Thursday, August 21, 2014

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Implementing new schemes

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The Bills continued week two of their OTA practices on Tuesday morning. The Jairus Byrd contract standoff remains the most pressing issue at One Bills Drive. There's no end in sight. There's been no talk of contract negotiations, and there's a very real possibility that this standoff could last for the entirety of the offseason workouts.

Meanwhile, Bills coaches have been using the first five practices to install their new schemes on both sides of the ball. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likened his installation to a sponge soaking up information, and noted the importance of constant change.

"I think a cornerstone of the system is flexibility," Pettine said. "You have to have the ability to have guys play multiple positions and multiple jobs."

There's ben questions about whether Mario Williams and Mark Anderson will play defensive end or outside linebacker. Bryan Scott has been asked if he'll be a safety or a linebacker. The answer is yes, to all of the above.

"If you want confuse an offense, I think you have to have guys be at defensive end and outside linebacker - a safety, an inside backer. A big part of the NFL is identifying guys pre-snap. We want to limit the amount of pre-snap information that we're putting out to an offense."

New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett takes on the challenge of teaching rookies at quarterback and wide receiver. He has the benefit of two strong running backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and plans to mold that all into a well balanced attack.

"I think you've got to have a little bit of everything," Hackett said. "I think you have to have a smash mouth mentality, along with the ability to go deep and scare people with your speed.

"I think it's just all about an attitude up front. It depends. If it's a protection, it can be smash mouth too. It's how you approach everything. That's the attitude, and as a coach, all the coaches together, that's what we really have to instill in these guys. No matter what they're doing, it's going to be a physical game. We never want them to be soft."

Tuesdays session marked the first time that receiver Stevie Johnson was able to participate, limited to individual drills. The Bills top receiver is rehabbing a back injury, suffered in the team's mini-camp last month. Johnson will be called upon as the leader of a very young receiving core this season, and his new offensive coordinator noted he's been involved through the injury.

"The good thing is, Stevie's done a great job being out there and supporting everybody, because he's obviously had to have some growing pains in the new system," Hackett said. "So he's been able to really get a lot of mental reps, and I think being out there and helping those guys has been critical for all of them. His presence has been out there the whole time, just it's nice to see him in a helmet from all of our standpoint."

Johnson was obviously glad to return to work with the team, after spending the previous days working on individual conditioning on the sideline.

"It's all to get me right, to get me going for training camp and the mini camp, and to get me going for the season. Just doing whatever they're telling me to do."

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