ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — August 14th was supposed to be the Bills first preseason game. Instead, it was just another day of practice and the Bills have yet to put pads on this offseason.
Over the past few weeks, the Bills have only been able to hold conditioning drills and OTA-style practices. It’s not exactly the best way to get a team ready for the season, but as the Bills have said all year, it’s about controlling the controllables.
“We’ve made the most of every opportunity that we possibly could. We try to go ahead and get creative with the scheduling and how you’re going to do things to get as many reps as you can,” says offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. “That’s really where our focus lies, dominating the things that we can control, taking it day-by-day, and treating every day like it’s a game day almost.”
It’s been a unique offseason and the Bills are looking wherever they can for advice.
Former Washington head coach Joe Gibbs joined a Zoom meeting with the Bills coaching staff to talk about the 1982 strike-shortened season, where coaches were away from their players for 57 days. Washington went on to win the Super Bowl.
“We wanted to get a feel from him, you know, what it was like, the preparation, all the time apart as a staff from your players, kind of what we’re going through. And then once you come back together, what’s the message to the guys,” says defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “He did a really good job of just impressing upon all of us, just to embrace this moment and look at it as an opportunity, because you know some teams aren’t gonna prepare as well as other teams and we want to be one of those teams who’s best prepared. And that gives you the best chance to succeed.”
The padded practices will start on Monday, with the team having 14 such practices during training camp. Due to the lack of preseason, Frazier says that there will most likely be more full-contact drills this season.
“You hold your breath a little bit when you do that in practice, but it’s probably something that’s necessary this year,” says Frazier.
Without a preseason, it will also be harder to evaluate the back-half of the roster, as the team has to carefully manage every practice snap they’re allowed this year.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re giving those young guys those reps,” says Frazier. “At the same time, getting the vets the reps they need to be prepared for September 13th.”
On the offensive side of the ball, it will be a balancing act as well The team will try to both develop their newly drafted QB, Jake Fromm, while also getting ready Josh Allen ready for week one.
“Obviously, we’re going to get Josh as many reps as we can get to get ready to play and the other three guys will get their share of reps,” says Daboll. “How that sorts out, we’ll kind of revisit that on a nightly basis.”
With the injury of Jon Feliciano, the Bills will look at multiple options to fill in at right guard to start the season, including the newly-signed Brian Winters.
Daboll hasn’t been able to see him in a padded-practice yet, but he likes what he sees so far.
“He’s a veteran who’s been working really hard to pick up our playbook— studies, asks good questions, articulate,” says Daboll. “He has experience playing, particularly in our division. So it’ll be good once the pads come on to really get a good evaluation of all our offensive linemen to see where they fit and who the best five are.”
Soon, the pads will come on and the competition will really begin. Josh Allen can’t wait.
“I think a lot of guys, they want to start playing. We want to get back into it. You’ve got all these guys with a lot of competitive juices flowing in practice. We’re supposed to be doing walkthroughs and you got guys going full speed and coach is telling us to slow down,” says the Bills quarterback. “But I’d rather have coach having to tell us to slow down rather than speed up. And it just shows how eager our guys are to get back on the field and start playing some real football so I know I’m excited for it and I can’t wait for it. I think that’s speaking for a lot of guys on the team as well.”
While it may not be the preseason game that we were expecting when the schedule was released, it still means that the season is just around the corner.