What They Said: Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, plus Alexander, McCoy & Williams

Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison 

Q: I’m curious about your experience in making those kinds of decisions with your coaching staffs, maybe the reasons why over the history of your career only two quarterbacks on the roster as opposed to three?

A: Well, I think that’s based on year to year situation. Back in the day, in certain times you had, the numbers — two, and you couldn’t find a third, there’s a lot of different factors that go in to play. This day and age, we got three we’re working with right now; They’re doing a good job, and we’ll go with that for right now and make our decisions later on.

Q: Spoke with LeSean [McCoy], he says he anticipates seeing a lot of the football in the air, maybe even more so than he had his first couple of years here – Can you just maybe kind of shed some light on that because there is a history of a lot of targets for running backs in your offense?

A: Well, certainly he has great ball skills, he runs good routes, he knows where to be every time we’ve taught him a route, he picks it up he does it fast. We’re trying to do whatever we need to do, that’s what Sean [McDermott] told me, whatever you need to do to move the ball. Certainly, trying to get him the ball, as skilled he is in the open field, we’d love to have the ball in space, however that’s handing off, tossing it or throwing it.

What They Said: Bills coach Sean McDermott & GM Brandon Beane at Bills camp, plus Taylor, Washington, Watkins & Williams

Q: In regards to [Nate] Peterman, he was a kid that draft experts said he was maybe the most pro ready of the guys because of the system he had played in – You’ve had him now for whatever it’s been now, three months, have you seen that, have you seen a kid unusual for a rookie that maybe he is picking things up a little bit better?

A: I don’t know that, when we talked to him in the pre-draft visit he’s calm, he’s confident, he’s smart. I don’t know if that makes him pro ready or not, but he’s picked things up, he’s developed, he’s doing some really good things, he’s working his tail off and I’ll tell you what; The group, the three of them really have communicated together – this is what we’re thinking. That’s a good thing about it, when you have a group that’s willing to share information and all work at it together, that’s when we improve.

Q: Rick, when it comes to LeSean, how do you balance the fact that he is such a dynamic threat, and the fact that he’s not getting any younger – Do you worry about age?

A: No I don’t, we’re going to make the plays, and we’re going to give him the ball when we think he’s got some balls. That’s not my expertise, I’m trying to move the offense, and certainly he’s one of our playmakers on offense.

Q: How much will you monitor his workload during training camp?

A: I’m not going to monitor anything, I’m going to let Sean take care of that – both Shone Gipson, Sean McDermott, I’m going to let them take care of that, and I’m going to coach all of the guys out there. Whatever happens, happens.

Day two of training camp 2017

Q: Rick, how difficult is the learning curve with this scheme – You got some players who know it well and you got a lot of guys who are adjusting to something very new, how big of a jump is it for some?

A: Well, I think after OTA’s I told them just the other day, we made progress; We went from point A to point B, now we got to start at B, we can’t drop back halfway. We got to keep progressing, but I think a lot of the guys, as you said, they have some experience in some form or fashion, it’s just a matter of getting used to our verbiage, getting used to how we coach things and where we develop from there. I think they’ve done a good job, obviously, they’ve put the time into it, certainly they put time into it because we came back yesterday and there were very few mental mistakes – as we started over, which I was very encouraged with and we’ll keep building from there.

Q: Does Tyrod [Taylor] need to show even more of a grasp, even though he had some exposure with you together, or is it down for that?

A: Well I think everybody’s still got a little bit of work to do – I don’t think anybody by any stretch of imagination have graduated from grad school or nothing, I think there’s always work to be done. But he, along with the other guys in the room are willing to do that from what I’ve seen. Just going through the meetings, we had an interactive meeting where there were a lot of questions being fired at them and they answered them very well.

Q: Rick, how critical is it for this offense to have somebody to step up behind LeSean – because you run heavy, he’s going to need to get a blow, how critical is it find – whether it’s [Jonathan] Williams, [Cedric] O’Neal, whoever it is?

