With the Buffalo Bills first pre-season game in the books, the Bills will resume training camp this week back in Pitsford, NY. Before week three of Bills camp kicks off, here is an update of noteworthy story lines from the past week of training camp.
Bills depth is tested along both the offensive line and tight end
It is no secret that head coach Doug Marrone would like a heavier offensive line that can maul in the run game. While the Bills are certainly equipped with that personnel wise, their health up front with these linemen has become an early issue at training camp.
The status of left tackle Cordy Glenn remains up-in-the-air with an unknown injury. Left guard Chris Williams returned to practice Friday, but is hampered by a nagging toe injury. Right guard Chris Hairston is also bothered by a back injury, as he looks to win the right guard battle over Kraig Urbik. Rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson was also bothered by injuries early on in camp, but he appears to be coming along nicely on the right side of the line.
Aside from the injuries, a rotation of Cyril Richardson, Antoine McClain, J.J. Unga and Cyrus Kouandjio continue to battle for playing time a long the offensive line. Needless to say, it’s not the prettiest of situations in the Bills offensive trenches.
Even when you stretch out to the 7 and 9 gaps where the tight ends line up, it is a mess. Top tight ends Scott Chandler and Tony Moeaki remain out of practice. Third tight end Lee Smith is banged up with a lower body injury, but did return to practice Friday.
While the Bills are not a team dependent on their tight ends, they do utilize them in a variety of run blocking schemes, as well as prominent targets in the red zone.
Offence continues to show different looks
Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone promised to bring an up-tempo running attack to the Bills last season. While that did happen, the success of the up-tempo attack was questionable, as the Bills ranked 25th in points per drive.
How Doug Marrone and offensive co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett resolve the points issue will be an intriguing development to watch throughout the season. But in the meantime, the Bills have utilized two different offensive sets that use the up-tempo approach in contrasting styles.
The first set is an up-tempo, shotgun offence that uses tons of speed across the field. With players like C.J. Spiller, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and possibly Bryce Brown, the Bills have a ton of speed that can do a lot of a damage in the open field. But the other set is a completely different look that uses the same up-tempo approach in a more physical style of play.
This set is a heavy/goal-line set that lines up Anthony Dixon and Fred Summers in the backfield, Mike Williams at wide receiver, and either two tight ends or an extra linemen along the offensive line. This set is a physical group that in my opinion, will take on certain power run elements that the Auburn Tigers used last year in the SEC. While it may not pull as many linemen, it could be an effective unit that could physically impose its will against the right defensive matchup.
Red zone remains a point of emphasis for the Bills
Throughout training camp, head coach Doug Marrone has made the red zone a point of emphasis for the offence. The same up-tempo philosophy has been implemented in the redone, but a variety of players have been shuffled across the field.
In all likelihood, the Bills will maintain their variety of looks in the red zone throughout the season. While there is work to be done, the effort to improve the red zone is definitely there though.
The Bills have held extra red zone sessions after practice earlier in camp, and they have implemented a 7-on-7 red zone package that focuses on the skill position players working in minimal space this past week. Wide receivers Mike Williams and Chris Hogan have emerged as immediate red zone targets for quarterback EJ Manuel this past week. Both look to play a prominent role in the teams red zone packages going forward.
Chris Hogan has emerged from the slot
Chris Hogan saw a massive increase in playing time last week, even working with the first team offence at times. Out of the slot, Hogan has produced excellent results for the Bills offence during training camp. Hogan’s a crafty receiver that gets open in tight spaces for quarterback EJ Manuel and looks to at the very least, earn a role with the team on third downs – maybe even more.
His ability to work out of the slot has helped him build trust and chemistry with not only quarterback EJ Manuel, but also offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, as they deploy Hogan more and more in the offensive scheme.
Fred Jackson signs an extension
At 33-years old, Fred Jackson is the oldest running back in the NFL and just one of seven running backs over the age of 30. But his age did not stop the Buffalo Bills from re-signing Jackson to a brand new one-year deal.
Jackson took to Twitter to share his appreciation for the new deal with the Bills and the Bills Mafia.
Extremely thankful to have signed an extension to stay wit my teammates in Buff!! Thanks for all the luv from my fans and #BillsMafia
— Fred Jackson (@Fred22Jackson) July 31, 2014
Jackson is third on the Bills’ all-time rushing list with 5,121 rushing yards. Jackson is also coming off a 10 touchdown season last year, and figures to continue to play a prominent role in the Bills offensive attack.
Nigel Bradham is suspended for one game
The Bills projected weak side linebacker Nigel Bradham was suspended for the teams first regular season game this week.
Bills LB Nigel Bradham suspended the first game of 2014 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 30, 2014
It’s a tough blow for Bradham, as he was shocked that a dropped charge from last year followed him into 2014.
.@NigelBradham_13: “My whole thing is to stay positive.” Apologized to teammates that an issue from last year has followed him into 2014.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) July 30, 2014
Bradham appealed the suspension, but lost that appeal and will have to sit out the teams first regular season game.