Share this article

print logo

McDermott's return to Philadelphia all about business

Sean McDermott is well past the sentimental aspect of coaching a game in Philadelphia for an Eagles opponent.

"I guess if it were the first time that I was going back to Philadelphia as a coach, it would be a little bit different," he said of the Buffalo Bills' second preseason game Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia is where it all started for McDermott, where he was a standout wrestler and football player at LaSalle College High School, where he broke into the NFL in the Eagles' player-personnel department, where he rose up the ranks to defensive coordinator, where he spent 12 years building the foundation of a career that has put him in charge of his own football team.

However, during his six seasons overseeing the defense of the Carolina Panthers, McDermott has been back to the City of Brotherly Love. He has already done the whole homecoming thing.

"Maybe after the game I’ll have a chance to catch up with some family and friends and that will be nice, too," McDermott said.

For the most part, though, Thursday night is going to be about business. If 15 practices at the Bills' St. John Fisher College training camp showed nothing else, it is that the Bills have plenty of work to do in all phases. They need to be sharper in their execution. They need to concentrate better.

In short, they need to look more like the tighter-run outfit that they were expected to become after McDermott replaced Rex Ryan.

"You guys are getting to know me well enough now that I’m more focused on our team," McDermott said to reporters Tuesday, the Bills' final day of camp. "I want us to go out and perform the way I expect us to perform."

That didn't happen to his satisfaction in last Thursday night's 17-10 preseason-opening loss against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bills committed far too many penalties: 10 that were accepted for 106 yards, compared with the three for the Vikings.

McDermott detests self-inflicted wounds. He pointed out that the Bills beat themselves "numerous times" and must "get that corrected to go where we need to go."

The coach saw enough sloppiness and sluggishness through the first half of Monday's practice to bring the session to a sudden halt and verbally tear into his players and assistant coaches in the middle of the field. McDermott's heated words led to heated exchanges between players and more spirited effort the rest of the way, something the coach later said was the desired result.

What is on the coach's to-do list for the second preseason game?

"Improve," McDermott said. "I’m looking for us to improve in every area of our game – sideline communication, fundamentals, throwing and catching the football, discipline with the penalties that showed up last week.

"I’m looking for us to improve."

Thursday night will mark the Bills' first game since trading top receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams and top cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles. Darby is expected to make his Eagles preseason debut against his former team.

It will be interesting to see just how well the Bills' starting offense -- whose best moments came when Tyrod Taylor connected with Watkins for three passes in a row on Buffalo's first series against the Vikings -- functions minus what had been one of its best playmakers.

Running back LeSean McCoy, the most talented player on the team, should see a series or two after being in uniform but not on the field last Thursday night. But Taylor is going to get his first taste of life without any pass-catchers who can truly stretch the field.

Newly acquired Anquan Boldin will make his preseason debut for the Bills working mainly inside, and rookie Zay Jones will be the primary outside target.

Much of the attention of Bills fans will be focused on rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, who has been promoted ahead of T.J. Yates into the No. 2 spot. Peterman had a nice showing as a third-stringer in the Minnesota game, while Yates struggled. Peterman has a chance to solidify his role and possibly nudge Yates, a veteran who doesn't have much arm strength or accuracy, closer to being an ex-Bill.

McDermott insists that competition exists at all spots, meaning that Peterman could conceivably make a case to unseat Taylor at some point before or during the season.

Defensively, the Bills want to build upon a solid effort by their starters. With end Shaq Lawson returning from a groin injury, the pass rush should even be stronger than it was against Minnesota, when Eddie Yarbrough -- starting in Lawson's place -- continued the dominance he has shown in practice.

Kevon Seymour can help solidify his chances of winning the starting cornerback spot opposite rookie Tre'Davious White, while Reggie Ragland gets another chance to make his fading case to stick as a reserve middle linebacker.

After the game, McDermott will do some visiting with family and friends outside the charter buses that will transport the Bills to two planes that will take them back to Western New York.

"I believe my parents and my brother and sister-in-law and their family will be there," the coach said.

The pleasantries will have to wait. Just how pleasant they'll be will depend on how well the most important part of the trip goes for McDermott and his team.

There are no comments - be the first to comment