A: I think it’s critical on all backups. Certainly, you can say what you want to about the halfback, but the nature in the NFL is people are going to get hurt. The teams that do well with backups planned, those are the ones that do well at the end of the year; Those are the ones that get to play in the playoffs, so I think everybody has to step up, not just at running back but at all groups. Our backups, we have to develop everybody, and that’s what we’re trying to teach – we’re trying to teach them big concepts, big themes so that everybody gets a chance to learn and we tell them if you’re not out there, you’re still responsible for that rep. So, if there’s a blitz coming that way and you were watching on the sideline, you should have had a mental rep on that one. We’re expecting all of them to learn and develop.

Q: What roles do you envision for Mike Tolbert?

A: Well Mike’s had a lot of experience as a running back, I think he can do that, we’re also seeing what he can do at fullback. Everybody’s role will be developed as we go through camp, as they earn those reps, those carries for a running back, those catches for a wideout or a tight end. As we go through, we’ll see how everybody’s progressing. We’re trying to split the reps as best we can, just knowing we got to train certain guys and then they’ll learn their reps and lean their role.

Q: Coach, is the plan for Zay [Jones] to play inside and outside to kind of learn both of those – and is that the same for a lot of receivers?

A: Well I think a lot of receivers are asked to, especially young guys; certainly, guys that we draft have a chance to do a little bit of everything. With Zay, I think we’re moving around a little bit, see him at a couple different spots, but each and every guy, like I said, they’ll learn their role. If somebody steps up in a certain role, then we have to shift some guys around, that’s ok. As long as we got numbers, and we feel like we’ve got some good numbers, we got some good players all across the board. We got one day in, I don’t have a crystal ball, I know how we’re going right there, we showed that we started at a spot where we ended, now we got to improve from there.

Q: With Cordy Glenn healthier, is it going to be more focused with Dion Dawkins or challenging or working at that right tackle spot with Jordan Mills there? How do you see the overall competition on the line?

A: The best five will be on the field. Somehow, someway, the best five will be on the field. Certainly, [Dawkins] had a lot of exposure at left and he’s a young player. We’ll give him some exposure at right and we’ll see how it works out. I really think that he’s an athletic kid, but [Mills] has done a good job too. All of those guys up front have really worked hard at what we’re trying to do. Same thing with the running backs, same thing with the wide out – they’ll learn their spots. They’ll learn their reps in there and we will get the best five on the field.

Q: Is it a competitive deal at right guard with John Miller?

A: I think it’s competitive all the way across the board.

Q: When it comes to LeSean McCoy, you’ve had a lot of experience and a lot of good running backs. What makes him uniquely talented?

A: Well, he’s not quite like a couple of guys I’ve had before but he is explosive through the hole and makes a quick decision and is explosive through the hole. I think that’s what we’re really looking for – somebody to get in the secondary and is hard to tackle. His may be a little bit different than some of the other guys that are hard to tackle, but he does such a good job and you can see his explosion.

Q: In what way do you see the difference?

A: The guys I’ve had have been Arian [Foster’s]. A little bit different. He slid, he’s a stronger lower body right there, whereas LeSean [McCoy] gets out there and you just can’t lay a glove on him at times. It’s a little bit different but in respect, they get into the secondary. I’ll tell you what, as far as running his tracks and understanding what we’re trying to do, he’s done a great job. He’s like a sponge. He’s trying to learn everything we’re trying to do.

Q: Are you intrigued at all by Logan Thomas’ skill set? Seems like an interesting case, what he’s trying to do here.

A: Sure, I remember I was doing quarterbacks at Baltimore when he came out. He came to sit at the table at the combine and I said, “Well the tight end coach is right around the corner.” You know, you see him on film and you see he’s a good size but just up in person, he’s a big man and he’s got good size. Obviously, he’s athletic. It’s an interesting prospect, but he’s working really hard. He’s really worked to try and make his adjustment. We’re going to give him some opportunities and see what happens.

Q: Can you tell us what the core differences are between your offensive philosophies and [Gary Kubiak]’s now that you’ve been attached at the hip for several years and several teams.

A: I don’t know that. I think we’re very similar. We were trained in the same system under [Mike Shanahan]. We’ve both got a lot of the run game under [Alex Gibbs]. And obviously working together, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference, but I also leaned on my offensive staff here. [Rob Boras] from the Rams, he has some good stuff. [Kelly Skipper] from the Jaguars. [Juan Castillo], I was together with him in Baltimore, but he had some different ideas. Everyone tried to blend a little bit as we went in here. I’m not saying it’s my offense – it’s the Bills offense for 2017 and we’re going to do what we can to move the ball.

