Bills 2020 Training Camp Injury Preview: Wide Receiver

Some concerns going into 2020.

This is Part 3 of the Buffalo Bills training camp preview revisiting injuries from 2019 & the impact it may have on their performance and availability in 2020. Part 3 consists of the wide receiver room.

Not Returning

WR Zay Jones

5 games, 2 starts, 18 targets, 7 receptions, 69 yards

Jones had an uneventful 2019 season with Buffalo, quickly losing his place as the top receiver from 2018. Unfortunately, 7 receptions for 69 yards in 5 games won’t cut it on most teams in the NFL. He was quickly traded to Oakland for a 2021 5th round pick to salvage his career. Injury wise, Jones battled several injuries this past season with a hamstring that kept him out of minicamp followed by some back soreness early in training camp. During the regular season, he dealt with a shoulder injury that limited him prior to the Patriots game but did not appear to affect his play. As he moved on from the Bills, he is just another player to have graced the halls of One Bills Drive.

Returning

WR Robert Foster 

13 games, 2 rushing attempts, 29 yards, 18 targets, 3 receptions, 64 yards 

Robert Foster is incredibly perplexing. Here is this UDFA that made the team out of training camp in 2018, was cut, resigned to the practice squad, and then resigned to the active roster. From there, he tore it up down the stretch and appeared to show his value to the team. Come 2019, he was merely an afterthought in the offense as seen in the stats above.

In addition, Foster suffered several injuries that didn’t help his cause which made 2019 an overall down year for him. Below is his injuries:

    • Left Turf Toe

The season did not start well for Foster, suffering a left turf toe injury during spring practices that he appeared to re-aggravate shortly into training camp. He battled through this injury for much of the preseason and was never quite 100% heading into the regular season. He battled with the turf toe into Week 1 before it apparently got well enough that it was no longer listed on the injury report. Without the big toe to push off of during running, he would not have had the ability to get a strong push off at the line of scrimmage or get up to speed.

    • Right shoulder

Also during training camp, he suffered a right shoulder injury that didn’t appear to hamper him but is something to note. It was later described as shoulder soreness, but considering the physicality of the game, any injury can certainly make even the routine tasks more difficult.

    • Groin

During practice prior to the Week 4 matchup against the Patriots, Foster injured his groin during a routine practice which led to him missing both the Patriots & Titans game heading into the bye week before he was cleared to play against Miami. It’s not certain that his previous turf toe issues would have led to the groin, but it’s a possibility and didn’t help his case playing in the offense down the stretch.

He will have to improve his worth on offense and continue to impress as a gunner on special teams. He will have to maximize his health along with anything else the team asks of him in order to make the roster in 2020. 

WR Cole Beasley 

15 games, 10 starts, 106 targets, 67 receptions, 778 yards, 6 TD’s

Beasley really made the most of his first season in Buffalo, quickly becoming a great option for Allen in the slot in order to move the chains. In addition, he stayed relatively healthy, the benefactor of his time in the league, knowing how to take care of his body. 

Injury wise, Beasley didn’t deal with much and the injuries he did had are listed below:

    • Right knee

He suffered a right knee injury during the Bengals game, getting tangled up with his defensive counterpart and falling to the ground. He missed several plays but quickly returned indicating it wasn’t serious, likely a contusion.

    • Ankle

Beasley showed up on the injury report for the week following the loss to the Patriots but did not miss the Titans game. There wasn’t any real information regarding the ankle injury or even which side it was on. Looking back even now, it’s hard to say what he was really dealing with.

    • Left ankle

He ended up hurting the other ankle in the win over the Broncos when he got his ankle kicked out from under him while attempting to block for RB Devin Singletary. He was in obvious pain and was tended to by trainers, but was able to walk off briefly before returning later in the game to score a touchdown.

Overall, Beasley continues to stay healthy and a valuable contributor to the offense. He gets dinged up here and there but there are not any long term concerns moving forward in 2020.

WR Isaiah McKenzie 

15 games, 8 starts, 8 rushing attempts, 49 yards, 39 targets, 27 receptions, 254 yards, 1 TD

McKenzie is in a unique situation in which he was at times productive as an offensive threat, but never at times consistent to be a game-changer. He appeared in 15 games, inactive for the Eagles game, and suffering minimal injuries. 

Below is McKenzie’s injuries from 2019:

    • Ankle

He showed up on the injury report just prior to the first Patriots game with an ankle injury that was not apparent on film. He was questionable for the Week 4 matchup but ended up playing in only 1 offensive snap.

    • Left knee

McKenzie appeared to hyperextend his knee hauling in a pass when he had a defender fall on his leg. He was able to get up under his own power and limp off the field before the half but was able to return to finish the game.

McKenzie better hope for a perfect training camp plus several injuries in order to make this roster. He may be a better candidate to get traded as the likelihood that injuries occur around the league due to the shortened offseason due to the pandemic. 

WR Duke Williams 

4 games, 3 starts, 19 targets, 12 receptions, 166 yards, 1 TD

Fan-favorite Duke Williams came down from the CFL and the fan base became enamored by the long shot to make the roster. He eventually did make the roster and caught the game-winning touchdown against the Titans but was quickly relegated to the inactive list after 3 total games. He played in the regular-season finale and the playoff game with mixed results, leading to questions regarding his future.

