The first four practices are in the books with the first official off day of 2018 Training Camp upon us. The players will get a brief respite on Monday and are set to return to the practice field Tuesday.
The weekend provided fans with a chance to see the first two practices with pads on. In terms of evaluating, it’s always a little easier to judge guys fighting for spots as the physicality gets turned up a notch.
For the most part, it appears the defensive rotation is set in stone. To me, the only position with considerable competition appears to be at the slot corner position, where the battle between Phillip Gaines and Taron Johnson will likely only heat up as camp rolls along.
Otherwise defensively, their base defense is essentially set across the board. Here are some of my observations from the weekend:
Malachi Dupre appears to have the “inside track” at WR3
The former seventh-round pick of the Green Bay Packers has been a mainstay with the Bills’ first team offense throughout the weekend. From what I saw on Saturday and then again on Sunday, Dupre has lined up in three-wide sets with presumed starters Kelvin Benjamin and Jeremy Kerley.
This is certainly a development, considering there had been a healthy rotation through the first two practices of players getting an opportunity to work alongside Benjamin and Kerley. Although he’s yet to fully take advantage of his opportunity running with the ones, it’s interesting to note any development at the position outside the top two guys. Where Zay Jones fits into this whole mess is another story entirely; for now, it appears that Dupre has the inside track for a roster spot.
Shaq Lawson in a fight for a roster spot
Speaking of roster spots, third-year pro Shaq Lawson is no lock to make the roster in 2018. It’s not necessarily about what he has or hasn’t done, but more a numbers game. Lawson is well aware of the pressure on him entering his third season following two fairly disappointing seasons to start his career.
It has felt all along that Lawson’s career didn’t start on the right footing. Whether it was him playing in a Rex Ryan defense that didn’t fit his skill set or being forced to undergo shoulder surgery that kept him out for the first four months of his rookie season, there always seems to be something holding Lawson back. The former first-round pick has to show he can be counted on in pass rushing situations, or he may be on the outside looking in.
McCarron settling in
After a healthy rotation of first-team reps over the first three days, AJ McCarron got his first full practice with the ones, and he seemed calm and collected – sort of like he’s been around the league for five seasons. However, most would probably agree McCarron hasn’t made any “wow” plays during the first few days of practice. While Josh Allen has had a few jaw-dropping throws, he’s also been fairly inconsistent in his time with the first team.
McCarron’s conservative approach has earned him the trust of the coaches, but how long can it hold off Josh Allen? I was certainly surprised to see Allen have no snaps with the ones in 11-on-11 after the practice he had Saturday morning – so this will definitely be something to monitor over the next two weeks.
Peterman sliding back
Nathan Peterman had a bit of a bounce-back practice on Sunday after a miserable showing on Saturday. It wasn’t all pretty, though. Peterman left a deep post embarrassingly short on a throw to Robert Foster, who was wide open behind the safety. He bounced back nicely for the rest of the team portion, where he ran exclusively with the second unit.
After a solid spring that left many wondering whether Peterman might come out of training camp as the team’s starter, he’s fallen back a bit after a big day from Allen on Saturday and a large rep share to McCarron on Sunday.
Daboll running with the “bigly” lineup
At this point, most of you already know the issues at wide receiver. We’ve started seeing Brian Daboll doing his best to scheme his wide receivers open when they face man coverage. In the newest edition of “work with what you got,” Daboll found a way to put all his tallest receivers on the field at one time to try and create mismatches wherever he can.
At one point during an empty set formation, from left to right, you saw Andre Holmes, Kelvin Benjamin, and Logan Thomas. Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy were the others split wide to the right. A personnel package with that grouping certainly isn’t going to scare coordinators deep, but it might force them to manipulate coverages.
The Bills will have an off day Monday but will hit the field again Tuesday with a closed, media-only session. The next time fans can see the team practice will be Wednesday. Keep it locked onto Cover 1 for all of your training camp updates.
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