Wrapping up the 2022 preseason schedule, the Buffalo Bills lost 21-0 to the Carolina Panthers Saturday night. While the results are rather inconsequential, a dark cloud clearly hung over the Bills locker room in the wake of the Matt Araiza news and details over the past several days.
This appeared to have been a distraction to the team and Sean McDermott, evident in his press conference and it’s hard to imagine that this kind of news wouldn’t affect the locker room.
There had been an intense backlash since the news dropped and rightfully so. I don’t have any additional thoughts on the matter that hasn’t been saying other than the team addressed the issue. The team does not need anything that prevents them from achieving their objectives.
Not to expound on the matter, but there were still injuries that did occur with varying levels of severity. Below are the notable injuries coming out of Friday’s game.
DT Eli Ankou (Left hamstring)
Ankou left Friday’s game with 9:54 left in the 1st quarter due to a left hamstring injury. This was the result of engaging with his offensive blocker at the line. He was pushing forward, anchoring his left leg in the ground. As the offensive lineman pushed back, Ankou lost his footing and was pushed back suddenly as he attempted to regain his footing.
This is likely when he injured the hamstring; he was contracting the muscle to move forward and he got pushed backward, suddenly lengthening the muscle that was already under tension, overloading the tissue, causing the strain.
The play moved to the right side of the field and as Ankou disengaged to move towards the play, he came up limping.
He was able to walk off the field under his own power and was questionable to return. He ultimately did not return, playing only one snap. Determining the severity on the film is very difficult, making it hard to determine how long he will be out. Dealing with a hamstring after missing the beginning of training camp due to a calf injury isn’t ideal for Ankou.
It’s unclear whether this was the same side but based on the mechanism of injury, this doesn’t appear to be related to the prior injury.
RB Duke Johnson (Left ankle)
Johnson briefly left the game with 10:33 left in the second quarter with a left ankle injury due to a shoestring tackle, hitting the outside of the ankle. The veteran back was hit low and from the outside, causing him to fall at the end of the play, but at no point was his foot caught in the turf.
He was able to return after a brief absence, but this potentially appeared to be more pain than actual injury.
WR Tanner Gentry (Right knee/hamstring)
Shortly after Johnson left, Gentry went down with an injury of his own. On a short five-yard pass to the left with 9:14 left in the second quarter, Gentry caught the ball, landing on his right knee as he was tackled from behind.
The injury wasn’t obvious at the time until Bills PR reported that he was questionable to return.
It’s not clear how he injured the hamstring, but hopefully, the knee was more of a contusion than anything else. This will be another one we need more information on, but as a fringe roster player, these types of injuries don’t help his cause.
CB Kaiir Elam (Right hand)
While not reported by the team, this was something that was caught on the broadcast. Elam was spotted on the bench holding his right hand in pain at the very end of the second quarter with 32 seconds left.
He was able to stay in the game until the offense took the field to kneel out the second half, but this injury likely took place as the result of hand fighting or getting caught up in a jersey. Looking at the film, it’s not definitive exactly what play and what was injured, but there were not any reports from the team.
This was observed on the local broadcast and not available on NFL+ replay. I doubt this will be anything moving forward, but it’s important to highlight issues at the moment in case there are concerns later.
CB Cam Lewis (Nose)
Lewis left the game in pain with 9:17 left in the third quarter after getting hit in the nose while engaging Panthers RB John Lovett. According to the broadcast, Lewis’s chinstrap failed as he hit Lovett, forcing the mask of his helmet into his nose.
He went back to the locker room for x-rays and came out with what appeared to be puffiness around his nose and eyes. He did break his nose per NYUp.com’s Matt Parrino.
He was able to return to practice Saturday, albeit, still in some pain. This shouldn’t affect him by the time Week 1 rolls around.
TE OJ Howard (Left ankle)
This injury was not as obvious as the others during the game. Cover 1’s Erik Turner noticed that Howard’s ankle was taped up in the later portion of the game as he lacked explosiveness and hobbled at times.
This was not noted on the broadcast nor did the team report any injury updates for Howard. After appearing to be a sure lock on the roster considering his pedigree, he hasn’t shown much to warrant being on the roster other than his contract. He was spotted on the exercise bike the following day, limited by the injury.
WR Isaiah McKenzie (Lower body)
McKenzie came up limping during practice on Saturday, leaving with trainers and not returning. There are not any specifics as to the exact area injured or how it was injured, but with roster cuts looming, this might secure Jamison Crowder’s roster spot as a backup slot option.
S Jordan Poyer (Left elbow)
Poyer continues to ramp up for Week 1 with further activities at practice, still wearing the elbow brace until he is comfortable to begin hitting without it. There is very little chance he wouldn’t play in the season opener, but things continue to trend in the right direction. Brandon Beane has even stated that Poyer would have been playing already had this occurred during the regular season.
DT Tim Settle (Calf), OT Tommy Doyle (Right Foot), G Greg Mancz (Left ankle)
Nothing is really new from any of these players. Settle and Doyle have been out with their respective injuries since the Colts’ preseason game. Mancz left practice on August 22 after getting tied up with several linemen.
None appear to be IR candidates from what the team has said, especially Doyle heading into the season. They have a little under two weeks to be fully ready for Week 1, the only one I have concerns about being ready is Doyle, though we never received the exact specifics on the injury.
RB James Cook (Right shoulder harness)
Cook was spotted with a right shoulder harness during the game, something I had not noticed before. There have not been any reports of injury during the preseason either. Looking back, he played with the harness during the first two preseason games and even played with it during his time at Georgia.
He did have a shoulder injury back in 2020 that forced him to miss one game. At the time, I had thought he suffered an AC joint sprain, but considering he is wearing the bracing two years later either suggests something else. He possibly wears it due to residual instability from the 2020 injury or he wears it as a prophylactic as extra protection.
Until he has an injury to the area, I am not concerned, but once again, something worth highlighting when it’s observed.
WR Marquez Stevenson (Right foot surgery)
Stevenson continues to rehab from his right foot surgery at the beginning of the month following a training camp injury. IG videos show him working on single leg balance and the other shows him working on strengthening while using blood flow restriction on his thigh.
As he continues to progress through his rehab, I suspect a fracture that required stabilization in the area considering he has begun weight-bearing with protection to the area. He also has to limit how much weight he is able to push through his foot, requiring the use of the blood flow restriction. This allows him to overwork his thigh muscles to improve strength while limiting stress through the healing foot.
He appears to be an IR to return candidate to begin the season considering the work he is doing and the fact the team has not placed him on IR already. We will get more information on Tuesday regarding his status.
The team has some easy and hard decisions to make prior to Tuesday’s cut-down. Many players who are deserving to be in the NFL will be cut and have to find a new home while others are re-signed to the practice squad. There is a chance that there are some IR settlements as part of roster cut downs, watch for news updates about that.
None of the above-mentioned injuries appear to impact these decisions as of right now, but several decisions including PUP and moving guys to IR to begin the season determine if any of the fringe guys can stick around.
Top Photo Credit: Toronto Star