Bills Season Injury Review- Defensive End

Review the Bills injuries at defensive end from 2018 & how this will affect depth in 2019.

The defense is on the board!! Today’s post marks the start for injury positional reviews on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills defense has demonstrated elite talent that has carried the team at times through the past 2 seasons. However, when injuries occurred, the replacements and gaping holes as a result were glaring. Today’s post will review the defensive end position and what this means going forward into 2019.

First up is DE Nate Orchard. The veteran end came to Buffalo off waivers from Cleveland, spending roughly a month with the team. During his time in Buffalo, he appeared in 3 games registering 4 total tackles, 3 solo, 1 assist and was cut on 10/2. He then was picked up by Kansas City for a month before finding a home in Seattle for 2019. He did not suffer any injuries during his time and is not likely to return unless he is some type of camp casualty and the Bills need emergency depth.

DE Mike Love appears next in today’s review, appearing in 3 games without any stats. He was signed from the practice squad late in the season to assess what the team has for depth going forward. Due to his limited playing time, he did not suffer any injuries but should come back next season as he is a cheap option for depth and could continue to develop behind veterans at the position.

DE Eddie Yarbrough rounds out depth at the end position during today’s article. The 3rd year player out of Wyoming continues to demonstrate solid play worthy of a roster spot, evident with the Bills resigning Yarbrough to a 1 year extension as a ERFA. The youthful end appears in 15 games accumulating 29 total tackles, 21 solo, 8 assisted with 4 tackles for loss. In addition, Yarbrough managed to avoid injury which was key as several veterans mentioned later were not as lucky, leading to Yarbrough getting valuable playing time. He should be back next season and barring a sudden influx of talented defensive ends, should make the 53 man roster.

DE Shaq Lawson begins the run on injured ends in this article. The former 1st round draft pick has begun to show flashes of brilliance of why he was drafted 19th overall in 2016, but has not been able to consistently string together a season in which he can demonstrate he is the best defender out on the field. During the 2018 season, Lawson appeared in 14 games with 6 starts, accumulating 1 forced fumble, 4 sacks, 30 total tackles, 18 solo, 12 assisted, and 5 tackles for loss. While these are acceptable numbers from a rotational defensive end, more should be expected from a once highly drafted player.

Lawson suffered minor injuries this season, missing 2 games due to a pulled hamstring early in the season trying to chase down Ravens QB Joe Flacco. After the hamstring, Lawson was questionable with an elbow injury sustained in practice prior to the Jacksonville game but the specifics of the injury were not disclosed and he did not miss any time. Going into next season, Lawson will be healthy but have to fight incredibly hard to justify sticking around past next season. He will make the 53 man roster, but he needs to stay healthy and shine like a first round pick should if he wants several more years in Buffalo.

DE Jerry Hughes continues to be a monster coming off the end and is one of the few moves along with RB LeSean McCoy that made former Bills GM Doug Whaley look halfway competent. Hughes came over in a player for player trade from the Colts for LB Kelvin Sheppard in 2013 and hasn’t looked back. The dominant end started all 16 games, accumulating 3 forced fumbles, 7 sacks, 37 total tackles, 30 solo, 7 assists, 13 tackles for loss. He showed up this season and was clearly the best defensive end for the Bills this season. In addition to his dominant play, he was able to remain healthy, only suffering a right knee injury that may have been a minor knee sprain or contusion during the Jets game but did not miss anytime. Even though he is going into the last season of his contract, he is clearly a lock for the 53 man roster. He still demonstrates an ability to play at a high level and should garner another contract before his time in Buffalo is through.

Finally, DE Trent Murphy rounds out the defensive end position. The beleaguered end from Washington just could not stay healthy this year. Even though Murphy only missed 3 games this season, he was never quite healthy. He appeared in 13 games with 10 starts racking up 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 24 total tackles, 14 solo, 10 assisted, 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks. Despite the average stats for a player making the money that he is, he constantly dealt with injury which led to his down year. Early in training camp, Murphy suffered a groin strain that appeared to be minor, appearing to come back too quickly, and re-aggravating the issue. As a result, he missed the rest of the preseason and never quite got the reps he needed to improve his football skills after missing all of the 2017 season with an ACL tear.

Once returning to the field during the regular season, Murphy had a breakout game against the Vikings with a sack, two tackles, and a forced fumble. Due to needing as many game reps to get back into shape forced him to play into the 4th quarter which led to a right ankle injury that was the result of getting rolled up on. He did not miss any time but was limited afterward. Murphy then sustained another ankle injury, though it wasn’t clear which ankle he injured during the loss to the Texans. Video review shows him taking an awkward step with what appeared to be his left foot. He did miss some time but was able to return.

Unfortunately, the next week wasn’t any kinder to Murphy as he sustained another late 4th quarter injury, this time injuring his right knee. He was in the process of engaging an offensive player during a block when another player got thrown into his knee with his knee bent and foot on the ground. The mechanism suggested an MCL sprain and as a result, missed 3 games but also had the benefit of the bye week to recover. But Murphy wasn’t done with injuries; he sustained some type of chest injury in the win over the Lions late in the season that did not force him to miss anytime. Once again, Murphy did not miss many games, but he was clearly not at 100% throughout the entire season.