Q: Is there a part of [Tyrod Taylor]’s game that has kind of jumped out to you since the first time around when you were with him?

A: Went there in Baltimore, I was surprised how well [Joe Flacco] threw the ball live, by [Taylor] has evolved a lot there too. He’s obviously a superb athlete, but he threw the ball, he understands what to do and he works his tail off. You won’t find a guy that works any harder. I’m impressed, I’ve always been. The two of them, I used to test them and I will continue to test them on Saturday before the game. Real bright, understands, does his homework, studying. You can ask [T.J. Yates], I come up with questions and they have to pull them from way back and they’ve done a good job. He’s done a good job, so really, I was not surprised very much. I think Tyrod, like the other quarterbacks, are really buying in.

Smiles at Bills first day of training camp

Q: You say test, you mean like a written test?

A: No, it’s a verbal test. It’s just by memorization because the time between when I give them the play and they’ve got to snap it is pretty quick, so they’ve got to know they’re progression. They’ve got to know the footwork and they’ve got to know it like the back of their hand.

Q: You’ve worked for different head coaches, so what has impressed you about [Sean McDermott]? Especially for his age and his experience – it’s his first time doing this. And what sets him apart from anybody in the room?

A: I think he has a vision and its clear cut and he sticks with it. To me, that’s the head coaches that are successful. They aren’t going to waver one way or another. He knows what he wants, he expresses it to us and he expects us to follow, which is what we’re trying to do. We’re doing the best we can to get that done. I think that’s what I was excited after I came out and interviewed, that’s why I was excited to work for him.

Q: What’s the origin of your nickname Rico?

A: My rookie year, which is took me several years to be a rookie – I kept getting cut. Playing. I was a linebacker in Denver and [Bob Zeman] was our linebacker coach and he called me one day. I have no idea why he called me. If you know Bob Zeman, you ‘re not sure exactly what he was thinking sometimes. But he called me that and it stuck. Everybody in the room started calling me it and that’s kind of what I’ve been called since 1982.

Q: Now that you step into a team that you’re starting almost from scratch in some ways, what do you see as the difference in the challenges that present this staff and this team going forward, given how much turnover there’s been?

A: That’s a great question and I’m not sure I know the answer. All I know is we’re going out there today and we’re going to be better than we were when we walked on. Those guys, that’s what they expect and that’s what we expect of them. I know [Sean McDermott]’s expecting us, he puts us in the right spot to do that. If we keep doing that, we’ve got a good chance.

LB Lorenzo Alexander

Q: You got guys like Vallejo and Milano, they’re new to this, they’re rookies, how do you think they’re acclimating to everything here in the NFL?

A: They’re doing well – those are some humble guys, and that’s the biggest thing you want coming from young guys coming in. Rookies don’t assume that they know it all just because they’ve had success at the college level, and those guys are very studious, attending the meetings and want the knowledge. I’m trying to give it to them as much as I can, and when I see them making mistakes or things they can improve on; being an older guy, just trying to pass on some of the things that were taught to me when I was a young man.

Q: Last year Lorenzo, knowing you were going to be kind of a depth guy, not necessarily be a starter – some things some circumstances happened where you did become a starter and obviously you excelled – this year you start the year slotted as a starter, how much time I guess do you expect to maybe get a blow, are you going to be in every down line back there?

A: We’ll see how everything progresses, how guys develop, and their roles are established. The coaches will find the best way to utilize all my skill sets as well as other guys and putting packages [together]. Just seeing every flow of the game because I’d still like to play special teams, I want to be on punt and kickoff coverage because that’s something I’m great at doing; I can impact the game there as well. But we got to be smart, so that means if I come out, or Ramon [Humber], Gerald [Hodges], or whoever comes in, we trust to do it, that’s great, but we’re going to figure out the best way to do it where it’s best for the team. And that’s what we’ll go with as the season goes on.

Bills first day of training camp 2017

Q: You mentioned your role on special teams as well, how much pride do you take in being able to excel in that part of the game as well?

