Bills 2020 Training Camp Injury Preview: Cornerback

Oft-injured, how will the position hold up in 2020?

This is Part 10 of the Buffalo Bills training camp preview revisiting injuries from 2019 & the impact it may have on their performance and availability in 2020. Part 10 consists of the cornerback room.

Not Returning

CB Kevin Johnson

16 games, 1 start, 5 passes defended, 1 sack, 32 combined tackles, 23 solo, 9 assisted, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit

Johnson made the most of his prove-it deal, appearing in all 16 games, showing that he could stay healthy enough to stay on the field compared to his seasons with the Texans. During his time with the Bills, he only suffered a neck stinger against the first meeting with the Dolphins which limited him the following week in practice, but he did not miss anytime.

He also suffered a knee contusion against the Redskins which caused him to miss some practice the next week, but he once again returned and played the following week.
Johnson parlayed his healthy 2019 into a contract with the Browns for 2020. He should be a shining example of what the Bills facility & staff can provide for someone looking to revitalize their career if it has been marred by injury.

Returning Players

CB Taron Johnson

12 games, 7 started, 5 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack, 50 combined tackles, 39 solo, 11 assist, 2 TFL, 1 QB hit

Taron Johnson is a talented player. The Bills benefited greatly from scouting the small school cornerback and has received great production from him despite his injury woes.
However, his career may be limited secondary to his inability to stay healthy. He continues to deal with soft tissue injuries, his physical style of play leads to the risk to suffer structural injuries, and the fact that he can’t be relied upon consistently makes him a liability, even in such a talented secondary.

Below is Johnson’s known injuries:

    • Groin

Johnson suffered a groin injury in the first preseason game against the Colts. While it did not prevent him from playing in the next game against the Panthers, the injury foreshadowed further issues later on.

    • Right hamstring strain

He suffered a right hamstring strain early in the 3rd quarter of the season opener against the Jets. During an interview, he reportedly felt a pop, which is a usual presentation of a hamstring strain.

This injury was the result of running over the middle, keeping with Jets WR Jamison Crowder. He ended up missing 4 games total though he was looking good in practice prior to that.

He appeared ready to play in the Patriots game, but it was rainy that day and the team was starting to rack up injuries. He also appeared to be ready to play against the Titans, but also missed that one due to the bye week the following week.

It’s possible that he suffered a Grade 2 strain which does take longer, but it’s also possible that he suffered a setback during rehab which led to his prolonged absence. It’s also possible that the groin injury early in training camp led to his hamstring injury.

    • Left-hand 5th digit injury

Johnson suffered an injury to his 5th digit or pinky on his left hand during the Steelers game late in the game after attempting to complete a tackle. He was in distress as trainers tended to him as the training staff buddy taped the area.

It’s likely that he either suffered a dislocation or crushed it enough that it needed support. These injuries are unfortunately common and can be played through as evidence of his play during the remainder of the season.

    • Right ankle eversion sprain

He wrapped up the regular season with a right ankle sprain courtesy of Jets RB Le’veon Bell. He squared up ready to tackle and Bell bowled him over with Johnson’s ankle getting caught in the turf and appeared to suffer an eversion sprain.
He left briefly and then returned to take over for Isaiah McKenzie who filled in briefly.

    • Wild Card lower-body injury

Johnson suffered some type of lower-body injury early in the Wild Card game against Houston which led to him sitting out the entire second half. There was no film, no mechanism of injury, nothing indicating that he was hurt.

He appeared to be ready to go on the sidelines but never re-entered. He did have the ankle sprain from the week before he could have re-injured, but those are typically not serious enough to miss the game as bracing or taping the area could help get through the game.

Details continue to be scarce and it’s unknown if this could affect him going into next season. Johnson is one player who’s 2020 will hinge on whether he stays with the Bills or has to consider finding another home if he cannot stay healthy.

