Bills close camp with playoffs-or-bust expectations
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) The high expectations running back Fred Jackson and the Bills had upon arriving at training camp a month ago haven’t lessened as the team prepares to head home.
”Oh man, this is by far the best team I’ve been a part of,” Jackson said Tuesday, after putting a close to his ninth Bills camp in suburban Rochester.
Playoffs or bust?
”Without a doubt,” he said. ”I think we’ve got the tools to do it. Our front office has done tremendous things to put us in a situation to win games and end this drought.”
The drought is the 15 consecutive seasons that the Bills have missed the playoffs. It’s the NFL’s longest active stretch.
Jackson is buoyed by top-to-bottom changes and additions the team has made since coach Rex Ryan took over in January. The Bills have restocked their offense with running back LeSean McCoy, tight end Charles Clay and receiver Percy Harvin, while keeping most of their attacking defense intact.
”It’s on us to go out and get it done,” Jackson said.
A few question marks still remain for Buffalo, which has a 1-1 preseason record and prepares to host Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Ryan still hasn’t settled on a starting quarterback, with Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel still in the mix for the job.
Injuries have become an issue. Before Jackson returned to practice last weekend, the Bills’ top five running backs – including McCoy (strained left hamstring) – were sidelined. Their top three receivers, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Harvin, are also nursing injuries.
General manager Doug Whaley isn’t ready to say it’s playoffs or bust, but likes Jackson’s confidence.
”Absolutely,” Whaley told The Associated Press. ”We’re in a mindset of it’s up to us. If we play the way we can play, the sky’s the limit.”
Some observations from the Bills’ final day at camp:
Forget the season opening starter, Ryan still isn’t yet ready to reveal which quarterback will go first against the Steelers this weekend.
And Ryan cautioned reporters for reading too much into which quarterback spent more time with the starting offense in practice, after Cassel took most of the first-team snaps Tuesday.
Cassel started and played two series in a 25-24 preseason-opening loss to Carolina. Taylor then played the first half and Manuel the second in an 11-10 win at Cleveland last week.
”We said it was going to be a while. We weren’t going to rush into making that decision,” Ryan said. ”We’re still in that process.”
The starting offensive line is nearly set after Ryan stopped just short of awarding the right tackle job to incumbent Seantrel Henderson.
”I don’t want to say 100 percent, but he’s done a tremendous job,” Ryan said. ”Barring an unforeseen thing, I expect him to be out there.”
Henderson opened camp competing for the job with Cyrus Kouandjio. The other four spots are set with left tackle Cordy Glenn, center Eric Wood and guards Richie Incognito and rookie John Miller.
McCoy was in a good mood while working out on the sideline for the first time since being hurt on Aug. 18. In the direction of a few reporters, he ribbed Watkins who is nursing a sore hamstring.
”I don’t know if you have the update: Sammy Watkins has the `Allen’ injury,” McCoy said with a smile. He was referring to former NBA star Allen Iverson, who once questioned the importance of practice over playing in a game.
McCoy added: ”(Watkins has) got to keep the Ferrari in the shop until Sundays, I guess.”
Harvin worked out for the first time since being sidelined by a hip injury two weeks ago. If he can’t play Saturday, Ryan hopes Harvin can dress for the Bills preseason finale at Detroit on Sept. 3. Clay was held out after hurting his knee during practice, but is expected to play Saturday.
UP NEXT: The Bills get a day off Wednesday before resuming practice at their Orchard Park headquarters on Thursday.
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