Injury Analysis: Buffalo Bills LB Deion Jones

Injury Analysis: Buffalo Bills LB Deion Jones

Needing to add depth at the linebacker room as OTAs continue to progress, the Buffalo Bills signed LB Deion Jones to a one-year deal Thursday. 

The LSU product and former second rounder comes to the Bills after stops in Atlanta, Cleveland, and Carolina appearing in 109 games with 91 starts. He has primarily played defense at every stop but has seen time at special teams as well, indicating he could be a nice depth option behind Milano and Bernard should he need to start in a pinch.

Read below for Deion Jones publicly reported injury history and analysis.

Injury History

2016 Atlanta Falcons

Ankle injury, Week 4, missed 1 game.

Jones suffered an ankle injury versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 4. He missed the following week versus the Denver Broncos.

2017 Falcons

No publicly reported injuries.

2018 Falcons

Right foot fractures, Week 1, missed 10 games.

Jones suffered a right foot fracture in the Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He underwent further testing after the game and found that he suffered the fracture that required a procedure. At the time, injured reserve was a minimum eight games missed. 

2019 Falcons

Foot injury, training camp.

Jones was still rehabbing off to the side during the opening days of training camp due to a foot injury. It’s not clear whether this was a continuation of the same injury from last season or a new one. The Falcons had some level of confidence in his health, giving him a contact extension earlier in the offseason. 

2020 Falcons

No publicly reported injuries.

2021 Falcons

Shoulder injury, Week 12, missed 1 game.

Jones popped up on the injury report late in the week on that Friday due to a shoulder injury. This came after he was not limited Wednesday or Thursday. 

2022 Falcons/Cleveland Browns 

Left shoulder procedure, offseason, missed 6 total games.

Jones underwent shoulder surgery in May during the offseason and was slated to miss a portion of the workouts. This procedure was to clean out the shoulder, potentially an injury from the prior season. Based on the picture in this article, he has a shoulder harness on the left side suggesting this was the side addressed. 

He later started the season on PUP and was activated a month later. Unfortunately, he possibly suffered a setback and was placed on injured reserve to begin the regular season after roster cutdowns. 

When he did make his season debut, he had been traded to the Cleveland Browns

2023 Carolina Panthers

No publicly reported injuries. 

Injury Analysis

Jones has been pretty healthy except for his foot fracture and shoulder surgery. This availability has dated back to college which is impressive considering how long he has played football. 

Looking at each injury, the foot fracture is notable but not overall too concerning as foot fractures heal up fairly well. Across all sports, 98.7 percent of players who undergo foot surgery for a fracture do return to play. Due to the lack of specifics within the reporting, it’s hard to discern what type of fracture Jones suffered. It’s possible he suffered a Jones fracture or fifth metatarsal fracture. 

Considering injured reserve was an eight week stay at the time and he missed 10 games total, it’s possible he had this injury. If players who suffer a Jones fracture undergo surgery and return in 10 weeks or less, they are at greater risk to re-injure the area requiring surgery and see a significant performance decline. This is all hindsight now, but the most possible outcome. Had he had another metatarsal fracture or another bone in the foot, this could have changed timelines, but he did appear incredibly productive in his first game back, securing 13 solo tackles

Addressing the shoulder, this one is confusing as the timeline does not support a labrum repair, AC joint reconstruction, or rotator cuff repair. They did note that the shoulder required a cleanup. The timeline from when he had surgery to when he was initially removed from PUP was about three months, far too short of a timeline for both procedures. 

He could have undergone a subacromial decompression or distal clavicle excision. These would be both considered cleanups in most cases. Both would be indicated for impingement or osteoarthritis within the shoulder. Sometimes the surgeon does both procedures when in there. A timeline for both of these would be closer to the time he missed. He was able to return for the preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars and potentially could have aggravated the area during tackling, leading to the stint on injured reserve.

Credit: Campbell Hand

He spent another six weeks on injured reserve before getting traded to the Cleveland Browns. His stats were uninspiring but he still likely wasn’t 100 percent even after passing a physical. This appeared to transition over to 2023 with the Carolina Panthers though he did see less playing time last season

Considering the recency of the shoulder injury and his production over the last two seasons, the shoulder is by far the biggest concern.

Final Thoughts

Jones hasn’t been injured too often during his career, but when he is injured, he has been significantly affected. The foot injury is of little concern but that shoulder could still potentially be giving him some issues. Considering he passed a physical, the shoulder is in good enough shape to play but it still may not be 100 percent. 

Deion Jones is a linebacker with a lot of starting experience and can step in should Matt Milano or Terrel Bernard be forced to miss time. He is on a one-year deal which helps minimize the risk associated with signing him, but even if this was a two or three year contract, there wouldn’t be many concerns as long as the shoulder checked out.

I wish Deion Jones the best of luck this season and to stay healthy. 

Top Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

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