There have been some calls for the Bills to release him after an underwhelming performance in 2018. However, I believe that Murphy will bounce back with a strong season in 2019. He will have the benefit of not having to recover from a season ending injury such as the ACL in 2017. While all the injuries were minor, cumulatively, they took their toll. He will have the ability to heal up completely and focus on football and injury prevention rather than rehab. There has also been multiple instances in which a player has a down year following an ACL tear followed up by an improved year as the player returns to baseline 2 years after original injury. While we hope that Murphy can regain some of his 9 sack season during his last season in Washington, any improvement over last year will be gladly taken. Expect him to make the 53 man roster with a significant bounce back year in 2019. I am high on Murphy taking the next step forward as an important cog in the defense.

Overall, expect Hughes, Lawson, and Murphy return as the top end players at defensive end. Yarbrough will continue to be a depth piece and Love has a chance to make the roster with a strong training camp, but could more likely be on the practice squad. DE Eli Harold also has a strong chance to make the roster after time with San Francisco and Detroit, but is far from guaranteed. To read more on Harold, his injury profile can be found here. I also expect the Bills to address defensive end in the draft at some point which could reshape this position based on what round a defensive end is picked.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Bills Season Injury Review- Guard/Center

Analyzing the injuries at the Center/Guard position for 2018 & outlook for 2019.

Another position, another review! The 2018 Bills lacked offensive firepower up front and as a result, the offense continued to be anemic. Like the Offensive Tackle position, the Guard and Center position were sorely ineffective and as a result, we should see significant turnover at the positions come 2019. Today’s post will review the injuries sustained at the respective positions in 2018 and how this may play out in 2019.

First up for is G Ike Boettger. The rookie out of Iowa saw game action in 4 games avoiding injury and not drawing any penalties. Like T Conor McDermott, he appears to be another player who was too good to be stashed on the practice squad but not good enough to garner consistent playing time. He appeared in 4 games towards the end of the season recording 0 penalties. While he did get some game experience, it begs the question whether that experience will be enough to earn a roster spot going into 2019 especially with all the recent signings this offseason. He will have to have a strong preseason to stick around next year.

Next is G Wyatt Teller. The former 5th round pick from Virginia Tech in 2018 earned some well deserved playing time appearing in 8 games & starting 7, racking up 2 holding penalties and 2 false starts. He also avoided injury which would have set his progress back. He did show flashes of why he was drafted but at times was inconsistent. While it was not expected that a 5th round draft pick would come in and play exceptionally well, there was still hope that he would demonstrate some ability to play at the next level, which for the most part he did. Having new O-Line coach Bobby Johnson working with him along with several veterans should help Teller to progress. I expect him to return in 2019 as key depth.

G John Miller was at times a frustrating player during his tenure in Buffalo. He was a 3rd round draft pick back in 2015 and initially played well with veteran leadership on the line. However, as the seasons progressed, he became less effective and at times injured, leading to the coaching staff to begin searching for his replacement. While Miller was inconsistent, he did appear and start in 15 games, accruing 4 holding penalties. Injury wise, Miller sustained an ankle and knee injury which appeared to be minor. The veteran lineman did suffer an oblique strain in the win over the Jaguars which forced him to miss the next game. As mentioned before, oblique strains are not awful injuries, but due to the nature of his job in pushing large bodies out of the way, those abdominal muscles were necessary to play effectively at his position. Fortunately for the Bills, Miller left in free agency to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals and be reunited with his former line mate Cordy Glenn.

G Vladimir Ducasse, similar to Miller, has had an up/down time in Buffalo. 2 years ago, he was able to come in and play exceptionally well with Juan Castillo as the O-Line coach and with the offensive scheme by OC Rick Dennison. After the offensive play calling was changed to OC Brian Daboll, Ducasse never seemed to regain the level of play he had in 2017, leading to a drop off and him at times being replaced by the rookie Teller. The veteran guard appeared in 10 games, starting 9 with 1 holding penalty, 3 false starts, and 1 penalty declined. Ducasse also suffered a left knee injury during the loss to the Texans but did not miss any games. Due to his poor play, he may not have a team come after the 2019 training camp unless he finds a new way to re-invent his game.

Transitioning towards the Center position, next up is C/G Ryan Groy. The versatile lineman has shown the ability to play both positions well when called upon, but was found to be inconsistent when asked to do only one position exclusively, specifically at center. Groy had appeared in 15 games with 6 starts, earning 1 false start penalty. Groy has filled in admirably when former Bills C Eric Wood was injured in past seasons, but demonstrated the inability to be a replacement level starter. Fortunately for Groy in 2018, he did not suffer any injuries which may help influence whether he comes back next year. Due to the recent signings of C Mitch Morse, C/G Spencer Long, and G Jon Feliciano, Groy will have to battle exceptionally hard to warrant a roster spot in 2019 and may be back due to his health and versatility.

C Russell Bodine played at times spotty starting at center for the Buffalo Bills in 2018. He played in 10 games with 10 starts suffering 2 holding penalties and a broken fibula. Bodine suffered the injury in the loss to the Dolphins as a result of several large bodies, specifically Dolphins DT Davon Godchaux falling on him and fracturing the fibula bone which required surgery to fix. As a result, his season was over and forced C/G Ryan Groy to pick up the center duties for the rest of the season. In addition to the fibula fracture, Bodine also suffered some type of shoulder injury first noticed in the win over the Jaguars. As far as I could tell, this was not an injury that forced him to miss anytime or affect his play. While it is clearly evident that Bodine will no longer be the starter as C Mitch Morse was signed, he could still prove to be a valuable depth pieces especially with Morse’s injury history. Bodine’s leg will heal fully and should not have any complications for training camp which will be ideal for him as he’ll be fighting for a roster spot. Hopefully Bodine can be a solid depth piece and no longer relied upon as the starter.

