Attended Training Camp yesterday (8/2), here's some of my observations:
About James Cook -- he was running behind Singletary and Moss. He appeared to to be quick and decisive in getting to where he was going, but they weren't really hitting -- so tough to tell how effective he was at reading blocks. Also -- note that the Offensive line is missing a lot of starters and preferred backups that will be hopefully playing key roles during the season. Bobby Hart (RG) and Cody Ford (LG) were the starting guards -- along with Quessenberry (RT), Dawkins and Morse. This wasn't a great sample to measure the inside running game. I also noted that they were giving him a look as returner.
For those that have attended camp in the past -- the setup has changed for fans/consumers. There is no more giant climate-controlled tent that housed all of the merchandise -- which you had to pass through en route to the practice field. It has been replaced by 2 mobile Bills Shop trailers. The trailers do not have the same amount of inventory or variety. Not sure why the Bills aren't interested in maximizing their revenue stream from people like me that get suckered into buying something on display like past years. There's still kids games and concessions outdoors -- just seems like the merchandise section was an after thought this year. Now, back to football observations:
Crowds are as full as I've ever seen them -- and they erupted every time a fan favorite entered the practice field from the tunnel under the bleachers. Von Miller and Josh Allen received the loudest ovations -- but Diggs and McKenzie were right up there as well.
They did a lot of special teams work in front of the main field (defense retreats to a corner field out of view for most fans during this stretch). So -- as I was forced to take in special teams -- it was easy to hear (and see) new special teams coach Matt Smiley in action. He was barking out directions in terms of block angles and leverage for the return game. One particular drill was having a blocker sprint downfield towards the returner before looping around to take on a charging tackler. The drill focused on steering the would-be tackler for the returner to read and react. Smiley was very animated and seems like he always has the attention of his players.
Pace of Practice -- there was no down time. Always something happening -- whether special teams, individual drills or team action (first team offense at one end, while second team running same drills at the other). This is not new -- but it is a fast-paced practice compared to some of the older regimes that I have witnessed.
WR battle. I've never really noticed that Isaiah McKenzie stood out before -- sure he's been a fan favorite for a while -- but he never really caught my attention at previous training camps. This time was way DIFFERENT. For starters -- McKenzie was either the first or among the first to start every drill. When taking reps in drills -- its usually Diggs > Davis > McKenzie. He is carrying himself like a leader on the field -- certainly the WR group. Also -- he caught just about everything I saw thrown to him. He also is always moving his arms and hands -- and looks quick in and out of breaks. A couple other WR observations: Stefon Diggs is a man among boys. This is not a revelation -- I know. But seeing him up close in person -- MAN -- there is such a difference between the way Diggs moves and all the others. Not a knock on Davis or others -- but if they removed all numbers/names on the jerseys and asked an alien to identify the best player on the field -- it would be a quick response. Diggs is just that different. He moves different, cuts different and catches different. Davis should benefit tremendously from being full-time opposite Diggs -- because it is readily apparent that an NFL defense MUST roll coverage to/account for Diggs at ALL times. As much as I noticed/hyped McKenzie -- I think Crowder is the next smoothest catcher of football on the Bills. To me -- it looks like Crowder is still working to get acclimated to the offense and Josh. For this reason -- I wouldn't be surprised to see McKenzie in a prominent Slot role (or the starting Slot) -- but Crowder appears the more natural at the position (both of them are similar stature). Keep your eyes throughout preseason on Shakir -- he looks like a good one -- and a little bigger than I thought.
Interior DL -- No practice from Tim Settle Jr. on this day, but our new look defensive interior looks to be incredible. Starters were Ed Oliver and Daquan Jones. Jordan Phillips is probably the biggest - and combined with a healthy Settle Jr. -- I really believe this group has all the makings to be the most improved unit on the entire roster. They look downright imposing. I came away feeling that the days of not being able to stop the run in crunch time is OVER. Hopefully -- this will also free up Edmonds to make more plays.
Jordan Poyer injury. Once he got to the sideline he fell to the ground. My binoculars caught his facial expressions and he appeared to be in significant pain. After trainers worked on him, he got up and made his way through the sidelines -- where he again went down at the water station -- before getting back up and getting a cart under the tunnel. I've seen the reports since then -- but it sure looked more serious to me.