This has been one of the more busier weeks of the Bills season as the front office is demonstrating “The Process” with moves preparing the team for 2019. If you’ve been under a rock, the team released WR Kelvin Benjamin & WR Andre Holmes, signing CB Denzel Rice & DE Mike Love from the practice squad, and placing C Russell Bodine on injured reserve as the result of a fibula fracture during last week’s game. With all this upheaval along with several injuries, this leaves many questions going into the Week 14 match up against the Jets. As one may fondly recall, the Bills absolutely destroyed the Jets 41-10 in their Week 11 match up behind an effective performance by QB Matt Barkley. This time around, it will be QB Josh Allen vs QB Sam Darnold with both teams jockeying to avoid the AFC East cellar. Today’s post will identify the injuries going into the game and how things may shake out.
Those already ruled out are QB Derek Anderson (concussion) and CB Taron Johnson (shoulder). Anderson continues to be limited indicating he is in stage 3-4 of the concussion protocol. I’m waiting for the other foot to drop and he gets placed on IR. At this point, he is taking a roster spot for someone else but his tutelage of Allen appears to be the reason he is still active despite not playing.
Johnson suffered a dislocated shoulder resulting in a torn labrum in his right shoulder during Week 1. He has since then re-injured the shoulder several times, missing only one game right after the initial injury along with wearing a shoulder harness to limit recurrence. He had been reportedly been in a non-contact jersey the past several weeks, giving his shoulder the rest and protection it required to get through the season until the Bills were officially eliminated from the playoffs. As a result, Johnson had successful shoulder surgery on Tuesday to repair his labrum and has since announced his season is done. I am not sure why the Bills are hesitating to place him on injured reserve; this may be due to a contract issue which we as fans are not privy to. The shoulder labrum recovery is a ~6-9 month recovery which will allow Johnson to ready for OTA’s in May-June at least in a limited fashion and fully healthy by training camp. To read more about the surgery that Johnson had, make sure to check out my article on WR Zay Jones who had the same procedure last year with great success.
Listed as doubtful is TE Jason Croom (groin). Upon video review, Croom doesn’t appear to have one play in where he injured his groin. He did not have any targets during the game but was involved in 35% of the offensive snaps and was playing until the final offensive series. Based on the knowledge we have, this appears to be a mild strain and the team is being proactive, allowing him to heal completely before rushing him back onto the field. We have seen most of the muscle strains this season result in minimum 1 game missed and this is no exception. I believe that this is a Grade 1 strain with Croom having the ability to return next week fully healthy. As he is listed as doubtful, most players listed as doubtful do not even play. In the event that he is active, he will likely be limited in offensive packages and used more likely as a decoy. Regardless of status, he should not play.
Listed as questionable is WR Isiah McKenzie (toe). Reports indicated that McKenzie injured his toe late in practice Thursday and was limited Friday, making him officially questionable for the game Sunday. Fortunately, publications state that he feels as though he will be able to go on Sunday which is a good thing as the Bills are expected to only have 5 WR’s available. My suspicion is that he sprained his great toe running a route pushing off too hard or pivoting. It is possible to injure the other toes on the foot, but when it comes to running, the great toe is essential for effective push off required for sprinting. He is truly a questionable decision, but considering the personnel available and his thoughts in the article, I expect that he plays.
G John Miller (oblique) is coming off a strained oblique suffered in the win over the Jaguars. He missed last week but is able to return which fits the timeline regarding muscle strains; I had suspected that he would miss 1-2 games based on the location. There is possibility to re-injure the area, but I would not consider the risk to be significantly greater than when he originally sustained the injury.
Those injured earlier during the Miami game that did not appear on the injury report were LB Tremaine Edmunds (knee/ankle) and S Jordan Poyer (finger). While they may be dealing with some soreness, this was not enough to warrant an injury report slot. Expect both to be key players to slow the Jets offense.
While the Bills are slowly losing players to injured reserve as the season winds down, most starters continue to stay healthy or at least available in order to help the team finish strong over these last 4 games. I believe the Bills will be able to finish this season with a 6-10 or 7-9 record. The big question marks I have are this upcoming Jets game and maybe the second Dolphins game. A 7-9 record would be a great finish after such a terrible start to the season. There’s a lot of promise on this team going into next year, we just have to see how the draft and free agency play to our favor. I believe the Bills will complete the season sweep of the Jets to move to 5-8.
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