The Buffalo Bills are betting favorites to win the 2022 Super Bowl. Just let that sink in. See it, smell it, hear it, taste it, feel it. It’s real!
After being denied glory the last two seasons by the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills enter this season as a strong contender to bring him the elusive Lombardi trophy to Western New York. The team has the necessary depth to account for injuries, the starting talent is the top end in the league at multiple positions, and everything points to what could be a memorable season.
Injuries at times slowed the Bills in 2021, but consistent health will once again be necessary to allow for a deep playoff run.
Notable 2021 Injuries
WR Marquez Stevenson (Right Foot Sprain) Stevenson missed 10 games while recovering from a right midfoot sprain suffered in the preseason game against the Chicago Bears. The team used his injury as a way to keep him with the team by placing him on injured reserve until they needed to activate him.
The injury in itself was not something that needed this amount of time, but we will realistically see the Bills do this again if the opportunity presents itself in order to keep more players around the facility. There is little chance for Stevenson’s injury to affect this season, but he does have a lengthy injury history which doesn’t totally rule him out for future issues.
G Ike Boettger (Left Achilles) Suffered a left Achilles rupture in Week 16 against the Patriots, missing the final regular season game and playoffs. I detailed how his recovery may look and a reasonable timeline for him to return over at Buffalo Rumblings.
The team felt confident in his recovery that they signed him to a one-year deal in the off-season, minimizing their risk. It’s expected that his performance may be decreased as a result of the recent injury, but he can return to play as early as Week 1 based on the timelines we have seen by other players recently.
The only reason that Boettger will stay on PUP through the remainder of training camp is due to roster management. Staying on PUP through training camp will have him count towards the 90-man roster, but not against cut-downs. He will then be required to spend a minimum of four games on the PUP before a 21-day window can be opened to practice.
Boettger can stay on PUP until there is an injury where he can be activated or if it is determined that he is the better option than someone on the roster. If the Bills can hold onto rosterable players longer and use available resources such as this, then this can benefit them in the long run.
OT Spencer Brown (Undisclosed Surgery) Brown required an undisclosed surgery, first reported in May during OTA’s. It still isn’t clear what the procedure was or when it was, but it appeared to be minor enough that it did not limit Brown during his offseason as he has routinely participated in activities with friends such as fishing, participating in the charity softball game, and flying around the country.
Based on social media pictures, he did not appear to have any procedures on his legs or elbow/wrist/hand area based on the lack of swelling, bandages, or bracing. He did show up on the injury report with a left knee injury in the preseason and during Week 5, but nothing suggests that he had a procedure on the knee. This leaves the shoulder, abdomen, groin, or potentially back.
I believe the back surgery would have been disclosed had it been a discectomy or foraminotomy, he would have been restricted from movement for at least a portion of the off-season.
He did suffer a shoulder injury picking up a block in the red zone that required assessment by training staff during the Falcons game, but he did not miss any snaps that game. The mechanism suggested more of a stinger, but there is not much information that we know other than those injuries.
It’s reasonable to expect that he will be ready for training camp barring any unforeseen surprises.
TE Dawson Knox (Right-Hand Fracture) Knox missed two games due to a metacarpal fracture in his right hand suffered against the Titans back in Week 6. While this injury is noted due to the time he missed and the impact he has on the offense, there is zero concern heading into 2022 regarding this injury.
Knox does have a history of hamstring and calf strains along with an undisclosed injury that kept him out of OTA’s, but he was able to participate in full during mandatory minicamp. In a contract year, Knox has to show that 2021 was not a fluke and stay healthy, but also produce as he shows the NFL why he is one of the top tight-end talents.
LB Tremaine Edmunds (Hamstring) Edmunds missed Week 10 and 11 with a hamstring injury originally suffered in Week 9. While the veteran linebacker does draw the ire of some of the fan base, he has shown to be incredibly durable, missing only one game a year on average with last year missing two games.
Edmunds may suffer an injury here or there, missing some time, but he has shown to be a consistent presence on defense. Depth will continue to be a necessity for the entire linebacker corps in order to be a successful unit.
LB Matt Milano (Hamstring) It has become a yearly occurrence that Matt Milano suffers a hamstring strain when he suffered one in Week 4 against the Houston Texans.
I fully believe he and the training staff do everything in their power to ensure that he does not suffer any further instances, but sometimes, these injuries are unavoidable. It’s worth noting that Milano does not deal with the injury again once he recovers, he also notably injures the hamstring early in the season, no later than Week 5.
