PITTSFORD — Turnovers, penalties and timeouts.
The Bills offense was outshined by the defense during 11-on-11 sessions Tuesday at St. John Fisher University. Aside from Josh Allen placing a laser to Gabe Davis between two defenders, the defense got the better of the sixth day of practice.
At one point, Allen was visibly frustrated.
The play clocked ticked down on one play, forcing Allen to take a timeout. But even on the next play, Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham combined to stuff a Damien Harris run to the right side of the line.
Overall, Bills quarterbacks were sacked three times, while Damar Hamlin undercut a route and picked off Matt Barkley. All of this also occurred without Jordan Poyer practicing due to vet rest and with head coach and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott missing practice for a family personal matter, but was slated to return for meetings in the afternoon.
“We’ve been practicing for a little while now; we’ve been kicking their butt,” Left tackle Dion Dawkins said. “So then, they come out with a little fire and sometimes they win. That’s the beauty of having a team that you can grow with. Like you give, you take, you shoot for the stars, and sometimes they win and sometimes we win. But the beauty of it is we’re getting better.”
When the Bills did get the ball off, they had a hard time completing a pass. Linebacker Matt Milano went step-for-step with rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid on a wheel route up the sideline, shielding him from getting his hands on the ball. Two players later, linebacker Tyrel Dodson knocked away an Allen pass intended for Khalil Shakir, while a Kyle Allen pass sailed high and smacked off the hands of Trent Sherfield.
Josh Allen nearly had a highlight reel throw, evading pressure and throwing a 50-yard dart on the money, between two defenders, but Shakir couldn’t hang on as he fell to the ground.
Armstrong shares bond with GM Beane
The NBA meshed with the NFL on Tuesday, with Park graduate and current Indiana Pacers forward Jordan Nwora in attendance, while former Niagara men’s basketball coach and Toronto Raptors analyst Jack Armstrong was also there.
An April lunch in Charlotte with Hall of Famer and architect of Buffalo’s four Super Bowl runs, Bill Polian led to Armstrong spending a day of organized team activities with general manager Brandon Beane. The Lewiston resident was immediately drawn to Beane through his approachable personality, which is why Armstrong believes Beane is so successful.
“(Beane) has a great away about him,” said Armstrong, who coached Niagara from 1989-1998. “We’re in the people business and we’ve got to be able to connect with people. When you run an operation this big, you have to have CEO skills, but you also have to break it down one-on-one and connect with people and I think he has that gift.”
A Queens native who became disenchanted with his hometown Giants when they traded Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton in 1972, Armstrong became a converted Bills fan through his wife, Dena, and his relationship with Polian, who he met while giving a speech at the Knights of Columbus in Niagara Falls.
Armstrong is enthralled by how certain teams operate and he sees some similarities between the current Bills structure to when he spent time around the 90s Bills. He also likes that Bills owner Terry Pegula gave Beane and McDermott extensions during the offseason ensure stability in the organization at the top.
“The thing I like the most is that ownership gets it and they’ve given both Brandon and Sean a long-term commitment,” Armstrong said. “When you have that, I think everything falls into place. With social media and talk radio, people are reactionary and a lot of times you make mistakes when you react to things on a daily basis.”
Armstrong also appreciates that the Bills have a planned direction, including a willingness to say their goal is to win the Super Bowl. Many coaches love to insist they won’t be good or won’t allow players to think beyond the next week.
And while McDermott won’t elaborate on team goals publicly, the Bills — from Beane to McDermott to Allen to Von Miller — have spoken often about winning a Super Bowl. Miller brought a replica Lombardi Trophy into the locker room near the end of last season and they reportedly have won in the locker room at St. John Fisher.
“High achievement takes place in the area of high expectations,” Armstrong said. “When you have a standard that you demand and expect, people understand there is accountability, there’s a responsibility. I’m not a fan of teams who tank, I’m a fan of teams who say, ‘I’m going for it.’”
Dodson in front at MLB
Dodson may be on the verge of locking up the starting job at middle linebacker, taking exclusive reps with the No. 1 defense for the third consecutive practice. He struggled to keep up in man-to-man coverage early in training camp, but did a much better job when asked to do so over the last few practices.
Terrel Bernard was the middle linebacker with the No. 2 unit, while Baylon Spector remained with the third team.
Rookie O’Cyrus Torrence may also be working his way toward a starting spot, taking the majority of the snaps at right guard with the No. 1 offense. Torrence periodically shared time with incumbent Ryan Bates and it could be a matter of the BIlls wanting to see how Torrence fares, while they have plenty of experience with Bates.
During individual workouts, Torrence got the better of defensive tackle Kendal Vickers, but was beat to the inside by Eli Ankou a few minutes later.
Taylor Rapp got most of the snaps at safety without Poyer, while Damar Hamlin and Cam Lewis both got time with the No. 1 defense when Hyde or Rapp were given a rest.
The battle for the No. 2 cornerback spot remains fluid, as Dane Jackson started the day with the No. 1 defense, but Kaiir Elam entered the lineup during the next 11-on-11 session and Christian Benford in the third. They kept the rotation between all three players throughout practice.
“The reps are almost equal in terms of who’s getting the reps with the No. 1’s, who’s getting the reps with the No. 2’s, not only for their exposure with the first group and the first defense, but also the exposure against top tier wide outs like we have,” Bills defensive backs coach John Butler said before Tuesday’s practice. “We have a plan in place that every single day is a little bit different in terms of who gets the reps, who gets the exposure at that position, and we’re encouraged with it.”
The Bills are scheduled to be off Wednesday and resume practice at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.
NOTES: In addition to Poyer, DT Tim Settle (groin), WR Isaiah Coulter (knee), WR Bryan Thompson (concussion), CB Kyron Brown (groin), DE Von Miller (knee), DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and LB Tyler Matakevich (calf) did not practice.