Rounding out the remaining players: C/G Spencer Long, C Mitch Morse, and G Jon Feliciano fill out the remaining offensive lineman currently on the roster. While Morse is virtually guaranteed a spot on the 53 man roster due to his play and contract, Long and Feliciano provide versatility and depth that should make the 2019 training camp battle for starting spots something worth your viewing pleasure.

Normally, I put my thoughts on who will make the roster next season in a summary at the end. Outside of G John Miller, who left in free agency, all the players listed above have a realistic chance to make the roster with the only lock being C Mitch Morse. I’m excited for this position group to re-establish the run game and give effective protection to QB Josh Allen.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Buffalo Bills Bounty of Free Agents!

Analyzing the most recent Bills acquisitions & injury concerns moving forward into next season.

Whooo wee! What a week for the Buffalo Bills! 8 free agents total after the national media stated that Buffalo was not a place that free agents wanted to go? Where else would you rather be than Buffalo, NY?! The front office is building something special here, or they’re at least trying to. This has a totally different feel from past years where a free agent or two would show up and they were a piece that maybe fit part of the puzzle, but didn’t complete it. These most recent acquisitions are far from completing the puzzle, but the total picture is certainly coming together better than in past seasons. Today’s article will review the acquisitions and my thoughts on their injuries going into 2019.

First up is CB Kevin Johnson. The former 1st round pick recently released by Houston has had a litany of injuries during his short career in the NFL. To review, he has had Lisfranc and Jones fractures, wrist fracture, sprained MCL, and multiple concussions. In my article I wrote for Buffalo Rumblings, I dove into his injury history and my thoughts on the signing.  Make sure to check out the above linked article. He is overall a low risk, high reward signing due to his contract and has clearly demonstrated the ability to play when healthy. If he is able to avoid some of the seriousness of the injuries in the past, he could help resurrect his career and have a new start in Buffalo.

Next up is C Mitch Morse. The former starting center from Kansas City quickly found his way to Buffalo to become the NFL’s highest paid center. However, his arrival does not come without concern. During his also short career in the league, Morse has suffered 2 concussions which caused him to miss 3 games his rookie year, a foot injury costing him 10 total games with a trip to IR in 2017, and a concussion that caused him to miss 5 games in 2018. As with Kevin Johnson, I detailed my thoughts on Morse with Buffalo Rumblings.  While he is still young and highly talented, there is concern if he were to suffer another concussion at such a collision heavy position in the trenches with sub concussive hits nearly every play. The talent is there which makes the money worth it, but the Bills must have a contingency plan in place if injury occurs in order to ensure that the signing of Morse works in their favor.

Continuing to go down the list is WR’s Cole Beasley & WR John Brown. Both veteran receivers come via Dallas & Baltimore, respectively. Both have demonstrated effective play making abilities which appealed to both the front office and QB Josh Allen. After last year’s pitiful wide receiver production, significant upgrades at the position were a must. Injury wise, both look overall good. Beasley has only missed 1 game in his career due to illness and for the most part, manages to stay off the injury report only dealing with a knee & ankle injuries along with a concussion. As for Brown, most of his injury concerns involve hamstring strains along with a quad and toe injury that cost him 4 games in 2017. These are excellent signings by the Bills and really demonstrate the urgency to get the offense moving.

WR Andre Roberts comes to Buffalo after a season with the Jets in which he earned an All-Pro nod on special teams. Like Beasley & Brown, Roberts comes with several injuries, but minimal concerns. Roberts has saw time with Arizona, Washington, and the New York Jets suffering shoulder, ankle, and quad injuries missing only 3 games total as a result. He did suffer a knee injury that sent him to IR and prematurely ended his 2015 season with Washington. Other than a back injury in 2018 that he did not miss time with, Roberts will significantly upgrade the special teams group and provide a dynamic returner not seen since CB Terrance McGee.

Moving onto the offensive line depth, the Bills signed both OT Ty Nsekhe & OG Jon Feliciano from Washington & Oakland respectively. Nsekhe has had quite the journey to the NFL, starting his career in 2009 playing in Arena Football for several years before getting a crack at the NFL with the Colts. He then proceeded to bounce around in the CFL, more Arena Football, and cups of coffee with St. Louis and New Orleans before solidifying a job with Washington. I am unaware of his injury history during his time in other organized leagues, but his NFL injury list is short with foot/ankle injuries in 2016 along with a core muscle injury in 2017 that caused him to miss 5 games. Last season, he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss 2 games but considering his age of 33, most guys are exiting the league, Nsekhe appears to continue improving. He has demonstrated the ability to play well when called up to start along with demonstrating the ability to play multiple positions, but understands how to be an effective backup.

Feliciano is cut from the same cloth as Nsekhe, however, not bouncing around from various professional leagues. The veteran guard has spent his entire career with Oakland before signing with Buffalo a few days ago. Along with moving across the country, Feliciano comes with several calf injuries and a concussion over his career. However, while he can start in spot situations, his ability to understand O-Line coach Bobby Johnson’s game plan allows him to fit in nicely and allow to be an effective piece moving forward in 2019.

TE Tyler Kroft comes from Cincinnatti after playing 4 years for the Bengals. Kroft began coming on as a tight end as TE Tyler Eifert began suffering injuries which limited his ability on the field. Unfortunately, Kroft had difficulty staying healthy at times, suffering a knee/ankle injury at the end of 2016 followed by a foot injury that caused him to miss 11 games with a trip to IR, ending his season prematurely. While he is a young player to help open up the offense, he is far from the answer moving forward and will complement any draft pick or future tight ends signed to the roster.

