Buffalo Bills Rookie Training Camp Progress Reports

Brandon CroceAnalyst IAugust 5, 2014

Buffalo Bills Rookie Training Camp Progress Reports

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The rookies for the Buffalo Bills got their first taste of NFL action Sunday night during the Hall of Fame Game. The seven players drafted by the team have had a lot thrown at them in a short period of time as the coaching staff tries to get them up ready for the start of the regular season.

    Similarly to past years' draft classes, this group has some standouts and unfortunately some disappointments in the early going. The following slides will evaluate how each rookie has looked and give them a rating of below expectations, meeting expectations and exceeding expectations.

Sammy Watkins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It would probably be an understatement to say Sammy Watkins has looked impressive in training camp. He has certainly looked the part as a No. 1 wide receiver in practice with his speed and his hands, like this catch taped by WGR 550's Sal Capaccio.

    The rookie is doing the little things outside of practice that put players in position to be special. Doug Marrone was asked after practice recently about Sammy Watkins and CBS Sports' Jason La Confora quoted the Bills coach saying

    He's probably the first player up every morning, and then you also see him working on the field after practice. He's really humble, and he's a hard worker. He's earned it. He's been everything you hope for.

    If you were to look for a flaw this preseason for Watkins it would be that he didn't register a catch in the first preseason game. This is probably nitpicking, but if I have to give a weakness this would be it. Watkins was thrown to twice in Sunday night's game; however, neither catch was really catchable.

    The first was a deep route that Watkins was able to get separation from his defender, but it was overthrown by Manuel. The second throw came on the next series inside the red zone on a slant by Watkins, but this pass didn't even reach him as it was nearly intercepted by a Giants' defender. 

    NFL teams generally will keep play-calling in preseason very vanilla, but hopefully the coaching staff can find a way to get the ball in Watkins hands against Carolina.

    Verdict: Exceeding Expectations

Cyrus Kouandjio

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Cyrus Kouandjio's reviews have been less than stellar to this point of the preseason. He has not looked as NFL-ready as many believed when he was drafted in April and had a pretty bad performance Sunday night against the Giants. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he played 41 snaps and allowed two sacks, one quarterback hit and one quarterback hurry.

    Doug Marrone noticed the play of Kouandjio and along with fellow rookie Seantrel Henderson said, according to Syracuse.com's Matthew Fairburn: "I think they have a lot of work ahead of them. I think both of those guys have a lot of work ahead of them, I really do. It's tough to play tackle in the National Football League."

    Kouandjio does not have much time to waste if he hopes to overtake Erik Pears for the starting right tackle position Week 1.

    Verdict: Below Expectations

Preston Brown

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    The Bills used their third-round pick on inside linebacker Preston Brown with the idea of him being a backup to Brandon Spikes and his possible replacement in 2015. The season-ending injury to Kiko Alonso threw a wrench in those plans, and the rookie should be in line for more playing time.

    At the start of training camp, Brown spent some time with the first unit, rotating through starting positions, per WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia. He didn't get the start against the Giants, a spot seemingly locked up by Nigel Bradham, but did get plenty of playing time.

    The rookie out of Louisville played the most plays of any defensive player with 33, according to Pro Football Focus. He even finished the game with a pass coverage grade of 1.7, something he wasn't known for in college. 

    Verdict: Meeting Expectations

Ross Cockrell

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    In a crowded, and talented, defensive backfield Ross Cockrell has not garnered much attention. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as Cockrell shouldn't be relied on much his rookie season with the depth the Bills have at this position.

    The rookie out of Duke does have the size (6'0", 191 lbs.) that NFL teams are coveting in the game today. Cockrell didn't get much playing time in the first game of the preseason, only on the field for 17 of the defense's 64 snap, according to Pro Football Focus. The Giants threw his way twice during those plays however he did not allow a reception. 

    Verdict: Meeting Expectations

Cyril Richardson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Bills took Baylor guard Cyril Richardson with their fifth-round pick, and he has worked his way into having an outside shot at the starting right guard position. At the start of camp, Doug Marrone was asked if the right guard position was up for grabs and he said "Yes it is" according to this tweet by ESPN's Mike Rodak.

    Well, after the first game of preseason, it seems like the position is still there for the taking as The Buffalo News Jay Skurski mentions in his third-quarter analysis: 

    Right guard Kraig Urbik, who started all 16 games last season, was still in the game into the third quarter for the Bills. He was eventually replaced by Cyril Richardson. It's clear the competition at right guard will continue.

    Richardson's performance once he got in the game was a little underwhelming though. Richardson finished with an overall rating of -2.7 according to Pro Football Focus and struggled the most in run blocking (-1.9), an area that was considered a strength for him.

    Verdict: Meeting Expectations

     

Randell Johnson

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    Associated Press

    The Bills used one of their two seventh-round picks to add depth at the linebacker position with the selection of Randell Johnson. In most scouting reports, like this one on CBS Sports, Johnson is viewed as a player with good athletic ability but will need time to develop.

    The start of training camp wasn't great for Johnson, as he started on the active/physically unable to perform list. He was removed from that list about a week into camp. 

    The rookie from FAU looked as if he was trying to make up for lost time, flying around the field and finished the game leading the Bills in tackles with six tackles. He won't be much of a factor this year on defense, but a few more performances like Sunday night and he should earn himself a roster spot.

    Verdict: Meeting Expectations

Seantrel Henderson

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    There may not be a bigger surprise this preseason than the play of Seantrel Henderson, a player with worlds of talent but fell because of off-field trouble and inconsistent play in college. The seventh-round pick has quickly jumped up the depth charts due to Cordy Glenn's absence and has been lined up as the starting left tackle for the majority of training camp.

    While Doug Marrone may not be impressed with Henderson's play against the Giants, who said he pulled Henderson because "he was sweating a lot," most thought the rookie played well. WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia was impressed by Henderson's play after the game and wrote:

    He looked under control and thwarted the efforts of Jason Pierre-Paul on the few series that they were matched up. The Bills even gave Henderson an extended look on the field, playing him into the second half to give him some additional experience rather than having him come out with the other starting players. Despite what Marrone said, it looked like Henderson had a good debut given that he’s a seventh-round pick. If there’s one thing for certain, he was infinitely better than [Kouandjio] the other tackle the team drafted in 2014.

    Glenn's starting job at left tackle isn't in jeopardy, and it would be very surprising if he was to lose when he returns healthy. However, it is good to know that the Bills have what looks to be a great backup plan at a key position in this offense.

    Verdict: Exceeding Expectations

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