Inside The Bills

Bills WRs coach breaks down OTA wideouts

Posted by Chris Brown on May 27, 2016 – 1:38 pm

There are some receivers who are completely familiar to Bills fans like Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. Some of the new wideouts and those further down the depth chart aren’t quite as well known in terms of their skill set. Bills receivers coach Sanjay Lal provided some guidance in an appearance on the John Murphy Show.

Lal gave a brief thumbnail sketch on some of the lesser known Bills receivers.

On Greg Salas
“He is a smart, savvy, excellent route runner,” said Lal. “I don’t think we win the Jets game (in Week 17) without what he did on third down for us. So we’re really counting on him to come through and take another step and really be the guy that when all else fails Greg is going to be able to get open.”

On Jarrett Boykin
“He had 49 catches in Green Bay. I watched the film and he did some really nice stuff. Then he kind of got caught up in the numbers game there. I think we’re lucky to have him. He’s a big, physical target. He has 10 and a half inch hands so he catches really well and a good route runner. He’s picking everything up really well.”

On Leonard Hankerson
“He was Atlanta’s third receiver for the first part of last year. Leonard is really smooth. He’s one of our best route runners. He’s so smooth you enjoy watching him run routes. He has sneaky speed and is a 4.4 guy so I’m intrigued by him too.”

On Greg Little
“Greg is a former second-round pick by Cleveland. He’s a big, physical, tough specimen. He’s done a nice job separating from man to man in this camp.”

On Dezmin Lewis
“His learning curve was steep because he came from a small school and a spread offense. He’s done a great job of transforming his running style. He’s running lower to the ground now, which is hard for him because he’s 6-4. He’s staying in drive phase longer and of all the guys I know how much work he put in on his own this offseason and it’s really showing.”

On Walt Powell
“Walt’s biggest trait that you don’t see right now is his run after catch ability. His catch-run transition is one of the best on the team. If we can get the ball in his hands he can show his punt return skills on the field on offense.”

On Kolby Listenbee
“Today we did a change of direction drill that defeats 22-man and you can see how explosive he is. Even though we can’t let him run full speed yet, his half speed looks explosive, much like Marquise Goodwin’s did.”

 


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Lal: Easley ahead of schedule

Posted by Chris Brown on May 26, 2016 – 2:12 pm

There’s no specific timetable for Marcus Easley to return from offseason surgery that he had back in January, but the signs at this point are encouraging.

That according to Bills receivers coach Sanjay Lal, who appeared on the John Murphy Show. Lal knew it was going to be a long rehabilitation for Easley, but is confident he’ll come through the extensive rehab successfully.

“If there’s anyone who can, and it was a devastating injury and he was here all winter,” said Lal of Easley. “I saw the rehab that he went through and you have to admire how hard he worked and the mentality he had because that was tough on him. He’s coming through it all ahead of projections.”

Easley dislocated his kneecap and then shattered his patella in three places in last season’s Week 16 game against Dallas.


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Watkins proves a quick study

Posted by Chris Brown on August 11, 2015 – 7:24 am

Bills WR Sammy Watkins is always eager to learn more about the NFL game, which is part of why he has enjoyed the coaching of receivers coach Sanjay Lal. Lal cuts the responsibilities of the receiver position to the finest details. Watkins has very quickly applied some of those details to his game and it made a difference in Monday’s practice.

On Watkins route against Ronald Darby in the two minute drill that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown catch there was a subtle move that may not have been noticed by most who watched the play. But after stemming his route up the field, when Darby turned to run with him he was stride for stride down the sideline. Watkins then tucked his inside shoulder, gave Darby the slightest of bumps and then flared his route outside, where Matt Cassel hit him in stride, while Darby tried to close the space Watkins just created for himself.

