Bills’ James Cook shares Big Brother Dalvin Cook’s ‘Flashes’: Camp Observations from Day 11

PITTSFORD, NY — The athletic prowess of Buffalo Bills running back James Cook has been on full display on the fields at St. John Fisher University for the past few weeks.

The Bills picked the rookie in the second round of the April NFL draft, and his potential offensive role has been the subject of much talk ever since.

Bill’s backup quarterback Case Keenum played with Cook’s older brother Dalvin Cook in Minnesota during his 2017 rookie season. The similarities to Keenum are evident just a few months into James Cook’s rookie year.

“You see flashes of it,” Keenum said. “It’s hard when you haven’t had too many live reps of just running, in the zone, the back cuts, the power, the back, the pin and pull stuff. But there are some flashes from Dalvin that I definitely see in James. And also to see him from the back, catching the ball, I think there’s something about him. And I’m looking forward to showing what he can do.”

Keenum has worked extensively with Cook at team practice this summer. He also got some reps with Josh Allen, like Monday’s practice on day 11 of camp. The glimpses of Cook’s speed, intangibility, and explosion have been happening throughout camp.

The biggest game of the day for Cook on Monday came towards the end of practice. Allen led offense versus defense the entire length of the field. After a quick swipe at Stefon Diggs to open the drive, Allen passed it to Cook, who ran between Ryan Bates and David Quessenberry. Cook exploded into the second tier and got to the right touchline for a big win. Allen completed two more passes on the drive, had to execute it once, and the offense failed to get a touchdown.

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

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

“I think the biggest thing for him in this position, being young, is you have to take the protection piece,” McDermott said. “What you do when the ball is not in your hands. Whether it’s ID protection or it’s actually physical blocking, I know he’s up to the challenge.”

Here are some other real-world observations on Monday.

2. Cody Ford shows some life?

Ford had one of the strongest drills of the camp, playing with a certain amount of aggression in the running game. At one point, he exchanged a few words with a defender who came out of a bunch after a run play. Perhaps his most impressive game of the day came in 1v1 when he completely shut down Tim Settle’s Power Rush on defense. Hart opened up another nice hole in team practice to run back Duke Johnson, who was able to run one for 10 yards. Bobby Hart has worked on the left guard first team in place of Rodger Saffold, who returned to practice on Sunday but has not yet been brought back into team drills. Once the games start, Ford may be fighting for a roster spot if Hart shows the ability to play even at an average guard level.

3. Jamison Crowder shows potential

Crowder has finally found some time with Allen over the past few days and he’s looking more comfortable by the day. Backup quarterback Matt Barkley called Crowder a “salty vet” who has a knack for opening up, finding windows for the quarterback to throw in and winning matchups. Crowder did so on a game late in practice when he sat down near the right touchline and caught one of Allen for a modest win. Tre’Davious White watched on the touchline and seemed frustrated that the defense wasn’t paying attention to Crowder during play. Allen dealt with a lot of pressure throughout practice but took aim on Crowder a few times. He did a few grabs that day.

4. Offensive fights, defensive front in attack mode

Allen was more on the run than most practices. It seemed like the defensive line and linebackers were more aggressive than at any point in training camp. A run play early in team practice was stuffed by Tremaine Edmunds and Cam Lewis in a one-on-one tackle. Ed Oliver and Greg Rousseau won so early in a game that Allen was forced to flee to the right before simply throwing it away. Lewis almost fired Allen on the next game when the quarterback threw in double cover on the run towards Crowder, who was marked by Christian Benford and Jaquan Johnson.

5. Christian Benford 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 came against Isaiah Hodgins, who was aimed down the middle on a quick shot by Allen. Benford read Hodgins the entire route and, at the last moment, hit the ball in Hodgins grip with a strong batting motion to force the incompletion. Benford gave up a touchdown on Davis later in practice, but there was almost nothing he could do. It was a perfect route and Davis was unable to cover the entire camp for long. Kaiir Elam had some one-on-one chances against Diggs that day. He may have forced an incomplete, but if there had been referees Elam might have been flagged for getting to the point of contact a bit early.

6. Tommy Doyle’s Best Day Yet

Doyle was notable for four straight reps working against AJ Epenesa. On two of the four tracks, Doyle simply turned off Epenesa completely. He looks to his seat quicker after his exit and Epenesa was choked up in line trying to work his way back inside after the lost replay. The Bills released their first unofficial depth chart and Doyle was listed as Dion Dawkins’ replacement. If he can string together a few days and play well in the preseason, he might be able to earn the swing tackle job. His versatility in jumping inside could be crucial to his status in the online pecking order.

7. Isaiah Hodgins throws quite a punch

Hodgins had a strong camp and added a highlight on Monday. He worked one-on-one against Jordan Miller, scoring a one-handed touchdown catch. He threw the ball up in celebration after the game. Keenum had high praise for Hodgins.

“As a quarterback, I always say you watch your receivers, and you get that little tingle about guys you want to throw the ball to,” Keenum said. “Hodgins is) one of those guys. I get the tingly feeling.”

8. Spencer Brown more progress

Brown spins for the first time since the Bills’ camp opened in team practice with David Quessenberry in the right tackle. Brown had a notable representative working against Von Miller. He held his own, quickly getting into his blocking stance and proceeded to take Miller wide and out of the game. It’s a minor note, but it’s worth something to Brown, who has been trying to work his way back from an off-season procedure. Greg Mancz was back in training while Isaiah McKenzie, Taron Johnson and Khalil Shakir were all back out.

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