Pittsford, NY — The Buffalo Bills have been in pads for two days and rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam has had his fair share of mistakes.
Since camp started, Elam has matched up against All Pro Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie. Elam said there’s no margin for error when you’re playing against Josh Allen. Every rep he’s lost has gone into the memory bank and he said he’s getting better every day.
“(Josh is) getting me so much better because I can’t afford a false step or bad eyes or bad leverage because he’s gonna take advantage of it,” Elam said on Monday after practice. “The timing and getting in and out of your break like, the ball is right there. … There’s no time for slip ups and late movements and false steps. So, I think that’s really the big difference from college. He’s the best quarterback I’ve ever seen in my life. So, like I said, God makes no mistakes and I’m meant to be here.”
The Bills practiced on Monday for the seventh day of training camp at St. John Fisher University. Elam’s big play was one of the highlights of the day for a Bills defense that continues to get excellent pressure from their defensive front.
Late in practice, Allen and the Bills worked in the red zone against the defense. Last week the offense was unstoppable in this part of the field. Allen saw one of his favorite targets over the middle and unleashed a dime to Dawson Knox for what looked like a touchdown. But in a blink, Elam met Knox at the catch point and simply ripped the ball out of his hands to force the incompletion.
Elam has made a few physical plays throughout camp and things have even gotten chippy with Diggs on several occasions. But the rookie is focused on another part of his game.
“Just trying to be more mentally tough right now than physically tough because, you know, I have to take care of my teammates,” he said. “I don’t like being called a rookie. I just like to be called however I perform. I mean, I am a rookie, technically, but my mindset is I’ma be ready with my number called. That’s my mindset.”
Here are my other observations from Monday’s practice.
Tremaine Edmunds makes quite a splash play
There hasn’t been a single observation on Edmunds early in camp. Without pads, it’s hard for the linebackers to make plays other than to be in the right place before a play in blown dead. Once the pads came on and things got a little more physical, you can see the linebackers start to fly around a little more. It feels like they’re more engaged. Fans have been clamoring for Edmunds to start making big plays in big spots, and he provided just that on Monday. The Bills offense finally got things going towards the middle of practice. Allen completed a short pass to Zack Moss to get things started on a drive down the field. On the next play, Allen saw Diggs to his right downfield and tried to fit in a ball. Edmunds jumped high into the air, snatched the ball as Diggs couldn’t make a play on it, and came down with it.
Dion Dawkins returns to practice & takes TD to the house
Dawkins missed the last two practices after being excused for personal reasons and returned on Monday. Bills center Mitch Morse said on Saturday that the team was praying for Dawkins even though players weren’t privy to why he wasn’t with the team. Towards the end of practice, Dawkins was able to bring a smile to the face of fans, teammates and coaches when he was in the right place at the right time. Allen was almost intercepted by rookie cornerback Christian Benford, but the ball popped off his pads. Dawkins caught the ball before it hit the ground and proceeded to run it all the way back for a touchdown. The crowd in the stands gave the loudest cheer of the day, and Sean McDermott made sure to walk over to his left tackle to show some love.
Boogie Basham in the middle of the fight
After the Josh Allen-started fight in practice over the weekend, the intensity created a few more emotional moments on Monday. Basham and rookie tackle Luke Tenuta came together after a play that saw linebacker Tyrel Dodson’s helmet get ripped off. Basham threw a few punches, which is always scary when the other player is wearing a helmet. There was another pushing contest later in practice but the Bills got out of both situations without too many problems. Basham was flying off the edge and continues to have a strong camp. He recorded one sack of Matt Barkley on the day.
Depleted offensive line struggling to block Ed Oliver
Rodger Saffold and Ryan Bates are still out and Spencer Brown is still being held out of team drills. Tommy Doyle, who’s been used at tackle and on the inside at both guard spots, went down during practice with an unknown injury. He did not return. The Bills are so banged up that Bobby Hart got snaps with the first team inside at guard on Monday. Whoever is trying to block the Bills defensive line, it has not been good for them. Ed Oliver has been a constant disruptor and he turned in another sack today. He beat Hart badly on a straight bull rush that landed on Allen.
Oliver said he’s having the most fun he’s ever had at a training camp.
“Just making plays, flying around, just hanging out with the guys, and everybody making plays, not just you celebrating with a guy,” Oliver said. “Von (Miller) makes a good rush, like ‘yeah I know. You’re the guy.’ I make a good rush, ‘yeah, you got him there.’ (Jordan Phillips) makes a good rush, ‘yeah, you got him now.’ Just knowing and understanding it’s not just Von’s good or Ed’s good or Jordan’s good or DaQuan’s (Jones) good or Greg’s (Rousseau’s) good or Boogie’s good. Everybody’s good.”
Greg Rousseau looking sharp, records a sack
Every linemen that lined up opposite from Rousseau on Monday had their hands full. Rousseau’s blend of power and speed have been unmistakable since the pads went on. He recorded a sack on Monday where he beat Dawkins after a good push early in the rep before he kicked it up a notch on the outside and just ran past the block. Miller and Oliver are rightfully getting most of the headlines, but offensive coordinators may have some headaches trying to figure out how to get help to Rousseau’s side if he is able to replicate what he’s been doing the past few days.
Jaquan Johnson takes advantage of the opportunity
Micah Hyde returned to practice today but remained out of the team drills portion of practice. Damar Hamlin rotated into his spot with Johnson, who made the biggest play at safety on the day. After Rousseau recorded his sack, the next play Allen went back to pass and tried to force the action to Diggs. The All Pro receiver was in the area but Johnson made a quick play on the ball and was able to intercept it. Johnson’s understanding of the defense has received praise from Hyde already this camp and he’s in line to be the team’s first option off the bench if either Hyde or Jordan Poyer misses any time this year.
Nobody can cover Isaiah McKenzie
McKenzie continues to dominate in 1-on-1s and he seems to make at least two or three wow plays in team drills every day at practice. His best one of the day came as the Bills were in a two-minute offense drill. Allen was trying to move the ball down the field and he connected quickly with Dawson Knox on a short gain. The next play, Allen waited for McKenzie to open up and fired a beautiful ball to “Lil Dirty,” who broke a nice run down the left sideline. McKenzie just simply ran away from slot cornerback Taron Johnson. On the next play Allen hit Knox again with his best throw of the day on a rocket up the middle of the field. Allen finished the drive with a touchdown pass to Diggs. Jamison Crowder returned to practice after missing the last five days, but did not participate in team drills. Jake Kumerow remains out.
OJ Howard turns in his best practice of camp
Howard made several catches on the day and didn’t have a single drop, showing off his ability to use his size to keep defenders out of position to make any plays. Howard seems to be getting more comfortable and it showed on his best play of the day working on the sideline. He boxed out Cam Lewis, made the catch, and kept his feet in bounds. Tommy Sweeney also had a few grabs on the day.
Awful sequence for Matt Barkley
Close to the end of practice, Barkley got a chance to make some things happen in one of the final team drills. But once he got the ball it went like this: Basham sack, throw across his body to the left side and intercepted by rookie Ja’Marcus Ingram, pass batted down by Daniel Joseph, and pass batted down by Prince Emili. Not great.
Matt Araiza – the hold god?
Another practice with Araiza getting all of the holding attempts for the Bills and Tyler Bass was perfect kicking field goals. Special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley said last week that holding will only be a small part of the evaluation, but Araiza has now been perfect both times he’s done it in front of the media.
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