Finally, old man RB Frank Gore. This man has been playing so long, he predates the injury reporting on pro-football-reference.com. While his injury history may have a few blank spots, his career has been defined by his durability. After suffering two ACL tears in college, Gore was able to find a home in San Francisco for many productive years until 2014. He has had a smattering of injuries over the course of his productive career with most notably shoulder injuries during his rookie year, a broken bone in his hand a few ears after that, and a hip injury that sent him to IR and ended his 2010 season early. Other than the hip, he suffered a foot injury which ended his season in Miami 2 games early. Many consider Gore to be a future Hall of Famer with his dominance at the position and his overall stats. Despite going into his age-36 season, Gore has managed to keep injuries to a minimum and avoid some of the larger injuries that spell out shorter careers in an already high turnover position that is running back. While he will not be as productive in past seasons, he should be able to be an effective back up behind RB LeSean McCoy and provide leadership to a young team. I believe that he will show some of the younger players how to prepare mentally to maximize their skills on the field while also minimizing injuries in order to stay healthy.

Overall, I like most of these signings. I do not expect every once of these to be a slam dunk upgrade, some will simply not work out. Gore was an odd one considering the age, but if there is still something left in the tank, the Bills want to ride him until there’s fumes. I have concerns about the Johnson & Morse signings, but if both stay healthy, they could turn out to be lucrative in the long run. I like the offensive line depth that the front office focused on because no NFL team is immune from injury, it is imperative that the backups are able to play effectively until the starter returns. Nothing will torpedo the Bills 2019 season more than poor depth. Finally, the WR & TE signings signal that they are serious about taking QB Josh Allen to the next level and show everyone how he can throw it over them there mountains. I don’t believe the Bills are done in the free agency market; they are showing that they are willing to bring in anyone they feel that can upgrade the quality of play on the field. Just think, we still have 6 weeks before the NFL draft and me personally, I’m pumped!

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Bills Season Injury Review- Offensive Tackle

Read the latest Bills injuries at the offensive tackle position from 2018 & how it affects 2019!

The 2018 Buffalo Bills offensive line took a significant step backwards after several successful seasons in which they led the NFL in rushing and appeared to continue this trend moving into 2018. Unfortunately, due to the forced retirement of C Eric Wood and the bizarre retirement/release of G Richie Incognitio, the loss of these two proved to be too great in order to protect rookie QB Josh Allen and as a result, was unable to open effective lanes up for RB LeSean McCoy, leading to his worst season of his career. Today’s post will identify injuries from the tackle position on the offensive line and how things will shape up in 2019.

First up is T Conor McDermott. The 2nd year player out of UCLA drafted by the Patriots before being picked up by the Bills saw him play sparingly, mostly during the last month of the season once they were out of the playoff race. Total, he played in 5 games with no penalties and did not suffer any injuries. From my vantage point, he is a player that is too good to keep on the practice squad, but not quite ready to play full time on the field. As he has been a part of this team the past 2 seasons, I expect that the coaching staff brings him back next season to continue his development.

T Marshall Newhouse is the next player to be assessed today. The veteran tackle had spent the early part of his career with the Packers before bouncing around to the Giants and Raiders. Newhouse was brought in to provide depth at a position that had some question marks going into 2018. Unfortunately, his time in Buffalo was short lived to just 3 games, eventually shipping out to the Panthers in exchange for a 2021 7th round pick. During his 3 game stretch, he did not suffer any injuries and had 1 holding penalty and 1 false start penalty. As he is an aging veteran who was moved for a low round draft pick 2 years from now, it is unlikely that Newhouse finds his way back to Buffalo.

T Jeremiah Sirles is another veteran tackle that has bounced around the league with stops at San Diego, Minnesota, Carolina, and Buffalo. During the 2018 season, Sirles saw action in 12 games, starting 5 with 1 false start penalty and 1 declined/offset penalty. In addition, Sirles managed to avoid the injury report and provided to be a solid depth option at the tackle position. While he is far from the long term answer at the position, his play this past season was rewarded with a one-year contact extension and I expect to see him on the field in 2019.

T Jordan Mills was an interesting player this year. The big man has been a part of the Bills since 2015; before that, he spent 2 seasons with the Bears. He appeared in and started all 16 games, recording 3 holding penalties and 2 false start penalties along with 2 penalties that were declined or offset. Mills was one of the few tackles this season to sustain injuries including a knee injury suffered in practice prior to the Colts game that did not force him to miss any games. He also suffered a left knee injury during the first Jets game that caused him to miss several plays but was able to return. He was one player this year that managed to sustain small injuries, require medical attention but never appeared to be anything serious. Most of his injuries may have been more contusions due to the brutal hits he has to endure but somehow he did not miss significant time. Mills is currently an unrestricted free agent and the team does not appear to be in any rush to re-sign him. I believe that his time in Buffalo has come to a close and it is possible that he could catch on with another team requiring veteran depth at the position.

