The focal point of the Buffalo Bills’ offense will play in the season opener. Coach Rex Ryan declared running back LeSean McCoy “ready to roll” Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
McCoy suffered a hamstring injury Aug. 18 in a joint practice with the Cleveland Browns, rehabbed and returned to practice this week.
“He’s practicing full,” Ryan said. “So he’ll be ready.”
This offense starts, first, with the 27-year-old back.
Expect the Bills to use McCoy heavily in both the run and pass game, as they view him as an every-down player. Ryan jokingly dismissed the idea of a pitch count. As for McCoy, he said he’s been doing more and more each day since the injury.
“I feel comfortable,” McCoy said. “I’m not sure I’ll be exactly 100 percent, but I feel good enough to go out there and compete.”
Prior to the injury, there were promising signs.
One practice, McCoy had a circus catch over linebacker Nigel Bradham in one-on-ones’s. Other days, he was decisive with his cuts out of the read option with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The challenge for McCoy will be operating behind a fullback – the last two seasons he was exclusively a single back.
In 2013, when McCoy rushed for a career-high 1,607 yards, the Eagles used multi-back personnel 2 percent of the time. In 2014, they did so 0.5 percent of the time. No other team comes close to Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s use of the single back.
The Bills didn’t necessarily need to see that McCoy was still an explosive, elite threat. Both Ryan and running backs coach Anthony Lynn raved about the veteran this week. But he also didn’t get a lot of practice time behind Jerome Felton.
That’ll change in a hurry Sunday.
“Hey it’s not ideal,” Ryan said, “but this dude can play, I see it on the practice field. So I’m not concerned, recognizing that we haven’t necessarily seen as much work at all the skill positions.”
The biggest hurdle to returning, McCoy said, was making cuts at “full speed.” He did have a hamstring problem in Philadelphia but reiterated he’s “ready to go” and can “play with all types of things.”
Wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip) missed practice Wednesday on a scheduled rest day. Linebacker Tony Steward (knee) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs) also were out.
In addition to McCoy, wide receivers Sammy Watkins (hamstring), Robert Woods (hip) and Chris Hogan (knee), defensive end Mario Williams (calf) and tight end Charles Clay (knee) were all full participants.
“I think I am ready to play,” Watkins said. “For the most part just getting mentally and physically prepared for this game. It is going to be a physical battle so I think I am in shape, I am ready to go.”
Hogan isn’t 100 percent but will play. He sprained his knee in Buffalo’s Aug. 20 exhibition win at Cleveland.
“It’s one of those things I just have to deal with,” Hogan said. “But once I get warmed up, like today, I took some extra time warming it and everything. Come Sunday, I’ll be good to go no matter what.”
In this offense, Hogan sees himself as the third or fourth receiver who can play inside or outside.
Said Hogan, “I’ve got to know every position. I’ll be that guy who comes in and gets done whatever’s asked.”
Defensive end Jerry Hughes has every reason to be extra jacked for this season opener. He’s facing the team that drafted him, then gave up on him.
Indianapolis shipped the 2010 first-round pick to Buffalo after three lackluster seasons for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. He’s had 20 sacks in two seasons since. Meanwhile, Sheppard lasted one year in Indianapolis.
Hughes downplayed the extra motivation Wednesday.
“It’s Week One in the NFL,” he said, “and I’m just excited to be back on the field playing football so it doesn’t matter who it was, they were going to get me full speed no matter what.”
Also on Wednesday, the Bills signed sixth-round pick Nick O’Leary to the practice squad. The tight end had been cut to make room for quarterback Matt Cassel on the 53-man roster.