This could be problematic during the early stretch of the season when six of the first seven games are against AFC opponents.
CB Tre’Davious White (Left ACL Tear) Quite possibly the biggest mystery injury-wise heading into the 2022 season is when the veteran cornerback will return and how will he look?
White missed the last six games of the season including the postseason due to a left ACL tear sustained on Thanksgiving against the New Orleans Saints. He underwent surgery in mid-December and has been “on schedule” ever since then.
White has not spoken since the injury and the only public appearance that I have found he attended was the Micah Hyde charity softball game back in May. He did not play but he was noted to have a compression sleeve on his left leg as he walked around the field.
The team has also stated that they will know more about his status when training camp gets closer, whether he is days or weeks away. There are several scenarios that could play out for White which will clue in what his timeline will look like. They are:
–Start on the PUP list, miss all of training camp and move to the regular season PUP list, missing a minimum of four games. He would then have a five-week window to begin practicing, once he does, that opens a 21-day window to return to play. So if he took the entire time for each stage, realistically, he could wait until Week 12 or 13 and practice for the month prior to being ready for the last few games and post-season.
That would take him a year out past his injury and almost a year to his surgery. Under this scenario, it’s highly likely he would return sooner after the minimum 4 games missed.
–Start on the PUP list, and get activated at some point during training camp to begin practicing with the team. He could then make the 53-man roster and then be inactive for the first several games, slowly ramping up his play during practice until he is ready.
It’s important to highlight that while on PUP, White can be with the team and participate in meetings, but cannot practice on the field.
Despite his veteran status, I still believe the team would want him to get involved in on-field activities to ramp up his workload prior to the regular season. He then could be eased in, platooning the cornerback position with Dane Jackson, limiting his snap count and exposure to injury. It’s difficult to say when he would get the lion’s share of snaps, but the second half of the season would be a reasonable expectation.
–Activate him immediately and throw him back into full play. This is really aggressive as research has found that the rate of re-tear an ACL is significantly higher if a football player returns prior to nine months. Remember, the nine-month mark would be September 16, give or take a few days, as he had surgery on December 16, 2021.
I had previously discussed on Locked On Bills that White could go on IR as a way to circumvent the roster cut-down days, but he can only do that if he suffers a new injury which would not be ideal. He is at high risk for quad or hamstring strains as he returns from his injury and it would not surprise me if he does experience some soreness during training camp if he practices.
I have not been able to find whether a player can go to IR once they have passed a physical, common sense says no.
The team must elect what to do regarding the PUP list by roster cut down day to 80 players after the second preseason game. So we will know sooner than before cut-down day whether White will stay on the PUP list.
(Update 7/30/22: The team can elect to move a player to reserve/PUP to avoid cutting extra players; they have until regular cut-down day to determine if a player will be activated or remain on reserve/PUP.)
This makes scenario two the most likely possibility as to what they will do because White wants to play, the team wants him to play, and even at less than 100 percent, he is still a better option than others on the field. I have also likened his quality of play when he returns to that of Levi Wallace. Serviceable, but will at times get picked on or beat this first year as he returns. This may be an instance to temper expectations but be pleasantly surprised if he returns to form sooner.
S Jordan Poyer (Partial Right RC tear shoulder) In the midst of wanting a new contract, Poyer has done everything possible to warrant a new deal, missing only two games in five seasons. He did appear on the injury report in Week 9 with a shoulder injury and was also spotted wearing a brace throughout the season at times.
It was later revealed he suffered a partial rotator cuff tear according to Cover 1. No surgery was required to repair the partial tear as they do have the ability to heal on their own in certain cases. With proper rest and rehab, he can come back fully healthy to play without any lingering issues.
(Click on the name for a full injury breakdown)
QB Case Keenum: As with any football player, Keenum has experienced his share of injuries during his time in the league. Two concussions, thumb and foot injuries for a player who has mostly seen backup duties throughout his career. He has shown the ability to step up and play effectively when called upon, but ideally, Keenum doesn’t see the field often this year.
QB Matt Barkley: Absolutely no concerns as he is a veteran presence that will likely spend the season on the practice squad as a call-up option in the event of injury.
RB Duke Johnson: As a veteran brought in to compete in the backfield, Johnson brings with him a wide variety of injuries throughout his career including several hamstring injuries often suffered during training camp. The Bills do not have a lot invested in him which means if he has injury setbacks in camp, they can move on easily without consequence.