CB Tre’Davious White

15 games, 15 starts, 6 INT, 17 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles 1 sack, 58 total tackles, 48 solo, 10 assisted, 4 TFL, 1 QB hit, no TD’s allowed

The argument remains with Bills fans, we missed out on drafting KC QB Patrick Mahomes! But if we don’t pass on him, we don’t have All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White or likely QB Josh Allen or Tremaine Edmunds with draft-day deals in 2017 & 2018.

White stepped up in 2019 & put together a memorable season that has his name among the NFL’s elite. He has become a player that if he is not on the field, the quality of the defense changes dramatically. Fortunately, he has been very healthy during his time with the Bills.

White’s injury history below:

    • Right quadriceps contusion

He suffered a quadriceps contusion during the preseason game against the Lions which scared most fans. He was observed on the sideline with an ice pack but moving well indicating that it was more precautionary to ensure that he recovers faster. This was not an injury that lingered through the season.

    • Neck

White spent some time on the injury report with a red non-contact jersey with a neck injury. He popped up on the injury report following the Bengals game and was limited in practice that week and next. He never missed games and it was never revealed what he was dealing with. My initial speculation was that it was a neck strain.

    • Right low ankle sprain

He suffered a low right ankle sprain against the first meeting with the Patriots in the 2nd quarter. He had to take several plays off to get it taped up and quickly returned. He appeared a little slower the rest of the game but it was an issue that did not linger and he had the bye week to rehab it properly.

    • Left shoulder/stinger

As with most injuries with White, anytime he is down on the field due to injury is a concern. Many held their breath when he made a tackle against the Steelers on Sunday night football leading with his right shoulder. He got up after finishing the tackle and began motioning to his left shoulder before going down to the turf.

He appeared to suffer a stinger due to his head getting snapped to the left, quickly compressing the nerve. White briefly left the game before returning to finish the game. He didn’t appear on the injury report later and it didn’t appear to be a lingering issue for the remainder of the season.

Overall, White was fairly healthy which is why he was able to achieve All-Pro status. The ankle and quadricep injuries are not concerning but there is some slight worry regarding the stinger and neck injury. There is a correlation between the neck injury early in the season and the possible stinger he suffered against the Steelers.

However, the details of the neck injury aren’t known which makes it difficult to identify whether there is a connection. Likely, there won’t be any known concerns unless something happens again. I am confident that he is alright, but there is always that worry to see similar injuries crop up around the same time.

CB Levi Wallace

16 games, 16 starts, 9 passes deflected, 76 total tackles, 66 solo, 10 assisted, 4 TFL

Playing at CB2, Wallace has played well despite coming in as a UDFA, stepping into the starting role. He will never be at the level that Tre White is at due to the immense difficulty in getting two All-Pro players on the field, even lesser at the same position. But he showed he can get the job done despite several injuries and at times inconsistent play.

Below is Wallace’s known injuries:

    • Right ankle sprain

Wallace suffered a right ankle injury during practice prior to the Giants game in Week 2. He was attempting to play Zay Jones before attempting to turn his hips and fell down over his right ankle. It appeared to be a low ankle sprain that required a wrap to help manage any swelling and pain, but it did not limit him against the Giants.

    • Left shoulder

During the ugly loss to the Eagles, Wallace got demolished by Boston Scott as he barreled into the end zone for a TD. Scott hit the right shoulder of Wallace and he went down hard. He never returned to the game but was never ruled out. He was questionable for the next game against the Redskins, but he ended up playing.

He later required shoulder surgery at the end of January according to reports, but it is not known which shoulder or what procedure he required. It’s highly likely that he required surgery on the left shoulder, but not confirmed.

Looking at social media, Wallace hasn’t been limited with any of his activities nor is it observable which shoulder had surgery. The hope is that it was a general cleanout or shaving down any areas causing pain. This is an injury that historically doesn’t carry over from season to season.

    • Right ankle sprain

Wallace once again suffered a right ankle injury while catching an interception against the Jets in the regular-season finale. He suffered a medial ankle sprain but ultimately missed the Wild Card loss against the Texans. He was practicing during the week in hopes he could play, but ultimately the injury was too much.