A: That’s really everything to me – that’s what’s kept me in the league this long. Being stellar there, being a Pro Bowler, and just being able to impact games when people normally don’t think, or it’s relegated to backups. I look at it as a starting role, and that’s why I try to really push on the young guys that you are a starter if you’re on the core-four. I just want to continue to show that even as a starter, that I’m still passionate about it because when you have that type of passion it’s infectious and young guys pick it up. Then they start following special teams and that’s when you find yourself finally getting into the playoffs after 17 years, when it spreads from offense to defense to special teams.

Q: You’ve played at all different weights in this league, you even look a little bit lighter than you were last year – What’re you now?

A: I am, I’m about 10 pounds lighter, probably around 230, 235. That’s just because I know I’m going to have to run more, I’m going to have to cover guys. Guys like [Charles] Clay, Shady [LeSean McCoy], guys on our team. But when we start playing, there’s a lot of great athletes, tight ends I’m going to have to cover – I’m going to be able to have to run with them. That was honestly a weakness of mine I have to be honest about because I haven’t done it in a while, I haven’t done it often so I definitely wanted to get my weight down, so I can run. Then also, not have another hamstring pull like I did, it’s definitely going to help me with that, with all the additional running.

Q: What you play at last year?

A: 240, 245 probably, towards 245 towards the end of the season, about 10-12 pounds down from last year, a lot leaner. That’s going to allow me to be more functional and last the whole season and not have a drop off.

RB LeSean McCoy

Q: Let me beat (Mike) Rodak to the punch here. Happy belated birthday by the way.

A: Well, thank you man.

Q: Speaking of birthdays you turned 29 this offseason. One of the things we ask Rick Dennison is are there any concern or a pitch count on Shady, now that he’s 29. What would you say about that?

A: What did he say first?

Q: He said no. He said there were no restrictions, but Sean would kind of deal with that. How do you feel being 29 years old?

A: I feel good. I feel the same. I feel young. I feel 25. Making the same runs, same cuts. I feel good. Explosive. That’s my game being explosive and quick. So, when that kind of turns and then leaves, then I’ll be in trouble. But for now, I feel fine. I could keep doing this ‘til I’m about 33 man.

Q:  Is that what you think?

A: Yeah. I look at a lot of players who let the game early and I’m sure they think about it, if they should have stayed or could or would. But, I love this game. I’ve been playing this game all my life, you know, and it’s brought me a lot. You know so I’ll have fun with it. We have a good team here, a good coach in Sean (McDermott) and the guys around him. So, I’m very positive about this year. I look forward to it.

Q: You tweeted that, you’re doing for the rushing title this year. We talk about your age and being at that age that they say that running backs start to slow down. Is the rushing title something you’re still setting your mind to as soon as the season starts?

A: I like to have fun with it, but right now it’s just winning. It seems like everyone is against us and we don’t have a shot. That’s one of the things that you strive on and build on as a team. You know I think if we do well, the running game will have a lot to do with it. So, that’s one of those things that will come along later down the line. If I get the rushing title, for sure, I’ll be happy about that. I’ll get it built, made, you know, put it on my belt. But other than that, just – I have fun with it on Twitter, but also we just want to win here, get it going, because it’s been a while.

Q: A lot of players or coaches won’t admit that they’re aware of what other people are saying. But you went out of your way and said you heard it. How much does that effect you? How much does that bug you?

A: To be honest I don’t really read everything or watch or pay attention on my off time. I’m not watching the local stations or ESPN. You know, people talk. I have teammates and they have family. You have that annoying uncle or dad. ‘Did you hear what Stephen A. (Smith) said?’ and ‘You should text him.’ You know, so other than that I don’t really pay attention. Our main focus is winning. A lot of people are going to doubt us. A lot of the moves that the Patriots have made – that’s probably the main conversation they bring up. Only thing we can do here is just build in camp. Ge better with the players that we have. And then we’ll see. We’ll have a chance, an opportunity, this season.

Q: You said you still feel like you’re 25 after turning 29, what do you attribute that to, is it the work you’re putting in in the offseason – how do you still feel that?

