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Training camp observations: Backup DBs, Khalil Shakir make plays


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Depth players in the Buffalo Bills’ defensive secondary were standouts on Day 2 of training camp at St. John Fisher University.

Here are observations from the team’s second summer practice:

1. Backup DBs shine.

The defense made interceptions on three of the first 16 plays of 11-on-11 work, and second-year cornerback Nick McCloud had two pickoffs on the day.

Cam Lewis, the fourth-year cornerback from the University at Buffalo, also stood out. He forced three incompletions in a row on passes from No. 2 quarterback Case Keenum. The first two were on tight coverage against receiver Isaiah Hodgins. The third was a tip of a pass to the sideline for Tanner Gentry. Lewis played in seven games with one start for Buffalo last season.

McCloud, the Notre Dame product who’s seeing time at both corner and safety, intercepted an early pass from Matt Barkley near the sideline. (He might have been called for contacting the receiver early.) McCloud’s second interception came off an overthrow down the middle from Barkley.

Josh Allen threw an early interception to Dane Jackson with no receiver in the area. It looked like there was a miscommunication between Allen and tight end Dawson Knox. On the next play, Allen threw a perfectly placed pass toward the sideline for Isaiah McKenzie, but slot cornerback Taron Johnson was glued to the receiver and tipped the ball away, amid cheers from the players on the sidelines. That was the pass breakup of the day.

Three snaps later, Allen had an overthrow down the middle for Stefon Diggs that Jordan Poyer intercepted. Poyer might have baited Allen into making an ill-advised throw.

Allen, however, had plenty of completions. In 11-on-11 work, he hit Diggs four times, Gabriel Davis four times, McKenzie twice and Knox twice. The last one to Davis was pretty, along the sideline against Kaiir Elam and with Carlos Basham pressuring Allen. The last one to Diggs went for 20 yards against Lewis, also in the face of heat. Several of Diggs’ catches came against Elam, as well.

“We've had a couple slow starts to a couple practices, but we finally got the juice flowing this practice,” Knox said.

Because the Bills were not in pads, the practice was pass heavy, just like a spring practice.

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on the absence of Tre’Davious White, who is coming back from knee surgery: “That means there'll be more opportunities for Kaiir, and there’ll be more opportunities for Dane as well. And even some of the guys that are in backup roles like Tim Harris, for example. So they'll get more reps. We'll get a chance to take a look at some guys and preseason will be good for them.”

Von Miller was another defensive standout. He beat Dion Dawkins for a clean, would-be sack of Allen and otherwise made his presence felt in the backfield.

2. Shakir stands out.

Khalil Shakir, the fifth-round draft pick from Boise State, had a good day, making four catches in 11-on-11 work. He showed good hands, plucking a pass out of the air from Keenum that was a tad behind him. Shakir showed a quick burst up the field on a run after the catch on a pass from Barkley late in the practice. Then Shakir ran a good route down the right sideline, giving himself room to adjust to the outside, and hauled in a pass of about 25 yards from Barkley against Olajiah Griffin.

3. More tight ends?

The addition of free-agent signee O.J. Howard raises the prospect of more use of two tight end personnel groups this year. The Bills used two tight ends, one back and two receivers – 12 personnel – on only about 5% of plays last season. That doesn’t count plays on which fullback Reggie Gilliam was used like a tight end. The Bills technically did not use any 13 personnel groupings last year because they kept only two tight ends. Again, however, there were some plays where Gilliam could have been considered a third tight end. And there were other plays on which there were two tight ends and a sixth offensive lineman, who functioned like a tight end. (That happened nine times, according to Buffalo News charting).

Knox on tight end usage: “Yeah, we've already started doing more '13' personnel stuff and '22' personnel with Reggie on the field, too, he's been great at that fullback position. But we've already, through the first two days, we've seen more '13' personnel, than we did a lot of last year, so it's going to be fun to just have that extra step of versatility.”

It might be an upset if Tommy Sweeney, currently the No. 3 tight end, makes the 53-man roster.

4. Injury report

Receiver Jamison Crowder worked on Day 1 but was not practicing Monday. He was working with trainers on the side and riding a stationary bike. So was guard Rodger Saffold (ribs).

5. Pads Saturday

Every NFL team follows the same practice rules in training camp, which calls for a ramp-up period before the players wear full pads. There is no live contact on the first four practices, through Wednesday’s session for the Bills. The Bills are off Thursday. The first full-pads practice is scheduled for Saturday. A team cannot practice in pads more than three consecutive days and can’t have more than five stretches of three straight days of padded practices. In all, there can’t be more than 16 padded practices through the final day of preseason camp.

6. Helmet covers

This is the third summer Bills linemen have been wearing soft-shell gray pads – called Guardian Cap helmet covers – on top of their helmets during camp. It’s an effort to prevent concussions from incidental head-to-head contact along the line of scrimmage. The NFL mandated this summer that all teams use the Guardian Cap covers for offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers through at least the second preseason game. According to the manufacturer, the cap reduces force from head contact by up to 20% if all players involved in the contact are using it. Guardian Cap developed the technology in part through an NFL grant awarded in 2017.

7. Schedule

Tuesday’s practice is not open to the public. The next open practice is 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, and there are no tickets left for any practices at St. John Fisher University.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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10 hours ago, George said:

I was watching Khalil Shakir closely today, I would say he has Beasley's hands but quicker feet. I think he could play alot this season...We shall see...

Awesome, thanks George

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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22 hours ago, George said:

I was watching Khalil Shakir closely today, I would say he has Beasley's hands but quicker feet. I think he could play alot this season...We shall see...

he's just a good all around football player. I'm pumped to see if he can claim the starting slot position by the end of the year. Getting a starting caliber player in the 5th round would be such a great value over his 4 year rookie deal. Especially if he is pulling down 70 catches and a handful of TDs every year.

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