Bills First Regular Season Practice Notes

1. Team Captains Announced

The Bills announced today that CB Corey Graham, RB Fred Jackson, LB Brandon Spikes, DT Kyle Williams, DE Mario Williams and C Eric Wood were selected by teammates as captains for the 2014 season.

Kyle Williams and Jackson have been selected as captains for the fourth time with Buffalo, while Wood received his second selection. Graham, Spikes, and Williams were selected as captains with Buffalo for the first time. Head coach Doug Marrone called being selected “an honor”, though stated that “it’s a lot of responsibility”.

The selection of Graham and Spikes as captains after their first offseason with the team is the biggest news. Graham has shown the willingness to play safety in camp, and helped the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl two seasons ago with an interception of Peyton Manning in overtime of the AFC Divisional Playoff game to set up the game-winning field goal.

Spikes signed only a one-year deal after spending four years with the Patriots, but his postseason experience and ability to get the defense set has helped the first-team defense look very good in the preseason. Spikes may not have the speed and agility to cover backs out in nickel situations, but his instincts has been immense in improving the Bills’ run defense.

Marrone said he thinks both Spikes and Graham have “done a very good job” both on and off-the field.

“I don’t want to say they were rewarded for it by being named a captain,” said Marrone. “I think that’s what people saw. They saw that leadership and they saw that they can handle things and that’s why they were elected by their peers to be the captains.”

Spikes also called the selection an “honor” and said “it’s great to be respected by your teammates”. Jackson called the selection as captain as his “most proud” award or accolade of his decorated career.

2. Kyle Orton Introduced

While the deal to bring the 31 year old Orton into the mix was done over the weekend, Marrone said that the team targeted the nine-year veteran “very early”, and had discussions with him “just in case”.

“Kyle Orton is much better for us,” said Marrone. “He’s an experienced veteran. He’s what we were looking for and we were fortunate to get him.”

Orton won’t have a ton of time to study the playbook in preparation for backing up E.J. Manuel six days from now against the team that drafted him. However, Marrone does not have any worries that Orton will be ready for Sunday’s game against the Bears.

“You’ll be surprised at what he can do,” said Marrone. “I think we’ll go work during the week and see how much he feels comfortable with handling. [It’s] probably more than what most people think because of his experience.”

Orton told the media today that his role on the team is to be “a backup”, with his “job No.1″ aiding Manuel. Orton called the Bills the “best team, fit, and organization” for him.

“Good coaches, good players, good young talent, good starting quarterback and we should have a chance to be a really good offense,” said Orton.

Fred Jackson believes that Orton can help the entire offensive unit.

“He not only can help EJ, he can help all of us,” said Jackson. “He’s seen it all.”

3. Sammy Watkins Practices

ESPN’s Mike Rodak said the rookie wideout participated in the beginning of Monday’s practice:

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) participated in at least the start of Monday’s practice.

Watkins took part in routes-versus-air while reporters were present. He dropped his first pass and immediately did push-ups.

It’s unclear his participation in the remainder of practice, as reporters are allowed only a brief window to watch regular-season practices.

Watkins re-injured his ribs in the Bills’ preseason finale last week.

The Bills will practice four times this week before traveling for their season opener against the Chicago Bears.

Watkins said after practice that he feels “just about normal”, though he might need to wear a flak jacket whenever he does return to the field.

“We’ll try just about everything,” said Watkins. “Whatever helps me. We’re just going to see how fair I can go and I just think pain tolerance I have to get through and be prepared for.”

Watkins said the injury is “just about any other rib injury”, and he anticipates playing on Sunday against Chicago.

“Of course,” said Watkins. “That’s a winner’s mentality. I hoping I’m going to be out there on the field playing, getting reps with the guys and go out there and try to fight for a win.”

Despite the defense making some strides with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Buffalo will need all the offensive weapons it can have competing against the explosive Bears offense that was second in the league in scoring. Watkins’ level of participation will be something to monitor throughout the week, as he will need to show he is both physically ready, and be able to develop enough chemistry and knowledge of the game plan to be prepared for his NFL debut.

4. Starting Safeties Picked

Marrone said after practice that Da’Norris Searcy would line up next to Aaron Williams at the safety position for the Week 1 game against the Bears.

While second-year players Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks have both had flashes of greatness, Searcy is a fourth-year player that is consistently solid and doesn’t make huge mistakes. However, don’t be surprised if Meeks and Williams play some in nickel and dime packages.

5. Leodis McKelvin

The team made it a point to rest McKelvin whenever possible this offseason, as his ability to make plays on both defense and special teams is found in very few starting-caliber corners in the NFL. With a deep cornerback group that includes McKelvin, Stephon Gilmore, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks, and rookie Ross Cockrell, McKelvin could be rested much more this season without much of a drop off in play.

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