The Buffalo Bills’ rookies got thrown into the shallow end of the NFL pool over the weekend and now have nine days to get ready for the full-scale start of their professional football lives.
Upon closing the team’s rookie minicamp Monday, Bills coach Doug Marrone said the primary emphasis was on evaluating the conditioning of the team’s rookies before they join all of the veterans on the practice field next week.
“Hey, let’s make sure that they’re conditioned enough where we don’t put them out there and put them in jeopardy of getting injured,” Marrone said. “It’s such an important time. If you do get injured, it’s very difficult to make up, especially in the beginning.”
Because the NFL Draft was held two weeks later than usual, rookies have less time to prepare for full-team practices.
The Bills start their full-squad spring practice sessions – known as organized team activities – on May 27. Participation in those is voluntary but most players show up. There are three days of practices next week, three the first week of June and four the second week of June. Then the team has three mandatory “minicamp practices” June 17-19.
Marrone said beside evaluating how much conditioning each rookie needs, the coaches introduced them to the position drills and techniques they use and started teaching them the team’s schemes.
Most of the work was done in separate position drills. There was only one quarterback at the camp, Kenny Guiton, who was the backup at Ohio State last fall. Guiton was invited to the camp on a tryout basis. There were no running backs among the 28 players on the field. So there were no 11-on-11 drills.
“We accomplished what we set out to do, making sure they learn and train, getting them ready for when the veteran players come back,” Marrone said.
“As far as the condition of the group, I thought the receivers did a good job. The quarterback did a good job. He had to throw a bunch. I was impressed with the DBs overall. I thought their foot speed was good. The offensive line is big and athletic. We’ll see how tough they are when the pads come on. The D-line, again, is an athletic group.”
Marrone didn’t make much detailed evaluation.
“I really look forward to when the pads come on and we start playing football and really evaluating people then,” he said.
He did like what he saw of No. 4 overall pick Sammy Watkins, who showed sure hands in pass-catching.
“For me I would say that I thought after having watched him now for a couple days, my assessment of him is that he probably has better hand-eye coordination that I thought coming in,” Marrone said.
“Someone told me today he was in here, like 6:45, running routes on air,” added Marrone, referring to pass patterns with no defenders on the field. “Those are things that are encouraging. Those are the things you want to hear.”
“For me I think I need to work on my routes more than anything,” Watkins said. “I have the speed and size and ability. Now it’s down to the details and the little things. In this league, the cornerbacks are great. They know the details of your routes so you have to be crisp and right on everything. You have to make everything look the same. That’s what I was trying to do, stay straight, keep my head up and work on my routes and my breaking points.”