A: Just the work, there’s small things that I can’t do now that I did before, with the diet, getting sleep. All the small things that you don’t think about as a young player, now you’re older and you have to worry about; all the different maintenance that I’m doing with my body that I’ve never done until probably like last year. That makes a difference, that’s just the small things. I don’t want to get into detail, don’t want to give my secrets away, but like I said, I think the biggest thing is just diet and also my weight. When I was younger I could control my weight a lot easier. If I’m heavy, bad offseason, coming into training camp I could lose it fast; But now I have to really manage it the whole entire offseason, just watching what I eat, limit the drinks and the long nights.

Q: How much of a motivating factor is doing things that running backs that you referenced earlier – you’ve gotten to the point now in your career where traditionally running backs have seen a decline – How much of a motivating factor is that for you to not have that decline?

A: You can change different things – you chase success. One things what drives me since my whole career is always being kind of overlooked; since coming into the NFL with the draft, then actually being a player that became elite, still have to show it and prove it. Now a days, how it works is the young guys coming up that have a couple of good years, or a good year or two, they pump them, they praise them – The older guys that put a lot of work in they don’t get as much credit. You look at Frank Gore, a guy that’s been putting up numbers, so much success and he kind of gets overlooked, he’s in the top 10 in rushing. A guy like me, I know about him because I watched him, the growth each year, producing getting better and better. Younger guys are like Frank he’s down, he’s not the same he’s older. So it’s always those types of things that make you drive; Also to win, that’s one thing I haven’t done, I’ve been to the playoffs but haven’t won a playoff game. You just look for different things to improve on and get better; the chase, I call it chasing, I’m chasing a ring, I’m chasing different yardage, I’m chasing playoff wins. You just try to find things that motivate you working out, and motivate yourself.

Q: 33 is a pretty specific number. How did you land on that?

A: I don’t know. I thought about just playing 10 years in the NFL and getting to 30 and that’s easy. I’m going to have a good year this year, we’re going to win some games. That’s easy, 30, ten years. So you look past that. I’m chasing something that I didn’t think I could do coming in. I set a mark and I feel like I passed that mark so I’m just trying to move on.

Q: So 33 and then you’re done?

A: We’ll see. If I have a ring by then, I might just call it quits.

Q: When you talk about getting better, what about getting better as a team? It seems very early on, there’s kind of a newfound player to player accountability. [Tyrod Taylor] calls everyone up yesterday when things weren’t up to speed, [Lorenzo Alexander] did it back in April. Can you just maybe speak to the collective leadership in this group and about how the vibe is different here about what the standard is now?

A: I think it starts with the older guys, the vets, the star players and it trickles down to the rookies. I mean, you could say it like you just said, guys are stepping up and being more accountable. I think this year from the last two years, I think guys have just been more accountable. Taking pride in your work. Average is not good enough. Guys here are showing it. You talked about [Tyrod Taylor], where the years before he’s a naturally a quiet person, and he’s been very vocal since the offseason and he’s taken that ownership and leadership of this team. You talk about [Lorenzo Alexander] and Kyle Williams and those guys are really stepping and playing those roles. I think more now than before and not to say that they did a bad job before, its just a lot of emphasis of being leaders and making sure everything is done the right way. I’m happy to be a part of that. As a younger guy, I remember seeing older guys doing things the right way. You just kind of fall in line. Being with certain players that I played with when I was younger, like a [Brian Westbrook] type of guy. My coach didn’t have to tell me thing because I was just watching Westbrook and I just fell in line. So when I didn’t do something right, I just felt wrong and the coach didn’t have to address me because I knew it. It’s the same thing here. You talk about [Lorenzo Alexander], he’s doing those type of things and letting player know. It’s the same thing with [Tyrod Taylor] calling the team up to make sure things are right to where coach doesn’t have to say too much. That type of effect, over and over again, in everybody, you get hip to it and that’s what it is.

Q: What do you think [Jonathan Williams] brings to the offense behind you?

A: He’s kind of split between power and speed. He’s fast and he’s quick. He doesn’t need a lot of praise for his quickness so I think he’ll be a great change of pace bringing that power. We should do well. [Mike Gillislee] did very, very well last year. I think Jonathan will replace him and he’ll do good.