Finally, T Dion Dawkins rounds out players at the tackle position. The 2nd year player managed to wow the coaching staff last year with his exceptional play as a rookie, but with losses to the offensive line due to Wood/Incognito, it appeared as though his flaws were exposed as a result. Dawkins managed to appear and start in all 16 games with 1 holding penalty, 3 false start penalties, 3 offset/declined penalties; a stark increase from 2017 in which he only sustained 3 total penalties. In addition to his tackle play, Dawkins got in on the passing game, hauling in 1 target for 1 reception for 7 yards and a TD during the win over the Jets. Injury wise, Dawkins only suffered what appeared to be a hip pointer injury during the preseason against the Bengals. Otherwise, Dawkins managed to avoid further injury and continued to provide stability at an ever changing offensive line. While I have heard some discussion that the coaching staff has fallen out of favor with him as he was not a guy they drafted, I would still keep him on the roster as he has shown he can play at a high level and his health issues are minimal. I expect to see him back in 2019 improving his play with new coaching along with experienced, more talented players added in allowing Dawkins to reduce the burden he was placed with this past season.

Overall, this is another position group that has to be addressed in both the draft and free agency. Outside of Dawkins, the rest of the players listed are merely depth players even with Mills starting the past few seasons. With the Bills picking at 9th overall, it appears as though they are going the best player available route which could dissuade them from going offensive tackle, but if that player happens to be a tackle, then they could certainly upgrade one side of the line and begin to re-solidify the offensive line.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

 

Bills Season Injury Review- Tight Ends

Bills season injury review at the TE position & how much the position will turn over in 2019!

The 2018 Buffalo Bills tight end position suffered mightily as the result of the anemic passing game and as a result, will lead to significant overhaul going into 2019. The overall stats for the tight end position were 89 targets for 61 receptions for 525 yards and 1 TD. Those stats alone aren’t fantastic for one player, let alone an entire platoon for a team. Today’s post will review the injuries sustained during the 2018 season and how this will affect 2019.

First up is TE Khari Lee. The veteran end has been in the league since 2015 in mostly a special teams role with Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo. Lee spent part of the 2017 season with Buffalo followed by 2 games during Week’s 3 & 4 in which he recorded 1 target for 1 reception for 5 yards and 0 TD’s. While his presence was more felt on special teams and as a blocking end, his offensive production did not warrant his continued presence on the roster. He did not suffer any injuries and depending how things shake out, he could be back in Buffalo if the front office sees any value in him.

Next player up is TE Logan Thomas. The converted QB to TE had his most productive season to date after entering the league in 2016 with Arizona. Thomas appeared in 12 games with 3 starts amassing 17 targets for 12 receptions and 77 yards with 0 TD’s. The converted tight end was able to stay relatively healthy all season minus a minor hamstring strain in practice prior to the Lions game which caused him to miss only one game which was more out of precaution due to the relatively acute nature of the injury. This is also an injury that should not carry over into next season. As Thomas is a restricted free agent, it will be curious whether the Bills retain his services going into 2019. Right now, the Bills have right of first refusal in the event that another team offers him a contract. If he gets a contract and the Bills refuse to match, they would receive a 4th round pick from that team in return for the upcoming draft. Knowing this information, I can certainly see why the Bills are in no rush to offer Thomas a contract, hoping that they can bait another team to offer him. If this plan does not work, I would strongly suspect that the Bills retain his services going into 2019.

The player who disappointed the most was TE Charles Clay. His stat line was as follows: 13 games, 12 starts, 36 targets, 21 receptions, 184 yards, 0 TD’s. I hate to be blunt, but this is terrible for any veteran player, regardless of contract status. For someone who has been in the league for 8 years, he has had his share of injuries, but he just failed to produce all together. He suffered ankle and shoulder injuries early in the season that landed him on the injury report but did not miss anytime. He did miss 2 games due to a hamstring string early in the loss to Chicago. Other than the hamstring, he was relatively healthy, just was far from productive. His defining moment of 2018 was missing the winning TD catch against the Dolphins in the end zone which summed up how things went this year.

Over Clay’s playing career, he has had a long history of knee and hamstring injuries that caused him to miss time nearly every season. He has also had a smattering of back and ankle injuries that do not appear to be recurring but even though Clay did not miss a lot of games during his career in Buffalo, it always seemed like there was a constant problem he was dealing with which aggravated fans. No one can play forever, but it will be curious to see whether Clay can rebound from the poor season he had in 2018 with a fresh start in Arizona, hoping the dry heat can help keep him healthier. Considering the Bills released him due to not living up to his contract, he will not be in a Bills uniform again anytime soon. He has shown the ability to be productive as evident by his first 3 seasons in Buffalo, but his time in the NFL may be ending unless he finds the fountain of youth.

Finally, the most productive tight end for the Bills in 2018 was TE Jason Croom. The converted wide receiver to tight end was able to put up decent numbers including 15 games, 3 starts, 35 targets, 22 receptions, 259 yards, 1 TD. While these are far from eye popping, they paced the tight end group in his first full year in the NFL. Injury wise, Croom suffered several injuries this season including a low ankle sprain in the preseason against the Browns, a knee injury during practice early in the season prior to the Vikings game, and a mild groin injury suffered in the loss to the Dolphins which caused him to miss one game. Groin injuries can linger if not dealt with properly but as he sat out and did not deal with it for the remaining games, it appears to be a non-issue going into 2019. Considering Croom is the only tight end under contract right now, it is strongly assumed that he will return. However, I do not believe that he will be the top option for the Bills going forward, but will continue to hopefully grow into the position.

