The Buffalo Bills wrapped up their 2014 offseason workouts on Thursday evening with the conclusion of their three-day mandatory minicamp. The practice started off with a special message from Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and the players went through the paces for the last time before a month-long break.
There were some individual standouts, and perhaps some good news as they approach the start of training camp in July 20. Here is how some of the practice played out:
1) Woods standing out
- With two new targets brought in for EJ Manuel throughout the offseason, the only constant from 2013 projected to this year’s starting lineup is Robert Woods. And to this point through the workouts, Woods has not disappointed in the least bit. He didn’t start participating during the team drills right away due to an ankle procedure early on into the offseason. However, once he got the green light Manuel has gotten reacquainted with Woods and found the trust without much delay. The second-year wideout won’t break a game wide open, but he is as consistent and dependable as they come. Woods adjusted to a poorly thrown pass at the goal line after beating his man on an out route, dove for the reception and rolled into the end zone. It was a small example, but further evidence to what Woods means to Manuel.
2) Mike Williams gets some work with the 1s
- A little bit of concerned has been raised over the past week or so about newly acquired wide receiver Mike Williams and his lack of time with the top unit past the first week or so. On Thursday, the final day of mandatory minicamp, Williams got back in the rotation and was part of the three wide receiver sets on the first team sporadically. He’s also been rehabbing his hamstring injury from the 2013 season, which has led to the trainers limiting what he does during offseason practices. To put it plainly, it’s extremely premature to label Williams as a player in jeopardy of making the roster because of the aforementioned reasons. The Bills like him a great deal, and view him as someone that can make an impact on the offensive side of the ball as long as he keeps himself out of trouble and shows ability during training camp.
3) Kyle Williams ripping through the interior
- It’s hard to take much away from the performances of both the offensive and defensive lines because physicality is frowned upon during offseason practices and that is the primary function of those two units. However, Kyle Williams gave a little preview of what to expect when the Bills put the pads on and get to training camp in late July. He got through to the backfield quickly on more than one occasion, which has been commonplace in training camp practices since he was drafted by the Bills. Chris Hairston and Kraig Urbik were no match for Williams on a few occasions.
4) No Byrd? The Bills have a (hopeful) new ballhawk
- As the Bills transition to life without Jairus Byrd, they are also shifting Aaron Williams into a role more similar to what Byrd did than to what Williams did last season. Williams is now the free safety, and he’ll have the liberty to use his instincts and athleticism to try and break up plays, and to even force turnovers. Williams started the day off by baiting EJ Manuel into an interception during 7-on-7s by breaking on the ball quickly and getting in front of the receiver for the turnover. Later on he was merely a step or two away from picking off another pass, this time in the end zone, on a play that was ultimately broken up by the cornerback in coverage. Williams jumped up and screamed out, “That should have been number two!” He’s embracing his new role quite well.
5) Full health for camp?
- As the Bills break for about a month, they might just have every single player ready to go by the time training camp comes around. Head coach Doug Marrone said he believes that all 90 players on the roster should be ready in time for training camp, including the players that they brought along slowly during their offseason workouts. That means players like Mario Williams, Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, T.J. Graham and others that have been limited through the last few weeks should be able to participate in a much larger way. Just like Wednesday, the Bills had 89 out of their 90 players on the practice field for Thursday’s practice. Only tight end Scott Chandler, who was excused for personal reasons, missed the session.