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4 takeaways: Bills finishing up their volunteer work

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Bills conclude the voluntary segment of their offseason program this week, with mandatory minicamp on the horizon. Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s organized team activity that was open to reporters, along with Bobby Babich’s first meeting with the media since being named Buffalo’s defensive coordinator.

Babich brings growth mindset to new gig

Promoted from the position coach ranks now in his eighth season on the defensive staff, Babich is closely following Sean McDermott’s lead in succeeding his head coach to coordinate the Bills defense.

“I’m a fool if I don’t use Sean McDermott,” Babich said. “And in the end, he’s he’s the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, not only because he’s a great leader and a great football mind, but he’s made his name on defense. And I’ve always looked at Sean as a mentor. And already I’m picking his brain on things every day.”

Having previously worked with McDermott in Carolina, and after interviewing for two other NFL coordinator positions, Babich appreciates the opportunity to take the next step in his coaching career without leaving Buffalo.

“I’m where I’m supposed to be,” Babich said, “and very, very, very, very, very happy to be here.”

McDermott, who coordinated the defense last season after Leslie Frazier left the team, has still not determined if he will relinquish defensive playcalling to the new coordinator. Babich will get a chance to call plays during preseason, McDermott said.

Although a colleague recently approached Babich in the team facility to tell him “you’re ready for this,” the 40-year-old believes he still needs to prove his ability to take on a greater role.

“You’re never ready until you do it,” Babich said. “You’re constantly trying to prepare yourself for when you get into this position, but until you actually do something, you are never ready. So I don’t have the ego to sit up here and say I’m ready this, that and the other. I’m vulnerable enough to say that I’m as prepared as I can possibly be and I’m going to continue to learn every day, every part of this process. I’m going to continue to learn. I’m going to make mistakes at whatever that is that this job entails.

“It’s going to happen. Just like players make mistakes. And like anybody new at a position makes mistakes. That’s going to happen. But I’m as prepared as I can possibly be. I’ve got a great mentor upstairs who I’ve been with for a multitude of years, who I can lean on, and I’m really, really, really excited for this opportunity.”

Hands-on coaching

While his defensive coordinator settles in, McDermott took on somewhat of a position coaching role Tuesday with the defensive lineman, specifically recently signed rookie Gable Steveson.

A former state champion wrestler in high school, McDermott devoted his attention to the Olympic gold medalist during the individual portion of Tuesday’s practice, and for more than 20 minutes after the team session concluded.

Steveson has never played football before and even with his championship experience in wrestling, the Bills must build his football game from the ground up.

“It’s new to us,” Babich said. “I think there’s no question we know our head coach’s background and his passion for that sport. Right. And obviously, Gable’s career speaks for itself.

“But we got to start at ground zero. We going to start at ground zero. Obviously, there’s some, whether you want to call it physical tools, athletic traits, things that hopefully they translate for him. And going back to, start at ground zero. Let’s start at just the small details of the position and see where it goes from there.”

Comings and goings

For the third consecutive OTA week, Buffalo’s top cornerback Rasul Douglas was not in attendance.

The other players who were not seen on the field for Tuesday’s voluntary practice were: LT Dion Dawkins, TE Dawson Knox, WR Justin Shorter, WR K.J. Hamlen, DE Dawuane Smoot, DT DeShawn Williams, and LB Nicholas Morrow.

Injured players working off to the side during individual drills included: S Mike Edwards, FB Reggie Gilliam, LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, and RB Ray Davis was a limited participant.

The Bills signed LB Shayne Simon, a rookie free agent out of Pitt, on Tuesday and waived injured OL Tommy Doyle. The Bills also announced four-year contract signings with rookies: S Cole Bishop, DT DeWayne Carter, RB Ray Davis, OL Sedrick Van Pran-Granger, LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, DE Javon Solomon, OT Tylan Grable, and CB Daequan Hardy, leaving WR Keon Coleman as the team’s only unsigned draft pick.

Catching up with Stefon Diggs

Stefon Diggs spoke to reporters in Houston for the first time this offseason, and Buffalo’s former star receiver extended pleasantries to an old friend.

“Josh is my guy,” he said. “He kinda had that southern hospitality. I probably wouldn’t be here with out him. I got a lot of love for that boy. Ya’ll give him a hug and a kiss for me.”

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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