Orchard Park, N.Y. — When the Buffalo Bills lost Jake Kumerow last season after the New Orleans Saints plucked him off their practice squad, Sean McDermott said he was missed.
“Just in the locker room, the vibe of the team, and so to have the chance to get him back here was a big opportunity for us,” McDermott said earlier this week. “I think he’s off to a great start in camp.”
Kumerow made the most of his opportunities last season with the Bills, showing what he can do in special teams and then making a highlight reel moment with his one target of the season. The 29-year-old got to play some receiver against the Denver Broncos in December and caught a 22-yard touchdown pass. That was enough for the Saints to grab him before later releasing him. He found his way back to the Bills and stuck around this offseason because of how much he loved it in Buffalo.
Now fighting for a roster spot in a talent-rich wide receivers room, Kumerow has been the biggest playmaker of the bunch behind Stefon Diggs since training camp began last week. He’s made big catches and has been up to the challenge against some of the Bills best defensive backs.
On Thursday the Bills were in shells and Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t practicing because of a foot injury. That meant Kumerow had more opportunities to show off what he can do – and he looked like a superstar. It’s important to remember that we’re talking about practice here, but as far as that goes the former Green Bay Packer has been outstanding.
The Bills started things off with receiver vs. defensive back one-on-ones at practice and Kumerow must have drawn the short straw. He was matched up against Tre’Davious White on both of his routes. The first was a go ball and Josh Allen threw a gorgeous deep ball that gave Kumerow a chance near the goal line. White was draped all over him but Kumerow fought at the catch point, made the grab and came down with it for the win. A few plays later he changed it up and ran a quick in-breaker route and dove to haul it in as a frustrated White went back to the defensive sideline.
Kumerow went on to make three catches during team drills. The first was a nice ball from Allen and the second was one of the best plays of the day in team work. He beat the coverage down the right sideline and Mitch Trubisky fit in a nice pass that almost went for a big touchdown.
Going into camp it was Isaiah Hodgins who seemed like the favorite for a sixth spot at wide receiver if the Bills keep that many, but Kumerow has pulled into the lead in that competition. What’s more interesting at this point is whether Kumerow not only makes the team but if he has earned some playing time in a crowded room. He may even push Gabriel Davis for snaps if he continues to perform in the preseason. Stay tuned.
Here are some other observations from practice.
Dawson Knox drops a big one
Trubisky had another solid day as the former Chicago Bear continues to look like a considerable upgrade over Matt Barkley from a season ago at backup QB. His best throw of the day, though, fell incomplete when he launched a deep ball to a wide open Dawson Knox, who beat both defenders in the area and had nothing in front of him for an easy touchdown.
But he dropped it.
The drop issue for Knox continues to be an issue. He went all out this offseason trying to work on the problem by hiring a vision specialist and flying out to California to work with Allen every day. He had a drop early in camp but has been mostly reliable, even catching a touchdown in the open practice at the stadium. Jacob Hollister has been out with a back injury but returned and practiced during individual work today. It will be interesting to see where he slots in once he’s ready to be full go.
Allen/Diggs/Beasley in mid-season form
Allen was on point again on Thursday as he’s been for most of camp. The Cole Beasley crossers were there and one throw to Stefon Diggs was just unfair. Diggs sunk into his route and behind Taron Johnson who tried to pick him up. Diggs stopped on a dime and Allen almost knew how he was improvising. So the QB fired it to him going the other direction, splitting Johnson and A.J. Epenesa. Diggs caught it and immediately turned upfield for a monster gain.
Without Dion Dawkins the Bills have struggled at times to keep Allen pressure-free during camp. Jon Feliciano missed a day and there just hasn’t been stability. But the line did a decent job protecting on Thursday and Allen would have had a few more huge plays but just missed Diggs on a go ball in the end zone and another one to Gabriel Davis, just past the outstretched arms of Levi Wallace, but the second-year receiver couldn’t haul it in.
Tremaine Edmunds’ best practice of camp
Edmunds was all over the field on Thursday, directing traffic, active against run plays, and making plays against the pass. On Allen’s first pass of the day he missed on a throw to Beasley and Edmunds picked it off and ran it for a few yards the other way. Another big play came on a throw to Diggs. Edmunds found him and used his speed to cover and then force the incompletion. Edmunds had at least one interception go through his hands earlier in camp but if he can start making those kinds of plays this defense becomes even better.
Joe Giles-Harris continues making plays
Giles-Harris had a nice interception in the spring and has started to make a name for himself as a playmaker at the linebacker position. He almost forced a pick early in practice when Davis Webb threw a bad pass and Giles-Harris tipped it but Damar Hamlin couldn’t haul it in. Later on he finally got Webb, intercepting a pass from the former Texas Tech signal caller. Giles-Harris also had a fumble recovery when Lance Lenior caught a pass and lost the ball when he lost a cleat as he was running.
It was a tough day for the backup QBs in general not named Trubisky. Jake Fromm was intercepted on a pass intended for tight end Quinton Morris by rookie safety Tariq Thompson.
Darryl Johnson Jr. big-time rush
There hasn’t been a ton of notable rush attempts from defensive end Darry Johnson this camp, but he got things going on Thursday with an impressive rep against tackle Bobby Hart. He blew by him on the outside and probably gets a sack in a game situation.
Johnson has an uphill battle for a roster spot with all the new faces at his position. Luckily he’s an important special teams players and Heath Farwell described why he’s so important there.
“He’s a huge man running down on kickoffs, running as fast as linebackers. He’s a guy that gets double-teamed a lot, because you can’t single-block him. When you allocate two guys to one guy, it just frees up one other guy on our coverage group,” Farwell said. “He’s covered so many kicks, he folds as good as anybody. He has a great understanding for blocking schemes. His ability to cover on kickoff, on punt, he plays right tackle for me, he protects really well. He has a good understanding on all the rushes he’s going to get, and then cover down the field. You don’t see big guys running down the field like that.”
Injuries and other notes
Christian Wade left practice with a shoulder injury and guard Forrest Lamp didn’t practice with a calf injury. Devin Singletary looked good on a few touches on the day. He seems as explosive as ever, most notably on a catch and run that was aided by a downfield block from Mitch Morse. On a nice Zack Moss long pass play, Morse and Ike Boettger provided some blocking downfield to help make it a big gain.
The cornerback two battle has been fun to watch but Levi Wallace has had the better camp after seven practices. He was picked on a little today but it was mostly short passes. Dane Jackson had his best practice of camp, recording one close pass breakup and covering well in several other instances.
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