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Day 1 Bills Training Camp Observations: Stephon's statement

PITTSFORD -- Here are some observations from the first practice of Bills training camp Saturday at St. John Fisher College:

>Stephon Gilmore couldn't have done it much better if he planned it this way. First play from scrimmage in the team period, a throw by Tyrod Taylor ... and an interception by Gilmore. That's the way you make a statement when you're looking to become one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. A short while later, Gilmore made a nice play to break up a pass.

>In discussing the changes he has made to his approach to camp, Rex Ryan offered an unsolicited nugget about what apparently is a stricter approach with players. He said he gave them a 10 p.m. curfew Friday night, suggesting that curfews were either later or not in place during his first camp last year. It sounded very un-Ryan-like. He's known for being about as loose with rules as any coach in the NFL.

>The receivers vying for wide-open backup spots behind Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods stole most of the first-day show. Dez Lewis ran a great route to shake free for a deep throw from EJ Manuel. Lewis ran other good-looking routes, showing tremendous progress from his rookie year. Veteran free agent Greg Little made the catch of the day, falling backwards to grab the ball near the goal line while being covered by Mario Butler. Greg Salas, looking like a natural to fill the slot role vacated by the free-agency departure of Chris Hogan, had a strong showing throughout the session.

>Other than the throw that Gilmore intercepted and a couple of other misfires, Taylor was mostly sharp and poised, picking up where he left off in offseason workouts. He continued to look like he was in full command of the offense and easily got into a rhythm with his passes. Manuel and Cardale Jones still looked like they were well behind Taylor in consistency and efficiency. Jones is going to be a project that the Bills are hoping to "store" for a year before seeing if he can contribute as a backup.

>Ryan wore red Chuck Taylor sneakers. He said it's his way of reminding himself of how far he has come in 30 years of coaching, taking him back to the days when he wasn't receiving free high-end footwear and "Chucks" were all he could afford.

>Marcell Dareus, who is on the Active/Non-Football Illness list, spent the entire practice walking around the track surrounding the field. He worked up a pretty good sweat doing so. Members of the Bills' physical conditioning staff would accompany him, although at one point General Manager Doug Whaley walked with him at length and seemed engrossed in a serious conversation with the defensive tackle.

>In what might be a preview of what will be seen by every team in the league during the season, the Bills opened practice by working on kickoffs falling just short of the goal line. The idea is to encourage returns, something the NFL is looking to discourage, for safety reasons, by moving the start after a touchback from the 20- to the 25-yard line. Most of Jordan Gay's kicks fell just shy of the goal line or just inside of it. I'm thinking we're going to be seeing probably more, not less, returns this season.

>Aaron Williams, returning from surgery to shave down the C4 and C5 vertebrae in his neck, was on and off the field during the non-contact drills. He repeatedly met with trainers. It will be interesting to see how he handles the hitting when the pads are on.

>Loved the concentration that tight end Jim Dray showed to catch a tipped ball. Charles Clay was steady and workmanlike in making catches on short sideline routes. Nick O'Leary doesn't look as if he added much in the way of bulk and muscle in the offseason.

 

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