PITTSFORD – The Buffalo Bills started to mix in some scout team Tuesday as they prepare for their first preseason game.
Here are our 11 observations from the 11th day of camp at St John Fisher College:
1. Anquan Boldin took the field in his familiar No. 81. The veteran wide receiver, signed Monday, participated in his first practice as a member of the Bills. Boldin wore No. 81, which meant Andre Holmes switched to No. 18 and wide receiver/returner Rashad Ross took No. 86.
2. Sean McDermott has set the plan for the preseason opener. The Bills' head coach said Tuesday that the starters "will go about a quarter, give or take," against the Minnesota Vikings at New Era Field. That includes receiver Sammy Watkins, who suffered a minor ankle injury Sunday.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn (foot soreness) and defensive end Shaq Lawson (groin) are day to day, the coach said, so their status "remains up in the air" for the game.
Defensive end Ryan Davis (concussion), wide receiver Jeremy Butler (concussion) and cornerback Kevon Seymour (foot soreness) sat out Tuesday's practice, the team's final one at St. John Fisher before Thursday's game. Defensive end Ian Sean returned to practice after being out with a foot injury.
3. Michael Ola is working some at guard. After starting training camp at tackle, the Bills gave Ola reps at left guard with the second team Tuesday. If he can provide the flexibility to play both positions, it could go a long way toward earning Ola a roster spot. As it stands, the top four tackles in camp are Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills, Dion Dawkins and Seantrel Henderson.
Henderson, though, is suspended for the first five games of the season, which means Ola could be called on to be the swing tackle in case of an injury, which is possible with Glenn dealing with foot soreness. Inside, the starters are Richie Incognito at left guard, Eric Wood at center and Jordan Mills at right tackle. Ryan Groy is firmly established as the backup center, while Vlad Ducasse has seen some first-team reps.
If Ola is to earn a roster spot, he'll likely have to beat out Ducasse.
4. The Bills might still be able to net a compensatory third-round draft pick. General Manager Brandon Beane had this to say Monday about the situation: "I wouldn’t be doing my job if I don’t pay attention to that so obviously, I do. But again, I’m factoring a lot of decisions, a lot of reasoning going behind every decision, but I’m very aware of, when I walked in, how the formula works. I believe you use it when you can, but not in throwing a worse team out there as well."
To recap, the Bills would have to release three of their seven qualifying free-agent signings to likely land a third-round draft pick for the loss of cornerback Stephon Gilmore. That group of players is made up of Andre Holmes, Ryan Davis, Vlad Ducasse, Stephen Hauschka, Patrick DiMarco, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
Of that group, a case can be made that Holmes' roster spot became more tenuous when Boldin signed. The same would be true of Ducasse if Ola were to move ahead of him, while Davis is currently out of the lineup. If four of the above were to be released, it could net a third- and fourth-round pick, for the loss of Robert Woods.
5. Rod Streater provided his usual daily highlight. The veteran wide receiver, whom McDermott called one of the "highlights" of camp last week, provided a highlight play Tuesday when he made a diving catch of a deep pass from T.J. Yates. After the catch, owner Terry Pegula shook Streater's hand.
"It's exciting to hear the head man praise you," Streater said. "It just lets you know you're going in the right direction. We have four preseason games and a long season coming up. I'm just trying to make at least one big play a day. Come Thursday night, make some noise and do my job."
6. Philly Brown is sliding down the depth chart. The addition of Boldin will naturally push the other receivers not named Sammy Watkins down the depth chart. That's the case with Brown, who was taking reps with the third team Tuesday. Even worse, he had a bad drop during team drills.
7. Nick O'Leary quietly having a good camp. The Bills' backup tight end has gotten plenty of work with the starters when Charles Clay has gotten rest days, and continues to produce. O'Leary has caught just about everything that's come his way and looks to have solidified his hold on the backup job.
8. Austin Rehkow still getting a look on field goals. The Bills used both Hauschka and Rehkow, the undrafted rookie out of Idaho, for field goals Tuesday.
"With the ability he has to do all three in training camp, with as much work as we’re trying to get done especially situationally, when that stuff ties together, his ability to do everything really plays to our benefit – which is why he’s going to get work at all three, both in practice and in the games," special teams coordinator Danny Crossman said of Rehkof.
9. McDermott was thrilled to hear from Olympic gold medalist wrestler Jordan Burroughs on Monday. A former high school wrestler – which is the new "Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard" – McDermott called it a "great honor" for Burroughs to address the team.
"He's got family in the area and we were just blessed to have Jordan share with us a little bit," McDermott said of Burroughs, whose wife, Lauren, is a native Western New Yorker. "I've been an admirer of his career, certainly with a wrestling background, for years. I just really appreciated that. Our players appreciated it and he just had a tremendous message for all of us."
The meeting was set up by Jeremy Kelley, who woks in the Bills' alumni department.
"All that that embodies – the toughness, the dedication, the mental toughness part of it. Greatness. Any time we can be around that, it's a good thing," McDermott said.
10. The Bills once again conducted nearly their entire practice on the auxiliary field at St. John Fisher. That's less than ideal for fans, who are forced to stand around the field and fight for a spot with a decent view. McDermott explained that the primary grass practice field, which has bleachers on both sides, has "naturally wear and tear" that is preventing the team from practicing on it.
"We’re trying to keep the practice in front of the fans, the grandstand if you will, as much as we can," he said. "I want the fans to have a great view and sightlines of our football team, that’s what they’re here for and we want to give them that. Just with the wear and tear on field one, if you will, over the course of time, it wears down a little bit and we just have to offset. It’s like crop rotation; you’ve got to move it around a little bit. We’ll be back on the other field in due time here, we just need to give it some rest so it can heal up."
11. The Bills will hold a walkthrough Wednesday that is closed to both fans and the media before returning home to Orchard Park for Thursday's game.