“It is one of those things you start to repeat,” said Cassel of his throw and Watkins catch. “If you guys saw the route, it was just as impressive of a route because he went and stacked the guy and leaned into him used his big body, left me room on the outside. Those are all technique things that the coaches have done a tremendous job of coaching him up. Then taking that coaching out onto the field. And that is what we want to see this time of year.”

Coaches often say that NFL players make their biggest jump from year one to year two of their careers. Watkins looked poised to be one of those players.


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Hogan making good early impression

Posted by Chris Brown on June 15, 2015 – 9:25 am

Bills WR Chris Hogan capably carved out a niche for himself in Buffalo’s offense the past two seasons. Now with a new offensive staff the process repeats itself as Hogan sets out to prove himself again. So far, so good for Hogan this spring.

New receivers coach Sanjay Lal credits Hogan with being among the most adaptable to his new coaching points.

“He is one of the fastest to pick up all of the small technique things we teach and no one works harder than him,” Lal said. “He catches well. He really has a good feel for the game. He understands defenses, spacing… I trust him.”

Lal also believes some sell Hogan’s athleticism short for whatever reason or perception might be out there.

“I don’t shortchange his athletic talent or speed or any of that,” Lal said. “We have all these competitions when we do weight lifting and Hogan always seems to be top three or the top one. So I think he gets shortchanged perception-wise that way. He’s one of the best receivers on the team and nothing less than that.”


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Watkins up to speed despite being limited

Posted by Chris Brown on June 4, 2015 – 2:19 pm

Sammy Watkins is still limited coming off his offseason procedure, but he hasn’t lost a step when it’s come to getting a hold on the offensive scheme. Receivers coach Sanjay Lal said Watkins has done everything possible to stay immersed in the installation process.

“He’s keeping up mentally,” said Lal. “He comes to meet extra with me anytime there’s a special teams meeting because he’s not in special teams, and that’s legal to do so. Off to the side in practice he’s working on all his techniques, so when it comes time to running everything at full speed he’ll understand the technique. When he goes away for the summer he’ll know what to work on and work on it the right way so he’s ready when he comes back.”


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Bills coaching staff getting props from players

Posted by Chris Brown on June 3, 2015 – 10:23 pm

When head coach Rex Ryan finished the assembly of his coaching staff he called it an all-star staff, with thanks to owners Terry and Kim Pegula for making it possible. Now just over a month has passed that the coaches have been around the players and the men on Buffalo’s roster are pretty pleased with the coach-player interaction and instruction.

RB LeSean McCoy was heaping praise on offensive coordinator Greg Roman, likening him to his former head coach Chip Kelly when it came to finding unique and creative ways to create opportunities for his players to make plays.

“The type of coach Greg Roman is there’s a bunch of different things,” said McCoy. “That sort of reminds me of Chip with the whole unique style of getting his backs in space, that genius type of thing. No matter what I feel like he’s a genius and Greg is similar. They find ways to trick the defense and get their backs in a lot of open space. Greg definitely has a similiarity for sure.”

WR Sammy Watkins is limited to just individual position drills in OTA practices as he’s still rehabbing from an offseason procedure, but he already feels like he and his fellow wideouts are better players because of new receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

“It’s been great. He’s a great coach,” said Watkins of Lal. “So far I haven’t been on the field much with him, but I feel my game has improved with just the little things and the details. You see every receiver right now becoming true receivers and he’s teaching us the way to play the game.”

Watkins feels last season the receiving corps was just an “okay” route running team. In early June he thinks they’re better now than they were at any point last season.

“We can run better routes now,” said Watkins. “Last year we were okay with routes, now we’re getting the real details of running routes and different routes and I think our placement and being in the same place every time is helping the QBs out.”

So while the Bills are a long way from playing their first game that counts, the early returns on the coaching staff from the players are glowing.

 


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WR Lewis: Goal is to be a solid route runner

Posted by Chris Brown on May 9, 2015 – 4:35 pm

Bills seventh-round pick Dezmin Lewis has never had a problem picking up a new playbook. He has felt comfortable this weekend in rookie minicamp with all the play installs on offense for team work. Where he’s trying to nail down details is with his route running.

