LeSean McCoy seemed generally surprised by learning that the Buffalo Bills have the exact same record through six games as they did a year ago.
"We were 4-2 last year?" McCoy asked, repeating the start of a question to him Wednesday. "I didn't know. Wow."
After a pair of losses to start last season, the Bills ran off four straight wins, but it's easy to see why McCoy was forgetful of that. Those wins came against Arizona (7-8-1 last season), a New England team starting a rookie third-string quarterback, the L.A. Rams (4-12) and the San Francisco 49ers (2-14). So it's not a surprise that this year's 4-2 start feels different to McCoy.
"We're winning games, but we're not playing our best ball," he said. "That's major. If we were playing our best ball, we might be winning games by bigger margins. So it feels a lot different than last year."
McCoy said that "different" feeling compared to a year ago emanates from two places. No. 1 is coach Sean McDermott.
"He's solid. He's honest. What you see is what you get," McCoy said. "He preaches and coaches the team thing. Everything we do here is team-based. Off the field, too. He approaches it that way, knowing your teammates."
No. 2 is the doubt those outside the team expressed about the Bills' chances this year.
"We feel it, we hear it. That makes us more together, I think," he said. "I guess because of the moves maybe, like, 'Oh, they're trying to tank and get more picks.' I mean, it's how you look at it. As players, you know, we come here every day for hours trying to win. Hearing the 'tanking' word, it can rub you the wrong way if you let it, because you know how much hard work you put into it, training, offseason working out. During the season, the hits, all the maintenance you do on your body.
"So the tanking word, you can take it a negative way. Players like us, we just want to win. We do a lot to be here. We've got families to take care of, so we put a lot of hard work and effort into this game."
The Bills were unable to get to 5-2 last season, blowing a double-digit lead to the Miami Dolphins in the second half – a pivotal turning point in what crumbled to a 7-9 finish. If this year is truly going to be different, a win Sunday over the Oakland Raiders would go a long way toward proving that. The Bills also blew a double-digit, second-half lead at Oakland last December.
"We had 'em," McCoy said. "But that's last year. They're a whole different team, I think, than last year. Still talented, still good. But I think we're a different team, too, you know, so I think it will be a good game."
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Richie Incognito finished the Bills' victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, but the ankle injury that temporarily sidelined him during the game kept him out of Wednesday's practice.
McDermott said the Bills were mainly being careful with Incognito and did not seem concerned that the veteran guard would miss the Raiders' game.
"I know he feels real good," McDermott said. "It's just a matter of just being, at this point in the week, cautionary and kind of building up to the game on Sunday."
Other injured players who missed practice are safety Jordan Poyer (knee), cornerback E.J. Gaines (hamstring), tight end Charles Clay (knee) and linebacker Ramon Humber (thumb). Tight end Logan Thomas was excused for what McDermott said were "personal" reasons.
"We'll see," McDermott said, when asked when he expected Thomas back. Asked if there was a possibility Thomas would miss Sunday's game, McDermott said, "Again, we'll see. I wish I could give you more right now."
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, McCoy and defensive tackle Kyle Williams received veteran rest days.
McDermott said Poyer and Gaines were day to day.
"We'll see how that goes this week," the coach said of Poyer. "We prepare everyone and that's why our approach is the way it is every week and the players take pride in preparing, even though they may not have been starters before now so that when their number's called, they're ready to go. And that's also a big philosophical approach on our coaching staff of developing all the players on our football team, not just the starters."
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Still looking for the right depth at cornerback, the Bills Wednesday claimed Lafayette Pitts off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bills also released cornerback Tony McRae, who they acquired off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens Monday.
The Jaguars waived the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Pitts Tuesday. He has 14 games of NFL experience -- mostly on special teams -- with the Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins, who signed him as an undrafted free agent from Pittsburgh last year.
Pitts, who in 51 collegiate starts had 152 tackles and four interceptions, spent time on the Dolphins' active roster and practice squad.
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Although rookie Matt Milano has performed well in his place, Humber will return to the starting lineup once he's healthy, according to McDermott.
"And the great part is we’ve got, now, experience with a young player that when, and if used, he’ll be ready to go because he’s played," the coach said. "Like I said before, whether it’s the Cincinnati game last week, the great part about this week also is we got so many young guys that are getting valuable, significant experience that bodes well for the future."
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The Bills worked out wide receiver Rod Streater this week. McDermott said the team was going through its "due diligence" as it awaits the expiration of the period during which it cannot sign Streater because the club reached an injury settlement with him on Sept. 2. Under settlement rules, the original team is not allowed to re-sign the player until three weeks after an agreed-upon number of weeks that it was paying him.
Asked if that stretch was completed, McDermott said, "No, I don't believe so."
News Sports Reporter Jay Skurski contributed to this report.