Bills’ James Cook showing ‘flashes’ of big brother Dalvin Cook: Day 11 Camp Observations

Pittsford, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills running back James Cook’s athletic ability has been on full display on the fields of St. John Fisher University the past few weeks.

The Bills took the rookie in the second round back in April’s NFL Draft, and since then there has been buzz surrounding his potential role in the offense.

Bills backup quarterback Case Keenum played with Cook’s older brother, Dalvin Cook, in Minnesota during the rookie season in 2017. The similarities are evident for Keenum just a few months after James Cook’s rookie year.

“You see flashes,” Keenum said. “It’s hard when you haven’t had too many live reps of just running, in the zone, back cuts, power hitting, backside, pin and pull type stuff. But there are some flashes of Dalvin there that I definitely see in James. And to see him out of the backfield catching the ball, I think there’s a little something about him. And I’m excited to show what it can do.”

Keenum has worked extensively with Cook during the team’s practices this summer. He also got some reps with Josh Allen, such as Monday’s practice on Day 11 of training camp. Flashes of speed, elusiveness and burst from Cook have been happening throughout camp.

The biggest play of the day for Cook on Monday came near the end of practice. Allen led the charge against the defense the entire length of the field. After a quick snap to Stefon Diggs to open the drive, Allen handed it off to Cook, who ran between Ryan Bates and David Quessenberry. Cook burst into the second level and took off down the right sideline for a big gain. Allen completed two more passes during the scrimmage, was forced to punt once, and the offense failed to score a touchdown.

Working with Keenum earlier in practice, Cook broke another big run down the right side. This time the hole was created by Luke Tenuta and Cody Ford.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said last week that Cook has opened some eyes in both the running and passing games in camp.

“I think the biggest thing about him at that position as a young man is you have to embrace the defensive part,” McDermott said. “What do you do when the ball is not in your hands. Whether it’s identifying protection or physical blocking, I know he’s up for the challenge.”

Here are some more observations from Monday’s practice.

2. Cody Ford showing some life?

Ford had one of the strongest practices of camp and played with some aggression in the run game. At one point, he exchanged a few words with a defender coming off the huddle after a play. Perhaps his most impressive play of the day came in a 1-on-1 when he completely stopped Tim Settle’s power in the defensive tact. Hart opened another nice hole in team drills for running back Duke Johnson, who managed one run for 10 yards. Bobby Hart is working in the first team at left guard in place of Roger Saffold, who returned to training on Sunday but has not yet returned to team training. Once the games begin, Ford could compete for a roster spot if Hart shows the ability to play even at an average level at guard.

3. Jamison Crowder flashes potential

Crowder has finally gotten some time with Allen over the last few days and looks more comfortable with each passing day. Backup quarterback Matt Barkley called Crowder a “salty veteran” who has the ability to get open, find windows for the quarterback to throw into and win games. Crowder did that on one play late in practice when he sat down near the right sideline and caught one from Allen for a modest gain. Tre’Davious White watched from the sideline and seemed frustrated by the defense’s lack of attention to Crowder on the play. Allen dealt with a lot of pressure up front during practice, but targeted Crowder several times. He made several grabs during the day.

4. Struggles in attack, defensive front in attack mode

Allen ran more than most workouts. It looked like the defensive line and linebackers were more aggressive than they had been at any point in training camp. Tremaine Edmonds and Cam Lewis made one play early in team practice for a tackle for a loss. Ed Oliver and Greg Russo got a home run so early in one game that Allen was forced to fly to right before simply throwing him out. Lewis nearly sacked Allen on the next play when the quarterback threw into double coverage toward Crowder, who was covered by Christian Benford and JaQuan Johnson.

5. Christian Benford is still on his heater

Benford was busy again on Monday and had his share of good reps in matchups against Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. The best play he made all day was against Isaiah Hodgins, who was targeted over the middle on an Allen rush. Benford read Hodgins all the way and at the last minute cut the ball into Hodgins’ grasp with a strong move to force the incompletion. Benford denied Davis a touchdown later in practice, but there was little he could do. It was a perfect route and it was impossible for Davis to cover the entire camp. Kaiir Elam had a number of one-on-one chances against Diggs on the day. He may have called an incompletion, but if there had been a referee, Elam could have been flagged for getting to the point of contact a little early.

6. Tommy Doyle’s best day yet

Doyle was notable for four straight rebounds against AJ Epenesa. In two of the four games, Doyle simply completely shut down Epenesa. He looks quicker to his place from his exit and Epenesa was swallowed up by the line when he tried to work back inside after the early rep loss. The Bills laid out their first unofficial depth chart and Doyle was listed as the backup to Dion Dawkins. If he can string a few days together and plays well in the preseason, he may be able to earn the swing tackle job. His versatility to turn inside could be critical to his status in the o-line pecking order.

7. Isaiah Hodgins makes quite a grab

Hodgins had a strong camp and added a standout game on Monday. He worked one-on-one against Jordan Miller and made a one-handed touchdown catch. He threw the ball in the air after the play in celebration. Keenum had high praise for Hodgins.

“As a quarterback, I always say you look at your receivers and you get that little tingle with guys you want to throw the ball to,” Keenum said. “Hodgins is) one of those guys. I feel a tingling sensation.’

8. Spencer Brown more progress

Brown rotated through team drills with David Quesenberry at right tackle for the first time since the Bills opened camp. Brown had one notable representative working against Von Miller. He held his position, quickly got into his blocking stance and proceeded to take Miller wide and out of the play. It’s a small remark, but it’s worth something for Brown, who was trying to work his way back from an offseason comeback procedure. Greg Mancz returned to practice while Isaiah McKenzie, Taron Johnson and Khalil Shakir sat again.

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