James Cook looks ready to take Bills offense to next level (Camp Day 4 Observations)
May 30, 2023
Pittsford, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott was asked about running back James Cook when the team opened up training camp earlier this week.
What is Cook’s role going to be in 2023?
“Roles to me are defined a little bit more once we get to cut down time,” McDermott said. “Right now it’s hey, go out there and compete and continue to grow as a football player. He’s just in his second year now. So we’ll see how that competition plays out.”
Cook has been a mainstay on the Bills’ first-team offense through the first four days of practice at St. John Fisher University. He’s flashed on a number of big plays and added another one to the highlight reel on Sunday. The Bills even shared the video on their social channels (watch here).
Cook is a potential matchup nightmare for opposing defenses if he’s going to be the playmaker he’s been in shorts and T-Shirts this week. On this particular play, quarterback Josh Allen quickly recognized Cook getting to the second level and single coverage against safety Micah Hyde. Cook flew past the defense and the ball was there on a platter as he crossed into the end zone.
Cook’s virtually unguardable in one-on-ones against linebackers and safeties. He has been a consistent presence in the pass game throughout camp, fulfilling the role general manager Brandon Beane foreshadowed when he spoke about selecting Cook in the draft last year.
#4 running back James Cook. Buffalo Bills fourth day of training held at St. John Fischer University in Pittsford N.Y., July 30, 2023. The team trains and fans get a chance at some games and autographs. Dennis Nett | [email protected]
Every day that Cook takes the practice field, he said one of his top priorities is continuing to work on his chemistry with Allen.
“(We’re working on) me and Josh being on the same page, me being his running back, next to him,” Cook said. “Being able to coordinate and knowing what he’s doing and he knows what I’m doing. Just little things like that. ... Also, just talking to him, like, what he’s thinking, what I’m thinking. So just keep building in practice each and every day.”
So much has been made about rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid’s arrival as the missing piece to the Bills’ offense. That could be the case and Kincaid has looked good in camp, too. But Cook is going to have the ball in his hand in the run game and factor plenty into the passing game. Pads come on Monday, which should give us a really good look at how the offense is coming along.
Here are some more Sunday observations.
Poona Ford rumbles for TD
Ford has been turning up the pressure as a pass rusher the past few days but it was his patience that paid off in a big way on one Matt Barkley throw Sunday. Barkley must not have seen the 6-foot, 310-pounder roaming around the line of scrimmage when he tried to dump off a short pass.
Ford swooped into the passing lane, intercepted the pass, and ran it all the way back for the touchdown. Allen wasn’t even in on the play but he jokingly ran down Ford and tried to strip the ball out from his hands. Ford’s number 98 keeps appearing more in my notebook by the day as he continues to get more comfortable in the Bills defense.
Kim Pegula was at practice
Bills owner Kim Pegula attended practice for the first time since she suffered cardiac arrest over a year ago. She watched on from inside a Pegula family SUV and McDermott and Allen made their way over to the SUV to speak with her during practice.
Jordan Poyer picks another one
Tre’Davious White made this play possible with his excellent coverage on Stefon Diggs. The Bills had the ball in a red zone period and Allen was locked in on Diggs near the goal line. The throw was high because White had Diggs covered, and Allen paid for it. Poyer came flying into the play to intercept Allen again for the second time in four days.
Poyer and Hyde have been on the field together for the majority of first-team reps throughout camp. Taylor Rapp has been getting some occasional snaps but it’s been mostly the veterans. Dawson Knox had Rapp confused on one play when Allen found him quickly after the snap as Rapp was dealing with multiple players in the area.
Poyer meets with Nick Mayerik
Bills superfan Eddie Mayerik passed away earlier this month after a years-long battle with two heart valve defects. The 8-year-old loved the Bills and his father, Nick, documented his journey. He became a symbol of positivity and joy among Bills fans on social media. When Poyer heard about his story, he set it up to meet Nick Mayerik after practice on Sunday. You can watch the video below.
After practice today, Jordan Poyer met @NickMayerik to let him know how inspirational he has been as a father and how Eddie inspired everybody. It was a really special moment. pic.twitter.com/99aAsZHQOT
Kaiir Elam works on 1st team
Elam finally had a chance to play the majority of the first-team snaps opposite White. He had some up-and-down moments throughout the day. McDermott was asked before practice how Elam has been performing and he only went as far as to say that he’s been doing some good things. He also said the cornerback number two position is a competition where there is a question that needs to be answered. Elam often seems to go into recovery mode when he’s out of position. He is working on his ability to play off the ball but is often too far off the player he’s covering. He had some good reps in the final hurry-up period.
Pay attention to Tim Settle
Settle had at least one sack and turned in a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage in a day filled with big plays for the defensive line. Settle came into camp down another notch on the depth chart after the team signed Ford in May. He’s been a popular cut candidate among fans but his play early in camp seems to indicate that he’ll be a bigger part of the defense than first expected. Depending on how long Jordan Phillips needs to recover from offseason surgery, Settle could find himself with a worthwhile spot in the interior defensive line rotation.
O’Cyrus Torrence flashes in 1v1s
Torrence was given even more first-team reps during practice on Sunday, mixing in with Ryan Bates, who’s started to work in a center on the second team in addition to right guard on the first team. Torrence held his own on several collisions during team drills, but it was his rep against Ford in 1v1s that stood out. Ford exploded off the line and beat Torrence around the outside edge, but the rookie recovered and managed to use Ford’s momentum against him to drive him into the turf.
Justin Shorter flashes
Shorter has been mostly quiet in team drills the first few days but created some separation on one play and showed off his second gear on the run after the catch. Shorter needs to pile up these plays with the Bills all-of-a-sudden on the lookout for more talent at receiver. They signed Andy Isabella earlier in the week and brought in former 1st-round pick N’Keal Harry for a workout.
Under-the-radar o-lineman to watch
Ryan Van Demark signed on to the Bills practice squad last season and has been quietly developing over the past season. He’s started to pop a bit over the last few days and had one rep in 1v1s that stood out. He was working against defensive tackle Cortez Broughton and the second-year tackle showed off excellent technique, power, control, and footwork to stifle Broughton’s push. Van Demark is a fun name to watch in the preseason because there isn’t a ton of depth at tackle behind Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown.
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