It’s also possible that the ankle injury from September led to the December injury, but it is unlikely due to the length of time between the injuries. Fortunately, these ankle injuries do not linger. They can recur at a fairly high rate, but low ankle sprains can be well managed if a re-injury occurs.

CB Cam Lewis

Spent 2019 on the practice squad

Lewis spent the entire season on the practice squad in 2019 as he adjusted to the pro game. He showed flashes of his abilities in the preseason but due to injury and roster depth, he was unable to crack the 53 man roster. For someone that spent the season on the practice squad, he still suffered an injury.

Lewis’ known injuries below:

    • Concussion

Lewis suffered a concussion on a routine play in the 2nd quarter against the Panthers in the preseason. He was initially unsteady but able to walk off under his own power. He was later seen leaving the sidelines in a neck immobilizer and board as a precaution for a neck injury.

He was later cleared from the concussion protocol, but still concerning when a player leaves the field in that manner. He was unable to play the rest of the preseason which may have led to his inability to make the 53-man roster. To read more on his concussion, check out the article at Buffalo Rumblings.

    • Week 16 unknown injury

Lewis wasn’t practicing with the team for several days just prior to the second Patriots matchup. There was not an injury designation as practice squad members don’t get recorded, but it was noted by The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia.

It’s not known what he was dealing with, but important to note when players may be dealing with an injury, even minor as it could foreshadow a bigger issue. The biggest concern is the concussion heading into 2020. The hope is that he does not suffer another one that takes him even longer to recover from.

New to the roster

CB Ike Brown

Brown comes to the Bills following a solid career at FIU. He presents as a fairly healthy player heading into training camp, only suffering a collarbone fracture his sophomore season. He will have an uphill battle to stick with the roster in any way, but training camp darlings exist every year. To read more on Brown, check out Banged Up Bills.

CB EJ Gaines

Gaines is a proverbial scratch-off lottery ticket. Buy cheap, possibly win big. His injury history is quite extensive & he has not played meaningful football in over 2 years besides a few games for Cleveland in 2018.

If he can stay healthy, he could be an excellent CB2, but if not, the Bills lose nothing. To make your own decision, check out the extensive injury analysis at Buffalo Rumblings.

CB Dane Jackson

The last Bills draft pick in 2020, Jackson comes to Buffalo incredibly healthy & looking to lock down a spot on at least special teams. He doesn’t carry much injury baggage with him besides a knee injury from high school. While he does have a lot of talented players in front of him, he can adjust to the NFL without the pressure of playing immediately. As players begin to age out or move on, there is hope Jackson can slide in and continue the recent excellent play from the secondary. Read up on Jackson at Buffalo Rumblings.

CB Josh Norman

The former All-Pro from Carolina spent several up and down years with Washington, chasing the money before leaving, viewed as not living up to the contract. Much has been said about Washington not being the right fit for his skills which could have led to his decline in production.

However, Norman is older and has had his share of injuries, including several documented concussions. He plays a very physical position and has paid the price for it. Like Gaines, he is someone that if he doesn’t work out, the Bills are not tied to him significantly. His contract is more substantial but that is justified considering his accolades. He could certainly have a bounce-back year from a production standpoint and could be a value contract in 2020. To read more on Norman’s injury history, read Buffalo Rumblings.

2020 Outlook

If you’re still reading, this position as a whole suffered quite a few injuries. There has been stellar play from White followed by inconsistent play from CB2, but McDermott & Frazier always make it work.

White, Johnson, Wallace, & Norman all should make the team. Jackson has an excellent shot as well as being a draft pick, but not guaranteed. Gaines should make the roster but is totally dependent on his health. His play could affect his future, but he has to prove he can be available first before talent is considered.

Brown & Lewis both have a shot, more likely on the practice squad as both are still eligible. Regardless of who makes the roster besides White, the depth at the position is secured & the coaching staff has several contingency plans if the talent is lacking or injury occurs. Despite the injuries, this should still be a productive position for the Bills in 2020.

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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