Overall, I expect Croom and hopefully Thomas to return in 2019. I expect the Bills to address the position in both the draft and in free agency as there has been much talk regarding how OC Brian Daboll likes to work 2 TE sets in his offense. Considering the money the Bills have to spend this off-season, I expect them to pay a mid level player a decent contract to help give QB Josh Allen another weapon along with drafting some young talent in order to build towards the future. This is one position that will be nearly turned over, but one that is sorely needed.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

 

Bills Season Injury Review- Wide Receivers

2018 Bills season review at the Wide Receiver position including injuries & who is likely to make the roster in 2019.

The 2018 Buffalo Bills WR corps weren’t expected to light up the NFL in any fashion but did have several bright spots from young contributors from which the team can possibly build off of going into 2019. Today’s article will review all the injuries sustained during the 2018 season at the wide receiver position.

A total of 12 players suited up for the Bills throughout the season with varying degrees of success. The total wide receiver statistics were: 149 receptions on 290 targets for 1,989 yards and 11 TD’s. While these stats do not jump off the page, they do represent the wide variety of talent on the roster and will identify who is likely to come back next year.

The first players that will be addressed will be veteran players who suited up for the team but have since been released for a variety of reasons and are unlikely to see 2019 in a Bills uniform. Those included are: WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Andre Holmes, and WR Kelvin Benjamin. Starting off with Kerley, he saw action in one game for the Bills this season before his eventual release. He was initially released to provide DT depth moving forward with plans to bring him back into the fold, but that never materialized. Kerley’s stats were as follows: 1 game, 4 targets for 2 receptions and 7 yards and 0 TD’s. He did not suffer any injuries and is not a player that is expected back next season.

WR Terrelle Pryor spent the first part of the season with the NY Jets and was released due to a groin injury. Once healthy, he was quickly signed by Buffalo appearing in 2 games with 1 rushing attempt for -1 yard, 8 targets for 2 receptions for 17 yards and 0 TD’s. He is also another veteran that did not suffer any injuries while in Buffalo and will not find himself on the Buffalo sideline in 2019.

WR Andre Holmes spent the entire 2017 season with the Bills and part of 2018 until his release late in the season. In the 12 games he appeared in, he started 3 and was targeted 23 times for 12 receptions for 157 yards and 0 TD’s. He was eventually released and picked up by Denver and played sparingly for them until an ankle injury forced him to IR. During his time with the Bills, he did suffer a neck injury that did not force him to miss anytime this year but he has had neck injuries in the past; 2017 saw his season end due to a neck injury. It is possible the Bills could take a look at him during free agency, but unlikely as he is no longer productive and is getting older.

Finally, WR Kelvin Benjamin, the receiver that is one Popeye’s biscuit away from a TE according to Booger McFarland. The much maligned wideout suffered a knee injury and brutal hit to the head during this season that did not force him to miss any games. Despite being available every week, appearing in 12 games and starting 10, Benjamin was only able to amass 62 targets for 23 receptions for 354 yards and 1 TD. The overall lack of production along with many instances in where he did not go all out on plays or fight for contested balls led to his eventual release where he was quickly picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he was found to be a non-factor in the playoffs and his season ended in the AFC championship game not even seeing one snap. Unless the Bills build a Chick-Fil-A in the team facility, there is no way Benjamin will come back to Buffalo and as a result, the Bills are far better off without him.

Next up is young receivers who could make the roster based on strong training camps in 2019 who include: WR Cam Phillips, WR Da’Mari Scott, WR Victor Boldin, and WR Ray-Ray McCloud.

WR Cam Phillips appeared in 2 games hauling in his only target for 1 reception for 9 yards and 0 TD’s. While his playing time was severely limited this year, it appeared as though the coaching staff were enamored by his abilities which led them to keep him on the practice squad after his initial release from the active roster. He may be a quality depth/special teams player going into the 2019 season and as he did not have any injuries, makes for an attractive, cost effective option moving forward at WR.

WR Da’Mari Scott appeared in 3 games for the Bills after spending most of the season on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns. While Scott did not record any stats during his time with the Bills, he did contribute to several offensive plays and special teams. Like Phillips, he may be a quality depth/special teams player that the front office wants to keep around going into next season if he has a strong training camp.

WR Victor Bolden was another late season addition to the roster after spending most of his season with the 49ers. Like Scott, he did not produce any offensive stats, only receiving 5 kick returns for a total of 116 yards. Based on what the front office sees in him, he could be another option on special teams moving forward until they find higher quality players.

WR Ray-Ray McCloud was a surprise addition to the roster at the beginning to the season following a knee sprain during the Bears preseason game that forced him to miss 2 games as a result. He was able to come back after fully healing and spent most of his time on special teams appearing in 10 games, starting 1. He had 2 attempts for 4 yards rushing to go along wit 6 targets for 5 receptions for 36 yards. As he was a 6th round pick that did not produce when it counted, he may be a player who has to fight in training camp in order to secure a job next season. I see him as a strong possibility to return but buried on the WR depth chart or relegated to primarily special teams.

Others that saw time at the WR position this season in a limited role was WR Deonte Thompson. The veteran receiver spent time with Buffalo last year before returning after a stint with the Dallas Cowboys. During his time in Buffalo, he appeared in 5 games, starting 2. He was targeted 10 times for 3 receptions and 37 yards with 0 TD’s. He dealt with an Achilles strain shortly after he rejoined the team that did not force him to miss any games. Unfortunately, he later suffered a toe injury in the loss to the Patriots in Week 16 which caused him to miss the season finale. I had suspected that he suffered turf toe or a plantar plate injury which would cause him to miss time but as it was the season finale, the team elected to not dress him and shut him down for the year. That injury moving forward would not affect him going into 2019, however, due to his veteran status and lack of production this year, he may be a candidate that the Bills let hit free agency knowing there’s cheaper options after the draft.

