McDermott: The rookie wall "is real"

November 28, 2018 - 6:45 pm

Now is right about the time when a lot of Buffalo Bills rookies would normally be wrapping up their college football seasons.  Of course, many played in bowl games in late December or early January, but even then, those players had several weeks in between games.  It’s nothing like the grind of an NFL season, which lasts a full month of training camp, four preseason games, then seventeen weeks of regular season games with practice and meetings six days a week and only one week off mixed in at some point.  

It’s why coaches players try to guard against a so-called “rookie wall.”  Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott says that wall is real, and believes it is so much that he has altered some of his team’s weekly schedule to make sure all his players - veterans and rookies - stay engaged and have an opportunity to perform as well as possible, both physically and mentally, through the remainder of the season.

“Yeah, that’s real. The ‘rookie wall’ is real,” McDermott said Wednesday as he team prepares to travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins.  “Just being around the league a number of years, that thing’s real. You balance it out a little bit with we try to adjust the schedule, as you guys have seen with our start time, our practices and their start time and then the reps so that we get these guys as fresh as possible this time of year. We’ve cut down our meetings as well now that the ownership then falls on them to make sure they’re doing the things outside of what’s on the itinerary to get the information they need to prepare and play well.”

The Bills have played first or second year players the third highest amount of snaps in the league this season, behind only the Colts and 49ers.  McDermott is well aware of that and addressed how that impacts the building of the roster.

“You look at the draft class last year and the draft class this year, those guys are out there playing,” he said. “The undrafted players, you watch the first and second year, you mention the play time (and) we’re third in the league with those guys playing. We probably would be even higher than that had Josh (Allen) played over the course of the time that he’d been out. You watch some of the highlights from the game, just fresh off the game, and you’re looking at first and second year players, a lot of those guys are making some, not only playing, but making some big plays in the game: Matt Milano, who’s had a heck of a year, you see Isaiah out there, McKenzie, the plays that Zay Jones has made. I know it’s not a stat, but the blocks that he’s made on Isaiah’s play on the touchdown run, I mean, those are factor plays for us.

"We just have to continue to develop these guys and sometimes, it takes time, and sometimes some guys get it quicker than others. (Robert) Foster is a good example. A guy undrafted out of Alabama, didn’t play a whole lot there. We just continue to work with these men on and off the field and develop them. When given the opportunity, what are you going to do with it? Robert’s been given the opportunity of late; he’s made the most of those opportunities. Isaiah’s made the most of those opportunities. We’ve got to continue with that growth mindset.”

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