ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — When Leslie Frazier played in the NFL for the Bears during the early 80’s, practices were much different. They were routinely full speed with gameday level tackling for everyone.
Well…. maybe not every one.
“Everybody but Walter Payton,” Frazier said with a laugh. “You didn’t take Walter to the ground.”
That’s not how it is in the NFL of the 21st century. Frazier pointed out that, even with a normal preseason, tackling is an issue around the league the first few weeks of the regular season.
This preseason has been anything but normal. The Bills had a few live periods in scrimmages, but have almost entirely avoid full tackling during training camp. It’s a big question mark for the opener Sunday against the Jets.
“We work a lot on the fundamentals of tackling. Where we place our feet. Where our eyes are. What we’re doing with our hands, our bodies,” Frazier said. “We tried our best to simulate tackling, but that’s the big unknown. How well will we tackle on Sunday. It’s hard to play good defense without doing that.”
Week one is always full of unknowns. NFL preseason is world famous for providing an incorrect impression of a player. However, it would at least give some impression.
The Jets have four brand new starters on the offensive line. They have a new starting receiver in Breshad Perriman. Their starting tight end, Chris Herndon, played only a handful of snaps in 2019. Frazier said it will be a “cat and mouse game” to figure out how the Jets plan to move the ball on the Bills Sunday without even a shred of preseason film on them.
And figuring out the Jets offense is the easy side of the ball.
Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves to mix things up. Even in a normal year, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said it’s very challenging to prepare for what Williams can bring.
“There’s a reason why he’s been in the league 29, 30 years,” Daboll said. “He’s very, very smart about the defenses that he employs. He has a lot of packages with different people coming in and out. What we’re going to have to do is make sure our rules are sound.”
Offenses this year will also have to better hide their calls at the line. The chess match of checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage is a fascinating world and it will be entirely different without packed stadiums.
Daboll emphasized a need for self scouting to make sure those calls are protected, especially between games. It’s something that will have to be a work in progress.
“Our focus is doing the things that we can control and adjusting and adapting to the things that come up that may be a little bit new,” Daboll said.
The good news is the season has finally arrived. It’s something that has hardly seemed a guarantee all summer.
“A sigh of relief. Can’t wait to get out there. Chomping at the bit to get out there. I think we’re all excited,” Frazier said. “A little nervousness because of the unknown, but we’re all looking forward to the experience.”
Even if part of it is something the Bills can’t possibly expect.