Sammy Watkins and 4 Other Players Turning Heads at Buffalo Bills Training Camp
Buffalo Bills training camp is in full swing, and the one player people can't stop talking about is rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King left St. John Fisher College impressed with Watkins, as did CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, who called Watkins "a star."
It seems after almost every practice that there are tweets on Twitter praising Watkins' abilities—like this one by NFL.com's Jeff Darlington—and his work ethic—like this one by Ian Rapoport. As much as fans are enjoying what they are seeing in Pittsford, they are hoping that this is just a precursor to what he will be doing on Sundays this year.
While the rookie wide receiver has recieved the majority of the coverage, he isn't the only Bill turning heads. The following slides will highlight four other players currently on the roster who have had strong training camps this year.
Watkins isn't the only wide receiver turning heads this training camp, as Chris Hogan (aka "7-11") has performed nearly perfect so far in practice. WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia mentioned this in his notes after the seventh practice. He wrote:
It has been written numerous times over the past two years, but wide receiver Chris Hogan had another very good practice for the Bills on Sunday. Shaking off a two-drop performance on Friday night, Hogan was strong in his routes and on the ball whenever given the opportunity during the afternoon practice. Due to all his strong play throughout the first six days of camp, the Bills rewarded him with time on the field with the first-team offense as the third wide receiver.
Entering training camp, Hogan was thought of being on the roster bubble, and ESPN.com's Mike Rodak gave him a 60 percent chance of making it. At this point of training camp, that number is sure to be much higher, especially if he is getting first-team reps. I don't see Hogan getting regular reps once the regular season rolls around, but the depth at the position is much stronger with the performance of 7-11.
Similar to Hogan, Bryce Brown was little more than an afterthought entering camp and seen more as a depth move. However, since camp has started, Brown has made a point that people notice him, and they have. MMQB's Peter King was asked on Twitter which player surprised him, and the third-year running back was the choice.
The former Philadelphia Eagle was acquired by the Bills in a trade during the NFL draft and has looked very impressive so far in training camp. Brown had a promising start to his career under Andy Reid and as LeSean McCoy's backup, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He seemed to fall out of favor last year, though, under new head coach Chip Kelly and saw his rushing attempts drop from 115 to 75.
If head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can figure out a way to evenly distribute the work between C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Brown—and keep them fresh—the ground game of this offense will be much harder for opposing defenses to stop.
Jerry Hughes had a breakout season under former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last season and finished the year with 10 sacks. Entering this season, though, there was some concern that Hughes would not be able to duplicate the same success in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defensive scheme.
Schwartz tends to lean more toward a 4-3 base defense, which means that Hughes would be expected to defend the run more than he was a season ago. The team is going to try and platoon the position, sharing the responsibility with Manny Lawson and allowing Hughes to do what he does best: get after quarterbacks.
It didn't take long after the Bills were practicing in full pads for Hughes to make his presence felt, as Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com writes:
Late in the Bills' third practice of training camp on Tuesday, Hughes exploded off the line of scrimmage and into the pads of rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson. Hughes is 6 inches shorter than Henderson, but his burst and hand placement forced Henderson to stumble backward, and the two eventually tumbled into a heap and sent quarterback EJ Manuel to the ground.
Hopefully the success Hughes has had in training camp this year is only a precursor to another big year for the defensive end.
There are not many who would have predicted at this point in camp that between Cyrus Kouandjio and Seantrel Henderson, the two rookie tackles, that Henderson would have more first-team reps than Kouandjio. The two situations can't be compared, as Kouandjio is fighting with veteran Erik Pears for the starting right tackle spot, while Henderson has filled in for Cordy Glenn, who has been kept out of practice due to illness.
Now, it doesn't always matter how you get your opportunity, but what does matter is what you do when you get it. Henderson has certainly taken advantage of this chance to line up with the first-team offense.
WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia wrote about the rookie left tackle after the sixth day of practice:
He’s had his rookie moments throughout, but he was one of the stronger offensive linemen during the night practice. His best moment came during one-on-one drills up against Mario Williams, the highest paid defensive player in league history, with no one else to help him out. Henderson displayed quick feet, pushed Williams out wide and didn’t surrender any territory to the Pro Bowl defensive end. The rookie was called for a hands to the face penalty, but from a technique perspective, he was solid all throughout the rep.
Henderson hasn't done anything to this point to entertain the idea of Glenn's spot being in jeopardy, and when the latter is back to being healthy, he will be the team's starting left tackle. This first part of training camp, though, has gone a long way to secure Henderson's spot on this roster, giving the Bills depth at the tackle position and confidence that if his number is called, he could step up.
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