The Bills have now reached the halfway point during their annual Organized Team Activities. After completing five practices out of the scheduled 10, there were some glaring takeaways from the day of practice.
Who stood out with superb play, and who stood out for all the wrong reasons? Here are some observations from the most recent day of practice in Orchard Park:
1) Sloppy day for the offense
- For three straight practices, it seemed as though the offense was getting the better of the defense in taking advantages of miscues down the field during team drills. Based on what was seen on Wednesday, the offense couldn’t make it four days in a row. The Bills just were not on the same page on that side of the ball for quite a bit of practice, especially during the final eight possessions. Wide receivers ran the wrong routes, quarterbacks missed throws, offensive linemen whiffed on assignments… all in all, it was a sub-par day for all three units of the Buffalo Bills’ offense.
2) WR observations
- Each day the positional spotlight shifts from one to the next, and on Wednesday WGR took a closer look at some of the receivers. Sammy Watkins continues to impress during the padless practices that preaches a lack of physicality. He can extend for most any pass and has good enough hands to bring in most passes, regardless of their location. What was most impressive Wednesday, at least to your author, was the breakdown at the top of his routes. He ran the route so hard and well, that when he was going to cut out of the breakdown grass was noticeably kicking up behind his cleats. He had a miscue, running the incorrect route on one play that led to an interception, but had another splendid day. Kevin Elliott is also showing a lot of ability during OTAs. He ran a splendid route during 11-on-11 drills near the goal line but dropped the pass right in his mitts. The impressive part is that he didn’t sulk. He got right back to the huddle, ran an even better route on the next play and Thad Lewis hit him for a touchdown. As for one at the position that wasn’t so impressive, you can start to see why the 6-foot-6 Ramses Barden has never caught on anywhere. There is no deception to his game, he lacks the sort of game speed receivers have to have and is limited really to jump ball scenarios for his effectiveness. He’s likely a long shot to make the roster.
3) Asper gets a bump
- Without Chris Williams (who was absent from practice) to play at left guard on Wednesday, the Bills had to use another player at that position on the first unit. Some would have thought the team would use fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson in that role without Williams there, but it was actually Mark Asper getting the reps. The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Asper was one of the cluster of players Doug Marrone said he saw potential in at the end of the year, and he got some valuable playing time at practice Wednesday. With experience all over the offensive line in college — even at center — perhaps Asper could challenge Doug Legursky for a spot on the roster after camp.
4) Under the radar CB making plays
- The Bills liked the performance of cornerback Mario Butler so much in the first three days of practice that they elected to give him first-team reps at practice on Tuesday. That trend continued Wednesday and the Bills were rewarded for it. Butler has been able to keep up with most of the receivers on the roster, and even broke up a jump ball against Sammy Watkins late in the practice. He was a free agent acquisition in 2013, but has the size the NFL is looking for in their cornerbacks at 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds. Keep an eye on Butler, he’s earning more reps and taking advantage of some of the veterans not being able to participate.
5) Fifth-round pick struggles even more
- The first five days of OTAs have not been kind to fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson. He’s been caught flat-footed on more than one occasion through the first half of the practices, and that continued with two glaring lapses occurring on Wednesday. On one play in pass protection, Richardson completely whiffed on fellow rookie and seventh-round pick Randell Johnson, allowing the linebacker to get a sack too quickly after the snap. Later in the day, defensive tackle Stefan Charles ripped right past Richardson to stop a Bryce Brown counter run three yards in the backfield. Perhaps that’s part of the reasoning why Asper, and not Richardson, got first-team reps without Chris Williams at practice Wednesday.