WR Jamison Crowder: Often injured during his time in Washington and New York, he looks to potentially replace Cole Beasley in the slot. He has dealt with numerous hamstring, groin, and calf injuries, missing 17 games over his seven-year career.
The hope is that he won’t have as much of a workload in Buffalo with all the talent available on offense. They can afford to be more efficient with him and with the world-class facilities to recover, this could cut down on time missed, especially with the soft tissue injuries he has suffered over the years. Certainly a lot of upsides, but he has to prove he can be healthy first.
WR Tavon Austin: Looking at what could be a final chance to leave his mark and win a championship, Austin brings with him a host of injuries as highlighted in the hyperlink. He is expected to see most of his work on special teams in the return game, but his position on the team will also be determined by how well he is able to stay healthy.
TE OJ Howard: Another veteran on a one-year deal, Howard looks to build off a healthy 2021 season after dealing with an Achilles tear along with foot, ankle, and hamstring injuries, cutting multiple seasons short.
He has the potential to be an excellent find for the Bills but must stay healthy once again. History has not been kind to him.
G Rodger Saffold: Penciled in as a starting guard and coming off his first Pro Bowl nod, Saffold brings with him a lengthy injury history. He has proven to be more durable in recent seasons, but he appears to be towards the end of his career.
A nagging shoulder injury last year prevented him from finishing six of the 13 games due to persistent numbness and tingling as the result of repeated hits to the nerves in the shoulder area.
I expect him to see a workload reduction with veteran rest days interspersed to maximize his availability this season.
OL Greg Mancz: An experienced depth option on the offensive line, Mancz has missed 26 regular season games due to injury over his career. I am not expecting a lot of production from Mancz this year, but if he can be in a reserve role for the team, that may be the best path to the roster for him.
OL Greg Van Roten: Has suffered several foot injuries including a dislocated toe that has cost him 21 games over his career. Experienced depth with extensive starting experience.
OT David Quessenberry: In the league since 2013, Quessenberry missed the better part of three seasons battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, returning late in 2017 to play.
He saw a lot of run during OTA’s and mandatory minicamp with Spencer Brown out recovering from surgery, Quessenberry has an excellent shot at making the roster. With the experience he has but without the mileage of some of his counterparts, he could be crucial depth at a vitally important position.
DE Von Miller: Absolutely no concerns with the health of Miller entering the 2022 season. He brings with him a prior ACL tear and peroneal tendon dislocation, but he has returned to play at an All-Pro level each time and only gets better.
DE Shaq Lawson: A former first-round pick of the Bills in 2016, Lawson has had his share of injuries throughout his career. He continued to deal with nagging issues that rendered him ineffective during his stops in Miami, Houston, and New York.
DT Jordan Phillips: After cashing in on an exceptional 2019 season with the Bills, Phillips went to the Cardinals where he proceeded to miss 16 games over the next two seasons due to injury. If he can find the fountain of youth that is the Bills’ training complex, he could rekindle some of his form from during his first stint in Buffalo.
DT Tim Settle: Never saw the playing time he warranted playing behind a defensive line of first-round picks in Washington. Zero injury concerns as he looks to make his mark with Buffalo.
DT DaQuan Jones: Other than a biceps tear in 2017 that required surgery, Jones comes to the Bills experienced and healthy.
2022 NFL Draft
A detailed analysis of each draft pick can be found linked below at Buffalo Rumblings.
CB Kaair Elam
RB James Cook
OL Luke Tenuta
2022 UDFA Signings
RB Raheem Blackshear
OL Alec Anderson
OL Tanner Owen
OL Derek Kerstetter
WR Neil Pau’u
TE Jalen Wydermyer
DE Daniel Joseph
DE Kingsley Jonathan
DT Prince Emili
DT CJ Brewer
CB Travon Fuller
CB Ja’Marcus Ingram
The biggest concerns I have are re-injuries to CB Tre’Davious White, G Ike Boettger, OT Spencer Brown, and any new injuries to key contributors. Injuries are flukey in nature and we can see how one injury can alter game plans and season outlooks.
This roster is built to win now and has the necessary depth all around to make a deep postseason run. The Bills continue to be one of the healthiest teams in the league. They also have the necessary resources to get guys back to playing sooner as they have shown in the past.
The floor is 11 wins, and the ceiling is 15 wins. Nothing less than an AFC East title and AFC Championship appearance would be considered a disappointment barring major injury.
This is the best shot the Bills have had at a Super Bowl in 30+ years. It’s a long season and those who persevere will be rewarded greatly.
Top Photo Credit: NFL.com