Bills observations: Keon Coleman shows his size on bigger Bills WR corps


Staff member

Let the record show that on the first play of 11-on-11 work in Tuesday’s Buffalo Bills spring practice, the ball went to rookie receiver Keon Coleman, and he made the catch on a shallow crossing pattern.

Coleman, the Bills’ top pick in the NFL draft, also made one of the best catches of the practice, stretching his 6-foot-3 frame high to snag the ball about 20 yards down the field along the sideline on a bullet throw from Josh Allen.

The Bills’ increased size at wide receiver was obvious during the organized-team activity workout in Orchard Park.

The Bills have six wideouts on the roster who are 6-3 or 6-4, and three of them are penciled into the top five spots at the position. They are Coleman, newly acquired Marquez Valdes-Scantling and free-agent signee and veteran special teamer Mack Hollins. Valdes-Scantling and Hollins both are 6-4, as are Chase Claypool, Justin Shorter and Tyrell Shavers.

Claypool, a former second-round pick of the Steelers, is trying to resurrect his career with the Bills in his fifth pro season. Shorter is a 2023 fifth-round pick, and Shavers is a 2023 undrafted prospect.

Besides’ Coleman’s sideline grab in 7-on-7 work, the other highlight catch came on the next play, when tight end Dalton Kincaid made a leaping grab over coverage on an intermediate-level pass from Allen along the sideline. Claypool caught a deep ball off an underthrown pass from No. 2 QB Mitch Trubisky, making a leaping catch over defensive backs.

Other practice notes: Rookie defensive tackle Branson Deen was shaken up on a play and walked off the field. ... Rookie running back Ray Davis looked like a smooth catcher out of the backfield. ... Running back James Cook had an early drop, but then plucked a seam pass and made a long gainer off a short swing pass. ... Defensive end Von Miller ran a post-play sprint the length of the field, perhaps penalizing himself after overrunning a play.

Bills receiver Keon Coleman makes a catch during a drill at the ADPRO Sports Training Center on Tuesday. Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

Here were other observations and reactions from the Bills’ practice Tuesday during Week 1 of OTAs:

1. Good attendance
The workouts are voluntary, but the only players not in attendance were cornerback Rasul Douglas and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones.

Coach Sean McDermott on the new look to his younger team: “The older guys who have since moved on, that’s hard to see, right. But it’s a necessary part of our business. But the new faces, getting those players up to speed, there’s kind of a new excitement around, new energy. Having to tell players how to get to the cafeteria, how to get to where the team meeting room, some of it’s first-day-of-school-type stuff. I’ve been very impressed with, No. 1, the attendance that we’ve had. We’ve had great attendance throughout the whole offseason.”

2. Injury report
Players not practicing due to injuries or offseason surgeries included linebacker Matt Milano, receiver Bryan Thompson, tackle Tommy Doyle and safety Mike Edwards. McDermott said Edwards, the veteran signed from Kansas City, is dealing with a shoulder injury and will be out for another three or four weeks.

Starting right tackle Spencer Brown is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but he was in full uniform and taking part in individual drills. He was held out of 11-on-11 work.

McDermott on Milano, who suffered a broken leg on Oct. 8: “Yeah, so the word I’ve gotten from our training staff is that he’s on schedule. Matt’s here every day. I can tell you that he’s working hard. It’s probably going to be more closer to training camp until we see him out there, maybe some drill work before that, maybe not.”

3. A non-issue – for now
McDermott stressed that whether new defensive coordinator Bobby Babich calls the plays during the 2024 season will not be determined until mid-August at the earliest.

“It’s probably a more fair question at this point for the middle of training camp,” McDermott said. “So I won’t make a decision before then ... you guys can keep that question in your back pocket for training camp, middle of training camp.”

Many spring practice plays are scripted so they can see specific offensive calls vs. specific defenses and vice versa.

McDermott on whether Babich would get some play-calling done in spring: “Well, yes, but prematurely a little bit. We’ve only been out there for one practice, so a lot of our practice early on is always scripted, so there’s very low, if any, play-calling going on. It’s more scripted-out practices, scripted-out situations.”

4. Eye in the booth assistance
The Bills last week hired former NFL referee John Parry as a staff member. Parry, 59, was an NFL on-field official from 2000 to 2018. He served from 2019 to 2023 as an analyst on officiating for ESPN.

McDermott acknowledged that it is an effort to get better at making decisions on replay reviews during games.

“So fortunate that we can add John to our staff,” McDermott said. “You’re always looking to improve, right? We had a similar role on staff last season. And now we had a chance to add John, who’s basically been in the seat in some capacity in the role that he possessed with the broadcast over the last couple of years. ... More and more, I think that’s getting more attention. And it’ll play a more pivotal role in games. And you guys see it every week, right? So it’s just trying to ... by the nth degree, continue to find ways to make us better. And whether it’s reviewing plays, being experts in the rules, managing games, all those things. So even Monday through Saturday, some of those areas, I just think we can never get enough of.”