Orchard Park, N.Y. — Von Miller arrived for Organized Team Activities on Tuesday and participated in his first full practice with the team since signing his mega deal in free agency in March.
Miller spent his time bouncing around the defensive line chatting with some of the young Buffalo Bills defensive linemen during the early portion of practice. The Bills weren’t in pads on Tuesday in the first of three OTAs open to the media over the next three weeks, but Miller flashed some of his next-level pass rushing ability in an 11-on-11 drill.
In one instance, matched up against Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins, Miller got low to the ground and accelerated around the Pro Bowl tackle with a speed move on the outside. Josh Allen felt the pressure and immediately got the ball out to Isaiah McKenzie.
After practice, Dawkins said he’s thankful to have Miller, who was outstanding on day one.
“With Von being the type of guy he is, he has every accolade, he’s maxed out every deal, he’s that guy. Von can play any position on the defense,” Dawkins said. “The number one thing that impresses me is his sense of gravity, like how low he can get to the ground and still keep his strength. That’s the most impressive thing because just watching him stretch, he’s like an Olympian or like a gymnastics person. He’s just like real fluid. Almost like water.”
Later in practice, Miller absolutely abused David Quessenberry, who almost looked surprised as Miller dusted him on his way into the backfield. The rep was won by the entirety of the defensive line and the play was ultimately blown dead.
Greg Rousseau would have had a sack on the play if it wasn’t blown dead. The second-year defensive end took every opportunity he had to get in front of Miller on Tuesday. He said the two-time Super Bowl champ was telling the young defensive linemen little things he sees when he’s on the field.
“I already asked him a few questions out there,” Rousseau said. “And also he’ll come to whether it’s me, Boogie (Basham), A.J. (Epenesa), whoever, and tell them what he sees as well. … We’re just flowing out there. And you know, he’s one of our brothers. He’s one of us now, so I feel like he’s fitting in great.”
Here are some observations from the Bills’ first OTAs practice.
1. Fight breaks out
The play started on a routine throw from Allen to Stefon Diggs. Dane Jackson was in coverage and Jaquan Johnson was in the area. The play ended with a physical exchange and then Diggs and Johnson seemed to do some shoving at the end of the play. Siran Neal got involved by shoving somebody, and before long second-year cornerback Oliajah Griffin needed to be restrained as it looked like he was arguing with another member of the defense.
Defensive backs coach John Butler had to hold Griffin back and pushed him away from the gathering of players. Griffin was heated and seemed to be yelling for over a minute before ultimately getting calmed down on his walk into the facility. Veterans like Jordan Phillips, Dion Dawkins and Taiwan Jones all made their way over to Griffin to try and calm him down.
Dawkins said there was nothing surprising about the fracas. He said it was just the Bills’ type of energy.
“That’s supposed to happen. If it doesn’t happen then you start to think like, wow, we got through OTAs and nobody was angry or nothing? Wow,” he said. “I just told ‘O’ to just understand the situation and people are just trying to help. Whether he was right or he was wrong, I think ‘O’ understands that as a young guy, guys are gonna be on him and guys are gonna coach him hard.
“But my message to him was (just to) flush it — we have tomorrow. Understand that coach is telling you to chill, just take a seat, calm down, just take that seat and calm down – we got tomorrow. It’ll be all right.”
2. Josh Allen to Gabriel Davis picks right up where it left off
Davis made the biggest play of the day on the offensive side of the ball in a one-on-one matchup against Dane Jackson. Allen hung in the pocket as his offensive line gave him time and he delivered a perfect ball down the right sideline to Davis, who got separation on Jackson to make the play. Jackson tried to recover and spin tackle Davis, but it was too late as he made his way past the goal line.
3. Tommy Doyle impresses
On the same play, Doyle found himself one-on-one with Ed Oliver. Oliver made a few nice rushes during practice but on this play, Doyle just swallowed him up. Doyle’s block helped Allen stick in the pocket and deliver the strike to Davis. Doyle had another good rep later in practice that led to an Allen completion to Isaiah McKenzie. Dawkins complimented Doyle after practice.
“Anybody has a chance and that’s the best part about it,” he said. “From being a competitor, that’s what I love. I like being uncomfortable. Because with that kid getting better, it’s going to make me better because I know he’s coming. That’s why we play this sport is to compete and the best man wins. Tommy has been doing a heck of a job.”
4. Shaq Lawson toying with young o-linemen
Lawson made an immediate impact during his first practice back with the Bills. It’s May and the players aren’t in pads, but he gave rookies Alec Anderson and Tanner Owen both their welcome-to-the-NFL moments. Lawson looked quick, elusive and explosive throughout practice. Lawson is going to have to earn playing time if he makes the roster with young pass rushers aplenty in his position room. Epenesa, Basham, and Rousseau will likely all get the opportunity to earn snaps, but Lawson’s experience in the defense gives him a chance to be a wildcard.
5. Marquez Stevenson has a few drops
Stevenson is also in a spot where it’s crowded in his position room. He has the advantage of bringing something unique to the table with his long speed down the field. But after a few forgettable games last season as a return man, Stevenson is going to have to look the part to have a shot at the roster. It’s just one practice, but he had a pair of drops on the day. One of them was an extremely catchable ball from Matt Barkley.
6. Brandin Bryant with arguably the play of the day
Bryant played a few games for the Bills last season and he’s somebody they trust if they need him to play. He showed why in practice when he beat his block in the middle of the line, fell to the ground, then bounced back up to get to the quarterback to get the play blown dead. Bryant has good athleticism at his size and he’s a guy that should be considered a lock for the practice squad if he’s cut in August.
7. Cam Lewis going to be hard to cut
All Lewis does every spring and summer is flash potential. The Bills have developed the UB product for three years and he’s a guy that can do a little bit of everything. He had a great play working against Isaiah Hodgins in 11-on-11. Case Keenum was in at quarterback and could have delivered a better ball, but Lewis’s presence doomed the play. Hodgins couldn’t hall it in and Lewis exploded up off the ground in celebration. With Elam now in the mix, Lewis has a bunch of names ahead of him in the CB room. But his versatility may save him when cuts roll around.
8. Boogie Basham flashing early
Basham was working against Bobby Hart during 11-on-11 and absolutely gave him the work. Keenum threw it to Stevenson, who dropped it, but Basham flew into the backfield and should have been credited with a sack. Hart continues to struggle in a phone booth with his foot quickness. Basham changed his number to 55, which was previously worn by Jerry Hughes, who signed with the Houston Texans. Rousseau said some of the guys were joking with Basham that he looked good in the number. Some even started calling him Jerry.
9. Who wasn’t there?
Sean McDermott met with Jordan Poyer at Micah Hyde’s charity softball game and he said the two had a great conversation. But the Bills coach said business is still business and Poyer wants a new contract. He wasn’t in attendance at OTAs, as most expected. Along with Poyer, safety Micah Hyde, defensive tackle Daquan Jones, and left guard Rodger Saffold were not in attendance. Spencer Brown recently had a procedure and didn’t practice. Dawson Knox and Tim Harris were in attendance but didn’t practice either.