Next is the 3 players that made the most impact in the and are certain to make the roster next year. First up is WR Robert Foster. The UDFA burst onto the Bills roster after an up and down training camp appearing in 13 games with 3 starts garnering 44 targets for 27 receptions and 541 yards with 3 TD’s. Along with the unexpected production, Foster did suffer several injuries including very hard shots to the head/neck area and thigh region that thankfully were not serious.

The most significant injury Foster suffered was what appeared to be a thumb injury in the win over the Jets midway through the season which may have been a dislocated thumb. He exited the game briefly but was able to return with a possible thumb spica and gloves to finish the game. This thumb injury was most likely his most serious injury but should not have any long term impact going into next season. Considering the type of relationship that Foster developed with QB Josh Allen, he appears to be a lock on this roster moving forward.

WR Isaiah McKenzie was incredibly productive after being picked up on waivers from the Denver Broncos midway through the season. He appeared in 7 games with 1 start demonstrating versatility with 10 rushing attempts for 66 yards and 2 TD’s to go along with 30 targets for 18 receptions for 179 yards and 0 TD’s. McKenzie appeared to suffer several serious injuries that required the use of the gator to remove him from the field this season but none of the injuries were even remotely serious. He suffered a toe injury in practice back in December that did not appear to affect his mobility in anyway followed by minor ankle tweaks and cramping in his calf which brought on initial fears of an Achilles tear. Thankfully this was not the case, but due to the violent nature of the game, he got banged up pretty good. However, McKenzie should be able to rest up and prepare his body for another year of pro football and build off his excellent 2018 season.

Finally, the most productive receiver on the Bills this year, WR Zay Jones. He appeared in all 16 games for 15 starts with 102 targets, 56 receptions and 652 yards with 7 TD’s. While at times he was streaky with his production, he took a big step forward in both his statistics and health, avoiding the injury report all together this season after a trying off-season in which he got his labrum in his shoulder repaired along with a bizarre incident in LA which resulted in him cutting his knee open trying to kick through a glass window. That knee injury along with the resulting surgeries did slow his participation in the preseason but he quickly was able to come to form during the regular season. He began to show flashes of why he was able to leave college as the NCAA career leader in receptions and will hopefully be able to build off this going into 2019.

Overall, the wide receiver position will have significant turnover with only Jones, McKenzie, and Foster as locks to return in 2019. Phillips, Scott, Boldin, and McCloud are all practice squad or depth options moving forward, but we have seen every preseason someone make that next leap forward as in the case of Foster. In addition, the Bills signed WR Duke Williams out of the CFL to help shore up the WR corps going into training camp. I believe that the WR position is something that will be addressed somewhat in free agency but will be further addressed in the draft. While there are tempting targets early in the 1st round along with big fish in free agency with Antonio Brown and Golden Tate, I believe Brandon Beane when he says they will be judicious and avoid some of the flashy moves that have put the Bills in a bad spot in years past.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Bills Season Injury Review- Running Backs

Assessing the 2018 Bills injuries at running back & roster changes for 2019.

The 2018 Buffalo Bills running game didn’t scare people or dictate games as it did several years ago which led to the offense to be rather one dimensional and easy to game plan against. Without LeSean McCoy producing as the engine of the offense, this put the pressure on the passing game which was severely limited secondary to the lack of weapons available. As a result, the team finished 9th in the NFL with 1984 yards total, 15 TD’s, and 4 fumbles. Despite finishing in the top 10 in rushing, the Bills RB’s were oft injured throughout the season and along with an inefficient offensive line, stunted their production greatly. This lack of effectiveness may be a precursor to what is to come next season with how the stable of backs looks in Buffalo.

There were a total of 5 backs that suited up for Buffalo this season including: RB LeSean McCoy, RB Chris Ivory, RB Keith Ford, RB Marcus Murphy, and FB Patrick DiMarco. To note: Taiwan Jones is listed as a RB but nearly all of his contributions to the team came on special teams. As a result, he will be addressed at a later time. Despite so many backs that played for the Bills this season, the leading rusher was QB Josh Allen with 631 yards and 8 TD’s alone. Without Allen, the numbers look drastically different: 1353 yards and 7 TD’s which would have put them 31st in the league. It would be assumed that whoever was under center would have put up their own respective rushing yards, but nowhere near the number that Allen produced.

The first back to assess is RB Keith Ford. The rookie UDFA out of Texas A&M was signed to the active roster in mid December after spending all season on the practice squad. He appeared in 2 games, starting 1 while amassing 21 attempts for 79 yards for 0 TD’s along with 5 targets in the passing game for 3 catches and 21 yards. While Ford’s stats did not jump off the page, he also managed to stay healthy during his two game stretch. He did suffer what appeared to be a mild inversion sprain to his right ankle during the Lions game, but he was able to quickly return after getting taped up and had no ill effects the week after against the Patriots. Despite his limited play, he appears to have found a home in Buffalo next season pending his continued progression as a running back. I would like to see him either on the practice squad again or as a depth piece in the rushing game.

The next back is FB Patrick DiMarco. The 8th year back didn’t do much this season and as a result, did not suffer many injuries. His 2018 stats were as follows: 1 attempt for 9 yards, 4 targets for 3 catches and 62 yards with 0 TD’s. These aren’t exactly eye popping statistics for an offensive captain. Most of DiMarco’s playing came on special teams and he was able to appear in all 16 games as a result. The only injury he sustained was an ankle injury during a punt return in the win over the Lions. He did appear on the injury report later that week but did not miss any time. Despite his leadership role, one has to really wonder if the money that he is getting paid is worth his production. As the team has built their culture, he may be a cap casualty going into next season. He is fine injury wise but in my opinion, not worth the money.

