1. Offensive Line Re-Shuffling
With Cordy Glenn cleared for team activities, there were some new lineups trotted out for the front five. Many of them included Glenn playing at left tackle and rookie Seantrel Henderson playing at right tackle.
Henderson’s impressive performance in camp and against pass-rushers like Jason Pierre-Paul and Greg Hardy in the preseason appear to have made him a player the Bills can’t keep off the offensive line. Henderson was a former top recruit who never put it all together at Miami, but has found opportunity and success in Buffalo.
Pro Bowl center Eric Wood said it was “a good sign” to see Glenn playing alongside him on the line.
“Cordy is one of our best players and getting him back on the field is obviously going to help this football team,” said Wood.
Erik Pears, who has lined up at right tackle, was at right guard tonight, a position Wood said Pears hasn’t played since he’s been in Buffalo, and Kraig Urbik was in at center. Wood didn’t say if there was any deadline he knew or was looking for the starting offensive line to be determined, but feels it well work itself out.
“I have a lot of confidence in whoever is lining up,” said Wood. “Luckily everyone seems to know what they’re doing, so that’s half the battle. If they know what they’re doing and they know the technique, it’s not that hard of an adjustment.”
Glenn’s progress this week could indicate if he gets anytime to play before the regular season.
2. Sammy Watkins out, Marquise Goodwin in
Watkins’ rib injury against the Steelers is something head coach Doug Marrone wouldn’t speculate on in terms of a timetable.
“Ribs are a funny thing,” said Marrone. “You can practice the next day sometimes. You can come back into a game. Sometimes on the x-ray it shows that it’s a crack. Sometimes it shows that it’s not and then you take a better x-ray and there is a crack. Sometimes, depending on the player, you can be out two weeks, four weeks, six weeks or two months.”
Watkins was on the exercise bike for much of practice, though he did juggle a tennis ball when on the sideline with the receiver group. Goodwin returned to the practice field tonight, though began rusty with a ball that bounced off his hands in a 7 on 7 drill.
However, the former national champion in the long jump showed his speed, catching a slant and quick out route from E.J. Manuel in scrimmages, and nearly hauling in a deep ball along the right sideline. It will take time for Goodwin to be consistent, but getting more reps with Watkins out could help develop more chemistry with Manuel right before the season begins.
3. Leodis McKelvin Back on Field
McKelvin’s return to the practice field gives Buffalo a full cornerback depth chart, with him joining Stephon Gilmore, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks, and rookie Ross Cockrell. Along with McKelvin’s punt return skills, Graham, Robey, Brooks, and Cockrell can contribute on special teams, and Graham played some at safety tonight.
How the cornerback rotation will look in the season may take some shape in the game on Saturday, as Robey may play as a blitzer in nickel packages like he did last year and he has in camp. With coverage safeties for certain situations needed, Graham could play as a nickel and dime safety as well.
The cornerback group may be the deepest position on the Bills’ roster, but whether or not competition and the talent the team faces at receiver each day will make it an elite core among NFL teams won’t be answered until the regular season. But at least all the players appear to be ready to play.
4. Players Discuss Redzone struggles
After four possessions for the first-team offense that got inside the Steelers’ 35 yielded only six points, there still has been no touchdowns for the offensive starters. Running back C.J. Spiller doesn’t think that the issues will continue into the regular season.
“We understand what we have to do to get better as an offense,” said Spiller. “We know emphasis on one thing that will help us be successful as an offense and as a team is our red zone. There are other parts that we look at, but we’re working on it. We’re trying to fine-tune it. I can guarantee that come September our red zone will be fine.”
Wide receiver Mike Williams, whose jump ball ability to make contested red zone catches has yet to be seen on an NFL field for the Bills, feels much better about the team’s chances to capitalize this week.
“We’ve been working on it,” said Williams. “We know that’s a point of emphasis, we weren’t ranked high in the red zone last year, so we’ll be working on it. We’ll see this week, we’ll see if all the work has been paying off. There are no excuses, but last week we didn’t even have red zone in the game plan, so that made it kind of difficult, but no excuses, we have to score down there and make the catches we’re supposed to.”
Buffalo has had to play against tough defenses this preseason, but that won’t change this week playing against what should be an improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive unit. More yards have been gained by the first-team offense each week, but if a touchdown isn’t scored this week, many will wonder how much, if any progress, the unit has made this offseason.
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