4 takeaways: Bills practice harmony in opening OTAs

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — As cranes hovered over excavators, graders, loaders and the like building Buffalo’s new football stadium across Abbot Road, the Bills have gotten to work reconstructing their championship window after tightening the talent roster this offseason.

Buffalo Bills offseason tracker: Free agent signings, releases, moves

Entering phase two of organized team activities this week, the Bills opened the first of three voluntary minicamps. Each OTA consists of three unpadded practices in helmets and shorts. Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s workout.

Allen welcoming new weapons

Josh Allen is getting acquainted with a number of new receivers, notably top draft pick Keon Coleman, along with free agent acquisitions Curtis Samuel, Mack Hollins, Chase Claypool and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Valdes-Scantling, the most recent addition, entered the league catching passes from MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and won two Super Bowls playing with Patrick Mahomes, and he made sure to wish his new quarterback a happy 28th birthday on Tuesday.

“That’s MVS,” Allen said. “What a guy.”

Valdes-Scantling said Allen invited him over to his house for dinner during his free agent visit, and their bond helped in his decision to sign with the Bills.

“It’s my second day here, but I can tell he’s a great leader,” the veteran wideout said. “Obviously he can spread the ball, and that’s the most important thing. But he also cares about his teammates. I think that’s something that both those guys that I had before also did. Obviously you care about winning, and you want to go out and win Super Bowls. But caring about the people that you go to war with every day, that’s something I can see that Josh has, and those other two guys have.”

Reclamation project

Claypool, the former Dolphins receiver who was a first-round pick by the Steelers, has impressed coach Sean McDermott with determination to regain the form he showed in a standout rookie season.

“I applaud Chase for coming here to see where things go,” McDermott said. “And so he’s very focused, he’s working extremely hard day in and day out. And embracing not just the wide receiver role that he could play for us, but also the special teams role that he could play for us.”

“You don’t find that a lot around the NFL,” the coach continued, “where a player has been at a certain level and then is on a mission right now to reclaim what he once was in that regard. And those are my words, maybe not fair to Chase, respectfully. But I would just say like very impressed with his day to day approach, true pro, high character, smart player, and he’s been a good addition to our team.”

With the Bills the receiving corps after trading Stefon Diggs and losing Gabe Davis in free agency, Allen is embracing the new personalities and figuring out what they can bring to Buffalo’s passing game.

“I think it’s an opportunity number one,” Allen said. “A chance to grow as a leader, to grow as a teammate and rely on some other guys that maybe haven’t been around but have a lot of experience in the NFL. Bringing in a guy like Mack Hollins and MVS and leaning on who they’ve been around and just kind of listening to what they have to say, bringing along some of the younger guys and getting to know new guys. This is a time in the offseason where you get to know guys on a deeper level and get to know where they come from and what makes them tick. So, it’s always a fun experience.”

Pivotal exchange

While learning about his new receivers, Allen also needs to adjust to a new starting center for the first time in his career. Connor McGovern has moved over from guard to replace Pro Bowler Mitch Morse.

“Well we get here, we’re two of the first guys here,” Allen said. “And we’re sitting in the training room getting stretched out, hanging out right by each other for a good 45 (minutes) to an hour or so. I think that’s part of it is just understanding each other off the field, and developing a constant line of communication, because the center-quarterback position, that’s a lot of it, understanding how we’re talking, who we’re talking to, who we’re miking, how we can communicate sometimes non-verbally within a play, too.

“So I think that, again, the off-field stuff pays dividends on field. And when we’re out here, we’re getting extra reps  and making sure that we’re just talking through things after the play. So, that’s kind of what we’re doing now.”

Participant list

Top cornerback Rasul Douglas and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones are not present for the voluntary camp, but overall the Bills have had excellent participation in the offseason program, McDermott said. And there is a notable lack of disaffected holdouts, compared to last spring when Diggs’ extended absence from OTAs signaled disharmony with Allen and the Bills.

“We’ve had great attendance throughout the whole offseason,” McDermott said. “A couple of guys missing here and there.”

As for injured players, leading linebacker Matt Milano remains at least a month away from being able to practice after breaking his leg last season. Starting right tackle Spencer Brown is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and newly-signed safety Mike Edwards also did not take part in team drills due to a shoulder ailment.

Bills LB Matt Milano not yet ready to practice


Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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