Thirty-nine NFL hopefuls took part in the Buffalo Bills’ minicamp for rookies and first-year players over the weekend.
You can set the over/under on how many of them will end up on the team’s 53-man roster at the end of training camp at about a half dozen. You can also set the over/under on those players who do make the team playing as a starter at one or two.
The player most frequently mentioned as having that type of ability is John Miller, the team’s third-round draft pick out of Louisville. Miller, who started 47 career games at left guard for the Cardinals, has the benefit of playing a position that is unsettled for the Bills. But his credentials also make him a candidate to play right out of the gate.
“He’s a young man that we really targeted,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said last week. “He’s a guy that we’ll put right in the mix and see what he does. We were really impressed with him. He came in for a visit and he kind of blew us away when we got him on the board and our coaches were talking to him.
“Mentally, it’s a big thing and a big challenge in this when you come from college to the NFL, especially as an offensive lineman. I think this young man seems to have the aptitude for it and that’s going to allow his physical talents to where he can showcase, so we’re excited about that.”
Miller said he prides himself on being a student of the game. After Saturday’s practice, he spent a good deal of time talking with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. With only four offensive linemen participating over the weekend, Miller had plenty of time for one-on-one instruction.
“I know we haven’t hit full gas with us short on offensive linemen,” Miller said. “The most important thing I try to take is really learning the coaching techniques and the coaching points. It’s good like that, because it’s kind of slowed down. You get a good feel for what you’re trying to do and what coach wants from you.”
That type of attention won’t be available to Miller when the Bills bring in their entire roster, so from a learning standpoint, this past weekend is invaluable to players like Miller.
“I’m trying to take full advantage of it,” he said. “It’s great to get down there with coach. Getting that one-one-one attention, it’s good.”
Miller spent the weekend working on the technicalities of his position.
“Just want to make sure you get the proper footwork down,” he said. “Going to the next level, it’s critical you know how to work your hands, your hand technique, hand placement.”
Kromer was working with Miller on tweaking the way he uses his hands on opponents.
“When I was in college, we were taught to tuck our hands,” he said. “So it’s kind of hard trying to break that habit. I want to adapt to what coach is teaching. Get your hands out quick so you can control the guy.”
If this past weekend was dipping his toes into the pool, Miller will jump head first into the deep end later in the month when the Bills begin organized team activities. That’s when he’ll be lined up across from Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams on the line of scrimmage.
“I’m just looking forward to getting better as a player,” Miller said.
The Bills will have an open competition at both starting guard spots. Veteran Richie Incognito is thought to have the inside track on the starting job on the right side, which means Miller will compete against players like Chris Williams, Kraig Urbik, and Cyril Richardson for the starting role on the left.
“From what I saw from him just observing the individual drills, he’s a quick learner,” Ryan said. “He knows what coach wants and he’s engaged. I expect him to be on top of it.”