“I go up and get the ball at its highest point. I catch everything with my hands. I’m not much of a body catcher. The main thing now is just working on my route running and continue to become a better route runner so I can upgrade my game to something more than just a go getter.”

Lewis caught a lot of deep balls at Central Arkansas, but he knows he has to diversify his game if he’s to stick at the NFL level. He’s been working closely with receivers coach Sanjay Lal to make his game more well rounded. Job number one for a tall receiver like Lewis is to work on effectively dropping his weight to get him in and out of cuts and stems on his routes.

Coach Lal has been in his ear about one detail in particular.

“Staying low,” Lewis told Buffalobills.com. “I’m a tall receiver and as soon as I take off I pop straight up so he’s been coaching me. He said to act like there’s a string that’s tied to my chest and he’s pulling me. So my objective is to stay low throughout my entire route. That’s the main thing I’ve been working on.”

Lewis knows it’s just about body control, but it’s easier said than done for a receiver that stands 6-4. But coach Lal has given him some ways to perfect dropping his weight when he has to change direction and to help him keep his weight over his toes.

“It’s just body control,” he said. “He tells me to practice leaning as far as I can and balance myself on one foot. And wherever I’m comfortable that’s the base that I have to work off of. So it’s body control and torqueing my body into different positions so I can become a better route runner.”

Coach Lal also has his receivers review their own work in practice.

“The good thing about that is coach Lal goes over the routes and he tells us to critique ourselves,” said Lewis. “We’ll do that and tell him what we think we’re doing wrong and then correct us from there.”


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If not Sanchez, Rex would’ve drafted Harvin

Posted by Chris Brown on March 20, 2015 – 12:49 pm

The Bills recent signing of Percy Harvin raised questions in the minds of some as to just what type of teammate the Bills would be welcoming into their locker room. Both Bills head coach Rex Ryan and receivers coach Sanjay Lal, who both coached Harvin in New York with the Jets, said Buffalo’s current players will be inheriting an exemplary teammate. In fact Ryan did a lot of homework on Harvin when he was coming out of college because he had plans to make the dynamic offensive threat a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Ryan said Harvin would’ve been the Jets’ first-round pick in 2009 had they not made a call to move up and get Mark Sanchez.

“When he came out we did a lot of research on him,” said Ryan of Harvin. “Percy was the guy we were going to draft if it wasn’t Mark Sanchez. We spent like a week (at the University of Florida). So we knew everything about him. I was really comfortable with it. When we brought him in (by trade with the Jets last season) he was everything we thought he’d be. That was a great teammate and a super competitive guy and a great guy to be around.”

In 2009 the Jets had the 17th overall pick in round one. They traded it to Cleveland along with their second-round pick at 52 and three players (Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff and Abram Elam) to move all the way up to fifth overall to take Sanchez. Had they stayed at 17 Ryan said they would’ve taken Harvin, and he would’ve been there. Harvin didn’t come off the board until the 22nd pick to Minnesota.

Ryan believes in Harvin’s will to win and feels he’s a solid teammate as well. That was echoed by Lal, who appeared on the John Murphy Show this week.

“I don’t know that I know what makes him tick, but he and I hit it off from the beginning,” Lal told the John Murphy Show. “We think alike about how players should be coached. I have great respect for what he does and he wants to be coached and coached hard. He just wants to improve and help the team win. That’s the impression that I got.”

Ryan knows about Harvin’s past in Seattle where he had a couple of run-ins with teammates, but things went real well under Ryan with the Jets for Harvin. Ryan even gave an example of what his Jets teammates thought of him.

“One of the highest awards is the Ed Block Courage award that the players vote on and he finished second in the voting after being on the roster just four weeks so that should tell you what his teammates thought of him,” Ryan said.


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