1 rushing attack gained 183 yards and 1 TD on 34 attempts vs the Bengals in week 11. It was another game where the running game relied on advancing the ball along the perimeter. Of their 183 yards, 103 were gained outside the tight end, including five of the eight missed tackles forced.

Starting running back LeSean McCoy injured his thumb at the end of the first half and didn’t return, and he was the only player to get into the end zone. Touchdown Mike Gillislee carried the load and finished the game with 72 yards and managed to average 5.1 per clip. He was the highest graded offensive player, per Pro Football Focus, and once again the ground game was the catalyst for a Bills win in Cincinnati.

 

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