Q: How important is it to you to see a healthy Eric Wood out there?

A: He is kind of the key that makes the offense go. He’s in charge of the offense. Sure, [Tyrod Taylor] does all the checks and different plays but Wood, when we lost him, we lost something because he directs the offensive lineman where to go, who to block and we can’t do anything without the offensive line. Having Wood is definitely big. He’s like our second quarterback for sure.

Q: You’ve been at camp with [Andy Reid], you’ve been at camp with Chip Kelly, you’ve been at camp with [Rex Ryan]. How does [Sean McDermott]…..does his camp remind you of any of the other guys?

A: It’s still early. We haven’t had the pads yet, we’re not really that sore. We are just in t-shirts and helmets but we’ll see the difference between the different coaches. Him and [Reid] are tight and have a nice history, so we’ll see.

Q: What kind of impression has Jordan Johnson made on you?

A: So far, it’s still early. We will wait a little bit to give you that answer.

Q: How do you see yourself….it seems like you’re a good fit for this zone blocking scheme. How much do you think that that will benefit you?

A: I used to watch this offense all the time with Arian Foster and they used to have some big holes and nice cut backs. He’s already a hell of a back, so less movement from the running backs. Just more cutting and going and getting more one-on-ones with the safeties and the corners. This running scheme is amazing. I’m a confident player so I wouldn’t tell you I could run any scheme but this scheme right here really fits me, it really does. Just the ability to get the ball on the perimeter and also getting the ball deep and also to throw the ball to the back. A lot different things that this offense gives you and I’m extremely happy.

Q: [Rick Dennison] said getting you the ball in the air is going to be something to focus on, but is there a number you might have in mind about receptions? You know you want to catch the ball.

A: Oh, for sure. Not only get the ball, but I want to catch the ball, get different routes. Nobody can really cover me one-on-one, I mean c’mon. I think that we have a lot of different schemes to get the ball to the back in my space – a lot of one-on-ones. Me and [Tyrod Taylor] have a pretty good connection when it comes to throwing the ball to the backs so I’m looking forward to that also.

Q: You touched earlier about guys maybe retiring a little bit early. I know what high regard you hold Barry Sanders at and maybe is the prime example that people talk about him a lot. I was wondering if you ever have any conversations with him about that or has that ever impacted you?

A: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot. More when I was in Philadelphia but I’m going to leave our conversation private. I’m a big fan of Barry Sanders and I respect him a lot. I wont get into details about that but he’s a guy that a lot of people talk about. He retired early and fans would have loved to see him, like myself, play three or four more years. I just want to finish my career the right way – some winning and some successful years.

Defensive Tackle Kyle Williams

Q: Can you tell us what Sean McDermott is doing differently in his first training camp in comparison to the other training camps that have been around here?

A: Yeah. I think every coach here around – unfortunately, I’ve been around a lot of them – they all have their way they like to do things, the way they like to operate. We got a feel for it in the spring – what was expected of us, what we were going to do. So it’s really carried into training camp now.

Q: How would you describe the way he runs things?

A: It’s been good. Very organized, up-tempo, expects a lot out of you, get your work in, get done and get some rest and study your things. Know what you’re doing and get ready for the next day.

Q: Adolphus [Washington] said a bunch of the guys on the defensive line reached out to him and offered him support. What was your message to him?

A: Well, I think that if you’ve been around long enough, guys have setbacks – they make mistakes. Obviously, he’s made one – basically as a rookie. He can overcome it and just move past it and learn from it – just like all of us, no matter what our mistakes may be.

Q: Kyle, you’re close with Marcell Dareus. What is his mindset coming into this camp and getting ready for a new season?

A: Well, I think our first couple of days have been Marcell’s best days since the start of camp. We have a long way to go, we have a lot of work days to put in, but I’ll keep pushing him and we’ll keep pushing each other to be the best that we can be.

Q: Does this scheme seem like it has more of ‘let the dogs go after the quarterback’ and not as much trickery as past years?

A: I think it’s going to be aggressive. It’s going to be fast, it’s going to be physical, predicated on guys playing fast. We’re going to do different things, we’re going to do enough to win, but we’re not going to bog anybody down. I think it’s going to be a good fit.

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