Bills head coach Sean McDermott met with reporters for his regularly scheduled Wednesday press conference. Bills first-and-second year players have played the third-most snaps in the NFL this season. The progress of the team’s young core is a big topic in this week’s 4 Notable Quotes:
Q: Sean, I know you spoke a little bit on Monday about the two wide receivers, the two young kids, but as a whole on this roster, can you address [the fact that] you’ve got the third most snaps of first and second year players in the league and the importance of how you’re developing this roster moving forward?
A: Yeah, you look at the draft class last year and the draft class this year, those guys are out there playing. The undrafted players, you watch the first and second year, you mention the play time [and] we’re third in the league with those guys playing. We probably would be even higher than that had Josh [Allen] played over the course of the time that he’d been out. You watch some of the highlights from the game, just fresh off the game, and you’re looking at first and second year players, a lot of those guys are making some, not only playing, but making some big plays in the game: Matt Milano, who’s had a heck of a year, you see Isaiah out there, McKenzie, the plays that Zay Jones has made. I know it’s not a stat, but the blocks that he’s made on Isaiah’s play on the touchdown run, I mean, those are factor plays for us. We just have to continue to develop these guys and sometimes, it takes time, and sometimes some guys get it quicker than others. [Robert] Foster is a good example. A guy undrafted out of Alabama, didn’t play a whole lot there. We just continue to work with these men on and off the field and develop them. When given the opportunity, what are you going to do with it? Robert’s been given the opportunity of late; he’s made the most of those opportunities. Isaiah’s made the most of those opportunities. We’ve got to continue with that growth mindset.
Q: With these young guys, their college season would be ending in a lot of ways [and] that ‘rookie wall’ that some guys can hit. How do you identify if that might be happening with some guys and what can you do to make sure they’re still engaged and everything through the end of the season here?
A: Yeah, that’s real. The ‘rookie wall’ is real. Just being around the league a number of years, that thing’s real. You balance it out a little bit with we try to adjust the schedule, as you guys have seen with our start time, our practices and their start time and then the reps so that we get these guys as fresh as possible this time of year. We’ve cut down our meetings as well now that the ownership then falls on them to make sure they’re doing the things outside of what’s on the itinerary to get the information they need to prepare and play well.
Q: Speaking again of a young guy, Levi Wallace last week played almost every snap. I know you’ve been a little bit pressed at cornerback because of injuries and you’ve kind of had to go with Levi, but you said earning the spot. Is that a kid who’s earned his spot if he keeps playing like this the rest of the year?
A: That’s an ongoing deal, and the way he’s played the last two weeks, there’s moments in there, the way he tackled this past week and you guys have heard me talk about how important it is that our corners tackle. He’s a player, young man with good instincts, good football instincts. [He] comes from a program in Alabama that is one of the best, if not the best in college football year after year. Even Levi can continue to grow and improve. That’s the mindset we all have to take; we’re not a finished product. We have to embrace that mindset of [knowing] I’m not where I need to be yet, but I’m going to get there if we continue to grow and continue to put in the hard work.
Q: Sean, you mentioned about young guys getting it or they don’t. As a staff, how do you come together to make a decision if a player is getting it and how much evidence do you need to assess that?
A: That’s the balance. I hate to say it that way [that] they’re either going to get it or they’re not. You want to be patient, and I learned that with Coach [Ron] Rivera in Carolina. You want to be patient, but you also have to say, “Are we giving them the resources, are we investing in them enough?” You’ve got to look at yourself first. We spend a lot of time communicating as a staff, communicating as coaches, myself with Brandon, our scouting staff and then with our player engagement department, our development team of Marlon Kerner, Len Vanden Bos, those guys, Katie Turner, Laura Young and all of those guys to make sure that we’re developing them and investing in them off the field as well as on the field with the coaches.