DETROIT — It took a full month of camp and exhibition games, but this was the wide receiver the Buffalo Bills were hoping they had all along. Seventh-round pick Dezmin Lewis ended his first NFL summer on a high note in Thursday's 17-10 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Quiet much of training camp, Lewis played the entire game at Ford Field and responded with six receptions for 81 yards.
Now, he waits to see if he makes the team.
"That's all up to the personnel and the coaches," Lewis said. "That's their situation. I can only go out and compete every day. Continue to get better. Continue to take in information and better myself as a player. I'm just going to continue to learn, continue to perfect my craft and whatever the coaches decide, that's their decision."
Very raw out of Central Arkansas, Lewis possesses rare physical traits. He's a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder still learning how to use his size at receiver. Maybe now he's starting to put it together.
In the two-minute drill, Lewis hung onto a 16-yarder in front of a defender. Later, on third and 8, he caught one for 11 yards on an in-breaking route knowing a linebacker was lurking nearby. Lewis cut to the post wide open in the third quarter for 28 yards when two Lions defensive backs stayed with a vertical route.
He fought back for a contested 12-yard reception with cornerback Quandre Diggs all over him.
It was the mash-up of plays wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal needed to see. Lewis said that Sammy Watkins has stayed on him the last two weeks, pushing him. And the No. 1 point of emphasis has been for Lewis to stay physical.
Early in camp, he wasn't happy with his own play.
"More so frustrated at myself because I know I can be that guy coach tells me to be," Lewis said. "I have to be consistent. I couldn't be more thankful for my coach and my wide receiver group. They all stayed on me in a good way. It was nothing negative. They all want to see us succeed. So they're in my ear a lot, continuing to motivate me to get better.
"Sammy has stayed on me every day. He was really on me yesterday with little smart comments like 'C'mon Dez, you've got to do this!' It carried into today. It really helps. It really motivates you to go push and be that person, be that guy who makes plays."
Most of training camp, Deonte Thompson and Andre Davis made more plays. But if the Bills are patient, there may be more of a long-term pay-off in Lewis. Also, Thompson has a foot injury, and Chris Hogan (knee) and Marquise Goodwin (ribs) are currently out. Hogan does expect to be ready for Week 1 and is not worried about his roster spot.
Beyond roster locks Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin and core special-teamer Marcus Easley, the Bills have decisions to make. Five? Six? However you slice it, Lewis will at least make the Bills brass think a little harder these next 48 hours.
Lewis plans on having a cookout with the wideouts as he waits to hear the good or bad news. When asked if the Bills want him to stay on the practice squad and he gets an offer from another team what he'd do, Lewis would rather play.
"Everybody wants to play," he said. "Everybody wants to be a part of the 53-man roster. I'm just taking it one day at a time. Whatever happens tomorrow and the future is there."
And wherever he ends up, Lewis believes this game was a major step in the right direction.
Lal and co. have been on him to be more physical.
"It really boosts my confidence to know that I can do that," Lewis said. "My Coach told me to go out, be physical and play hard every play. That's the main thing. I was proud of myself to play the whole game and special teams, fighting through it. That's a big thing for myself, to know I can push through when I'm tired."