2021 Buffalo Bills Training Camp Injury Preview- Linebackers

This is the 2021 Training Camp Preview for the Buffalo Bills Linebacker room. This will outline every known injury from 2020 and outlook heading into 2021.


Tremaine Edmunds

Appeared in 15 games, 3 postseason games. 

Edmunds dealt with several injuries during the season that prevented him from really jumping up to the next level in his development despite being only 23 years old. Injuries include:

  • Hip injury, preseason.
  • Right shoulder AC Joint sprain, Week 1, missed 1 game.
  • Left knee injury, Week 8, missed 0 games.
  • Foot injury, Week 14, missed 0 games.
  • Hamstring injury, Wild Card, missed 0 games.

In addition to the injuries, not playing with Matt Milano at times limited Edmunds effectiveness. The biggest issue was the AC joint sprain that really hampered his ability to tackle or take on blockers aggressively. These injuries typically heal up well with little impact on future production later on. He certainly could suffer further injury to the area, but prior injury doesn’t equate to increased risk in this instance.

The knee, foot, and hamstring injuries are casualties of the physical game that is football and are of little concern for next year. Edmunds isn’t immune from injury, but he has shown to miss minimal time when he does suffer an injury. I’m not so concerned about his risk to be injured, more so if he does get injured, how it affects the defense as a whole. 

Matt Milano 

Appeared in 11 games, 3 postseason games.

Milano was the victim of unfortunate circumstances dealing with injuries including:

  • Right hamstring strain, Week 1, missed 1 game.
  • Left pectoral strain, Week 4, missed 2 games, returned to play and then placed on IR for 3 games following Week 8.
  • Right thigh contusion, Week 17, missed 0 games.

His pectoral strain significantly hampered his ability to tackle and prevented from using his overall abilities, really only appearing on obvious passing downs before he went on injured reserve. Fortunately, pectoral strains are not a recurring issue unless there is a similar mechanism of injury such as poor tackling or weightlifting. 

I am more concerned about the hamstring strain as he does now have a history dating back to his rookie year dealing with the strains. Hopefully with a normal training camp he can ramp his body up appropriately to avoid the lower body injuries. 

Tyrel Dodson 

Appeared in 10 games.

Dodson at times flashed potential during his time on the field as he filled in admirably for Matt Milano, but simply was not as effective. Another factor that limited his effectiveness was the fact that he dealt with two injuries, one that cost him a significant chunk of the season including:

  • Neck strain, Week 1, missed 0 games.
  • Right hamstring strain, Week 6, went to IR, missed 6 games. 

The big concern for Dodson was the hamstring strain, injured on a punt return in the 3rd quarter. Hamstring strains can widely vary in terms of length of time missed and his appeared to be much more severe than perceived. The team knew quickly that this was a significant strain as he was put on injured reserve immediately following the game. Fortunately, injured reserve was a minimum of 3 games and the extra time off allowed Dodson to fully recover, limiting his chances to re-injure later on.

Unfortunately, when he returned, he wasn’t much of a factor on defense, playing mostly special teams He was ultimately declared inactive for all 3 playoff games as the health of Milano and Edmunds improved. Dodson has an excellent chance to make the 2021 roster and while I am concerned about another hamstring injury, it appears he had the ability to fully recover, limiting his future injury risk.

Tyler Matakevich

Appeared in 16 games, 3 postseason games.

A linebacker in name only, most of his contributions came on special teams with the exception of Weeks 15-17 where he got a total of 61 snaps on defense. He suffered no publicly reported injuries and there is little concern heading into this season regarding his availability. Ideally, he doesn’t show up on defense other than garbage time at the end of a blowout. 

AJ Klein

Appeared in 16 games, 3 postseason games.

After a rough start to the season as he attempted to fill in for Matt Milano, Klein settled into his role, eventually garnering AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his play against the Chargers in Week 12. 

In addition to his accolades, Klein only suffered an ankle injury in the preseason that didn’t impact his abilities on the field. Outside of a core muscle repair earlier in his career, Klein has had a relatively unremarkable injury history and I don’t expect that to change heading into 2021. Ideally, he doesn’t see the field often due to the availability of Edmunds and Milano.

Andre Smith

Appeared in 12 games, 3 postseason games. 

Another solid depth piece, Smith originally came to the Bills via trade with the Carolina Panthers at the end of the preseason for a 7th-round pick. He saw little playing time on defense and suffered no publicly reported injuries. He did have several notable injuries in college but has since been able to stay relatively healthy in the NFL. I expect that trend to continue into 2021.

New to the roster:

Tyrell Adams

Adams finally broke out in a big way last year with the Texans, racking up 125 tackles and 2 sacks following several years of trips to IR and occasional playing time. Adams has a vague injury history, but was able to appear in all 16 games last season for the first time in his career. It was also learned recently that when Adams signed with the Bills originally in 2017, he failed his physical due to nerve damage from a stinger suffered during a shoulder injury. 

It isn’t a given that he will get through the season injury free, but he could be a great depth option if he can get through training camp in one piece.

Mike Bell

Another player the Bills have had their eyes on for a while with several prior stints, he comes in without any publicly known injuries. He is still a long shot to make the roster, but could finally grab a spot on the practice squad with a strong training camp.

Joe Giles-Harris

Another training camp or potential practice squad player, Giles-Harris comes in with minimal injuries but will have to avoid injury in order to stick around in 2021.

Marquel Lee

Lee comes to the Bills with several ankle injuries during his time with the Raiders and didn’t play in 2020 due to surgery. He has had enough time to fully recover from the ankle surgery but having a year off of football could limit his abilities to make the roster. 

Not returning:

Darron Lee

Appeared in 2 games.

A former first-round pick, Lee saw game action in Week’s 10 and 12 only on special teams, recording one tackle. He didn’t suffer any reported injuries and has since moved onto the Las Vegas Raiders.

Del’Shawn Phillips

Appeared in 2 games.

I felt bad for Phillips as he battled a quadriceps strain all season and barely played. He managed to play in 7 special teams snaps in Week 1 against the Jetsafter surprisingly making the roster. It wasn’t clear what side he injured but he sat out for 3 games before being placed on injured reserve. 

He came back in Week 9 against the Seahawks before appearing in 7 more special teams plays, once again exiting with a quadriceps injury. He went to injured reserve for a second time, ending his season. The specifics of the severity have not been revealed, but he was healthy enough to sign with the Jets in the offseason. I wish him the best of luck.

Deon Lacey

Appeared in 5 games.

Lacey, a familiar face after spending the 2017 and 2018 season with the Bills, suffered no publicly reported injuries. He filled in on special teams only but was available as linebacker depth while Edmunds and Milano were working through their injuries. Lacey has since gone back up to the CFL, signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

2021 Injury Expectations:

This defense is going to ride or die based on the health of Edmunds and Milano. It was unfortunate that each dealt with injuries that prevented them from playing to their fullest abilities, but they still managed to produce and get healthy when it counted. The depth behind those two appears to be far more experienced than last season with an anticipated lesser drop off in quality of play. Injuries will happen to this group, especially the top two, but the team should not be in dire straits as they were at times last season.