Williams’ injuries below:

    • Right shoulder

Williams injured his right shoulder while catching a pass going out of bounds playing against the Dolphins during the first meeting. According to video, it appeared as though he suffered an AC joint sprain which had him limited in practice the following week and highly unproductive against the Eagles.

    • Left low ankle sprain

He hurt his ankle in the playoff loss to the Texans in which he stepped awkwardly out of bounds, appearing to hyperextend his knee. Upon further review, he suffered a lateral low ankle sprain which took the brunt of the forces through his body rather than a more dreaded knee injury.

Williams still has the talent to play in the NFL. The big question will be whether he will be with the Bills or another team. He is talented, but it’s not known if he’s talented to stick with arguably the best top 3 wide receiver group in the league. His injuries overall aren’t ones that carry over into the regular season, but he will need to stay healthy in order to have a shot.

WR John Brown 

15 games, 15 starts, 2 rushing attempts, 7 yards, 115 targets, 72 receptions, 1060 yards, 6 TD’s, 1 pass, 1 completion, 28 yards, 1 TD

John Brown can really do it all. After spurning the Bills in 2018 for the Ravens, he came to Buffalo on a one year deal and quickly became a favorite of Josh Allen’s. Brown’s versatility to stretch the field, get involved in both the running and passing games made him invaluable in offensive game planning. He appeared in all regular-season games besides the meaningless season finale. 

On top of that, Brown was healthy as seen below. 

    • Groin

Brown suffered a minor groin injury that appeared following the Titans win that wasn’t apparent on film. He showed up on the injury report but did not miss any games as a result. He did have the benefit of having the bye week to recover from any issues he was having but it didn’t appear to be an issue down the stretch as he continued to be highly productive.

Brown is a lock for the team in 2020 and the groin injury he suffered likely healed up on its own. There is a chance he could suffer another groin injury in the future, but that would be more on the nature of his positional demands rather than a chronic injury. 

WR Ray-Ray McCloud

McCloud is a familiar face that returns to Buffalo for the 2020 season after spending 2019 with the Carolina Panthers for 6 games after getting claimed off waivers following training camp. He got most of his work on special teams before getting waived and picked back by Buffalo for the practice squad. 

Considering McCloud was a draft pick of this regime, they like to hold onto their own, but he may have a lot of men to fight against for a roster spot, more likely a practice squad position. He didn’t suffer any known injuries and his availability & experience may be the reason he finds a job in 2020.

WR Nick Easley

Easley spent the entirety of the 2019 season on the practice squad and did not appear to suffer any known injuries during weekly practices. While he continues to be a developmental player, his path to the roster continues to be limited due to the depth

New to the roster

WR Stefon Diggs

In March, the Bills shocked the football world and traded for the disgruntled Minnesota wideout in a deal that some called overpayment and others stating it was the right move. As the 2020 NFL draft played out, it appeared to be the right move as Diggs comes with far more experience and a readiness to contribute compared to rookies having to get up to speed. 

In addition, Diggs also comes to Buffalo with minimal injury history which is detailed out in the article at Buffalo Rumblings

WR Gabriel Davis

The 4th round pick out of UCF followed the trend of the Bills drafting players with no injury concerns or that would require rehab during the pandemic. As a mid-round pick, Davis has virtually assured a roster spot and will greatly benefit from learning under some of the veteran receivers in the room, not forced into playing often early on. To read up on Davis’ injury history, check out the article at Buffalo Rumblings

WR Isaiah Hodges

A 6th round pick out of Oregon State, Hodges also comes to the Bills with little injury concerns and a legitimate chance to earn a roster spot, if not a practice squad spot. To read up on Hodges injury analysis, check out the article at Buffalo Rumblings.

2020 Outlook

This is a deep position on the roster. Brown, Beasley, Diggs, Davis, & Hodges all should make the team out of training camp. McKenzie and Williams have a shot at unseating one of the players listed above with a stellar training camp. McCloud & Easley also are capable of making the roster but are more suited for the practice squad as they have become projects of this team. As for Foster, he could make this team if he finds his 2018 form, and if he stays healthy. Both are big ifs. The best part about this is that if anyone does go down with an injury, there is another guy to step up that at least knows the system. 

Author: Dr. Trimble

My name is Dr. Kyle Trimble and I am, first and foremost, a Buffalo Bills fan!! When I am not cheering on the Buffalo Bills, I am a Physical Therapist. To give a background on myself; I was born and raised in Erie, PA, moved to Buffalo in 2006 to begin my studies at D'Youville College towards becoming a Physical Therapist at which time I became a devoted Buffalo Bills fan.  I graduated in 2013 with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy and moved home for several years. Moving back to the Buffalo area in 2016, I have gained extensive experience in outpatient orthopedics, skilled nursing, acute care hospital, and home care. Having obtained a significant wealth of knowledge that continues to grow, along with a undying fandom of the Bills, puts me in the unique position to educate my fellow fans about our great team. 
I am currently an injury spotter working with Dr. David Chao, Orthopedic Surgeon @ProFootballDoc based out of San Diego. In this role, I provide real time updates regarding injuries during the game. I hope you enjoy what I publish and I welcome any comments or questions you may have.
Disclaimer: My opinions are my own.  Any thoughts I have on the injuries is based on media reports, my knowledge of the injury, and speculation based on the information currently available.


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