Training Camp Tour: Healthy Stephon Gilmore lifting Bills' secondary
On Day 6 of the Pro Football Focus training camp tour, the PFF analysis team traveled to Pittsford, N.Y., to take in Buffalo Bills camp.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The PFF training camp tour continued yesterday with a stop at St. John Fisher College for our first look at the Buffalo Bills this season. While practice was in a small-college setting similar to that of Pittsburgh’s in Latrobe, Pa., the vibe and flow of practice was significantly different. Instead of operating the majority of practice time on one field to allow for easy transition between drills, Bills players spent much of practice traversing back and forth between adjacent fields. Thus, despite also being a fully-padded practice, it did not carry the same intensity or level of contact as we saw with the Steelers.
[More: Be sure to check out William Moy’s 2016 season preview for the Buffalo Bills.]
Healthy Stephon Gilmore expected to lift Bills’ secondary
Stephon Gilmore’s 2015 season ended prematurely due to a labrum tear, an injury that also kept him from participating in offseason training. Finally healthy and ready for full participation in camp, he looked like his old self yesterday, as he broke up multiple passes both during individual and team drills, and generally prevented all targets from gaining separation.
The physicality of the secondary was on display throughout practice, as their aggressiveness with receivers far-exceeded what we’ve seen on the camp tour to date. While this at times resulted in interference and illegal contact penalties (Sterling Moore, in particular, took multiple), this tactic generally made for a miserable day for the receivers.
Last season, the Bills owned PFF’s 11th-highest pass-coverage grade, and currently sit with the sixth-ranked secondary entering the 2016 season. Gilmore earned the ninth-highest overall grade among CBs last season, despite missing Week 14 and on due to his injury. His return this season will see him opposite second-year CB Ronald Darby, who earned PFF’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2015.
Tyrod Taylor looking to maintain high levels of first season as starter
The Bills’ hierarchy at the QB position was very evident and well defined, as Tyrod Taylor looked efficient as the starter and E.J. Manuel performed generally well as the backup. Taylor seemed comfortable within the offense, going through progressions effectively and showing the ability to work the ball downfield off play-action. Manuel, while not as accurate at times, also appeared in control of the offense, and looked the part of a competent NFL backup. Rookie Cardale Jones (Ohio State) is clearly in an ideal situation, as the stability of the players in front of him will afford him time to improve his mechanics and learn the pro game.
Last season, Taylor’s 81.8 overall grade (ninth-best among NFL QBs) helped him to earn PFF’s Breakout Player of the Year award. With a full season under his belt, likely the biggest storyline to watch out of Buffalo this season is whether or not Taylor can repeat the performance of his first season as a starter.
Multiple defensive-line starters still unable to practice
As expected, 2016 first-round pick DE Shaq Lawson (Clemson) was inactive yesterday. Also not practicing were starting DTs Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. This paved the way for DE IK Enemkpali and rookie DT Adolphus Washington (Ohio State) to take significant reps with the first-string defense. While Enemkpali went largely unnoticed yesterday, Washington clearly struggled during his first padded practice. He false-started on the first rep of team drills which resulted in him taking a penalty lap around the field, and consistently struggled to shed blocks effectively, particularly on pass-rushes.
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