RB Marcus Murphy made his mark as the 3rd down back and on special teams this season with a very strong preseason before coming back down to earth once the regular season started. Murphy struggled with punt and kick returns early on, lessening his role on special teams before his season ended prematurely due to injury. His stat line this year: 11 games with 1 start for 52 rushes for 250 yards, 19 targets for 11 catches and 26 yards with 1 fumble. He missed one game against the Packers due to a rib contusion sustained in the Vikings win. Murphy managed to stay healthy until the Lions game when he dislocated his left elbow late in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately for him, his season was finished as a result. Normally, dislocated elbows are not season ending but as he only had 2 games left in the season, he would not have been ready to play. Had the Bills been in the playoff hunt, he would have probably stayed on the active roster, but this wasn’t the case this season. His elbow injury should heal fully and not have any complications moving forward. Overall, his injuries were minimal and are not going to have any lasting impact going into next season. He has a very good shot to make the team again, but he will have to fix the mistakes from 2018 in order to have a job in 2019.

RB Chris Ivory served as a back up to McCoy this season and overall did not produce at a level equal to his pay. His stat line is as follows: 13 games played, 1 game started, 115 rushes for 385 yards and 1 TD. In the passing game, he had 21 targets for 13 receptions for 205 yards and 1 fumble. In addition to the lack of production, Ivory suffered a mild foot sprain in the Colts game that did not force him to miss anytime but did affect his production shortly after.

However, the big injury appeared to his left shoulder injury. He suffered this injury during the Chicago Bears game during a failed goal line plunge. He suffered what I believed to be an AC joint sprain that game and was unable to return. As a result, he missed the next game against the Jets but was able to return the following week. During the 2nd Jets game in December, he appeared to re-injure the area when his arm got pulled behind him on a run. He left the field favoring his left shoulder and missed the following 2 games despite practicing in full. I believe that he was dealing with pain in the shoulder region which prevented him from absorbing the hits that comes with the position. He was questionable for the final game but did play, having one of his better games of the season. Considering the Bills were also out of the playoff hunt, he may have felt that it wasn’t worth rushing back as he knows that he is on the tail end of his career, having just finished his 8th season. Prior to the season ending, HC Sean McDermott noted that Ivory’s injury was something that required rest in the off season which indicates that this was an injury that was not serious to require surgery.

AC joint sprains typically take several weeks to heal based on the severity of the original injury. I believe what happened to Ivory was that he suffered the AC joint sprain, he was able to come back mostly healed and then re-injured the area, worsening the original injury. Typically AC joint sprains do not require surgery but will require rest and proper rehab. As for 2019, this is not something that will affect him next season and he should return as his contract is not terrible and he provides stability at a weak position.

Finally, the bell cow RB LeSean McCoy. The veteran back had the worst season of his career totaling 14 games played with 13 starts for 161 rushes for 514 yards and 3 TD’s. He also added 46 targets for 34 receptions and 238 yards through the air. McCoy’s struggles could be blamed on several factors such as the off field drama with his ex-girlfriend that is still working through the courts, a subpar offensive line, and playing in his age 30 season which we have seen many running backs take a step back in their production. McCoy also dealt with several injuries that slowed his effectiveness this year.

McCoy saw groin, broken rib cartilage, left ankle sprain, concussion, and hamstring injuries this year. None of these injuries were serious on their own but cumulatively added up. He injured his groin in the preseason but was able to be available for the season opener with no lasting effects. McCoy then cracked his rib cartilage due to C Ryan Groy falling on him towards the end of the play during the Chargers game forcing him to miss one game. This was an injury that was very slow to heal and forced him to play through pain with his production varying. He was able to then play 3 games without further injury before suffering an ankle sprain and concussion on the 2nd play in the loss to the Colts. He thankfully did not miss any games afterward due to having extra time to work through the concussion protocol to be cleared in time for the MNF game. McCoy’s final injury came early in the 2nd Jets game in which he pulled his hamstring and was unable to return. As a result, he missed the next game but was able to return for the final 2 games.

Looking at these injuries, he did not have effective blocking to move the ball as he had in past seasons. The small injuries accumulated throughout the season meant that he was never fully healthy which only made things more difficult to be effective. Fortunately, all these injuries will heal in the off season and should have no lingering issues going into 2019. While he did have the worst season of his career, I believe that he will have a bounce back year in 2019 with a rebuilt offensive line and show why he is still one of the top backs in the NFL. There are some rumblings that he could be a cap casualty but GM Brandon Beane has committed to him and I expect that he will keep his word unlike previous regime’s.

This is one position that needs some serious love over the next few seasons. The position itself chews and spits out players regularly with running backs having the shortest career’s in the NFL. While there is a veteran presence, turnover will be important for 2019 and beyond. I expect McCoy and Ivory to return with Ford staying on the roster in some capacity. Murphy has a shot to stay on the roster but will have to prove his worth and battle in preseason like he did last year. As a fan, I do not see any benefit to having DiMarco come back outside of the leadership role he has, but considering veteran presence leadership is thinning out, he may stick around. It is very possible that the front office spends some draft capital to find a running back to be the heir apparent to McCoy, allowing a rookie to develop. 2019 may very well be a bridge year to 2020 and beyond to reshape the running game and further develop the offense.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!