PITTSFORD — Football on a Sunday just feels right, even if it is still of the no-tackling variety.
The Buffalo Bills hit the practice field bright and early Sunday for their fourth practice of training camp at St. John Fisher College.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Charles Clay gets a breather. The Bills elected to give the veteran tight end a day off Sunday. Clay had been a full participant during the first three practices of training camp. During the spring, coach Sean McDermott admitted that the team is concerned about the condition of Clay’s knee, which has been an issue for years.
“We are concerned with Charles’ knee situation,” the coach said at the time. “It’s something we have to manage moving forward in order to have him on the field for us, which is important moving forward. He’s a weapon for us. … So if managing his reps, if that’s what we have to do, then we’ll continue to do that.”
2. Logan Thomas gets a shot. With Clay out, Nick O’Leary took over as the No. 1 tight end and looked good, making a nice sliding catch during 7-on-7 work. The Bills also gave Thomas a shot with the starters during full-team work. Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor connected with Thomas on a nice pass that went … wait for it … over the middle. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Thomas certainly looks the part. In the race for No. 3 tight end, he might be pulling ahead.
3. Marcell Dareus is still out. The defensive tackle missed his second straight practice after suffering a hamstring injury Friday. The team said he remains day to day. Wide receiver Brandon Tate also sat out and is day to day with a calf injury suffered Saturday. Third-team defensive end Ian Seau is week to week with a foot injury, while cornerback Ronald Darby participated on a limited basis Sunday after suffering an ankle injury the day before.
4. There was a lot of shuffling at linebacker. Rookie Tanner Vallejo mixed in with the starters at strong-side linebacker as the Bills appeared to be managing Lorenzo Alexander’s reps. Vallejo also played weak-side linebacker with the second unit, so it appears the Bills are getting him prepped for both jobs. Gerald Hodges bounced between the second and third team.
5. Receivers have a case of the dropsies. It was not a good day for the Bills’ wideouts. Andre Holmes, Philly Brown and Rod Streater all had bad drops during 11-on-11 work. Holmes in particular has had too many of those instances the first four days. Streater otherwise had another good practice, mixing in with the second unit at times and making a nice catch in front of defensive back Bradley Sylve.
6. Defense records two interceptions. Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman had an up-and-down day. He completed an impressive throw off his back foot to Walt Powell that showed superb arm strength, but also threw an interception to safety B.T. Sanders after the ball bounced off the hands of his intended receiver. The good news, in a way, is that Peterman wouldn’t have had a chance to throw because he would have been sacked.
Veteran T.J. Yates was also intercepted during 7-on-7 work by rookie linebacker Matt Milano.
“For us, the takeaway part of the game on defense is so important,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “Trying to set our offense up to score or scoring on defense, so it’s something we are emphasizing every day. Just getting that mindset of taking the ball away, but not at the expense at getting the ball carrier down. Right now, we’re not at that point where we can tackle, but we’re always talking about the first guys getting there and making the tackle, the next guy coming in and trying to strip the football and get it out, but we definitely want to secure the tackle. We don’t want to get away from taking the ball away. That’s a big deal in our league and we all know that.”
7. Tre’Davious White bounces back. After a few shaky moments in Saturday’s practice, rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White was right back to looking rock solid Sunday. He made a good play to break up a pass intended for rookie Zay Jones during 11-on-11 work.
8. Max Valles getting into the backfield. In the wide-open competition for jobs at backup defensive end, Max Valles has consistently run with the second team. Valles applied good pressure early on Yates as the quarterback rolled out, then later in practice got into the backfield to knock down another pass.
9. “The Toldozer arrives.” When veteran running back/fullback Mike Tolbert gets going, look out. Cornerback Kevon Seymour found that out the hard way Sunday, taking a big shot from Tolbert at the end of a run play. The 250-pounder ripped off a couple nice runs in what was his most noticeable practice so far.
10. It might be time to worry about right tackle. It hasn’t mattered whether it’s Jordan Mills or rookie Dion Dawkins at the position, either. Both players have had their hands full with Shaq Lawson. During a pass-rush drill Sunday, Lawson left Mills in the dust with an outside-to-inside move.
11. Punting competition looks like it will go the distance. It was expected that rookie undrafted free agent Austin Rehkow would provide a good challenge to incumbent punter Colton Schmidt, and that’s been the case. The good news for the Bills is that both players are booming the ball. If the goal was to get Schmidt to respond to a challenge after a down year, so far it’s working.
12. The team now gets a break. Monday is the first scheduled day off during camp. The Bills will return to the practice field at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.