Phase 3 OTA Week 1 Recap

Assessing the latest injuries following the first week of Phase 3 of OTA’s.

In an offseason that appeared to be going well for the Bills with lots of new faces, a promising outlook, and possible long lasting stability, a jarring reality set in on Day 2. Tuesday brought a wide variety of injury news, some good, mostly bad that puts worry into every Bills fan even though it is May.

The most serious injury of OTA’s came in newly signed TE Tyler Kroft (foot). Unfortunately, he suffered a foot fracture on the first day which will require surgery. Regrettably, this is the same foot that he fractured last year that cost him 11 games. According to Ian Rapaport, this will sideline him for up to 3-4 months. While this is bad news, it’s not totally awful. The 3-4 months recovery timeline tells us several things. This tells us that this injury wasn’t as serious as it could have been. This rules out a Lisfranc as a conservative recovery would be 6 months.

We know that it’s not trauma or a stress fracture as trauma most likely would have been reported and a stress fracture wouldn’t require immediate surgery. This leads us to several possibilities. He could have had an avulsion fracture in where a portion of the bone is pulled away from the bone. He could have a metatarsal fracture in any of the long toe bones of the foot. Or he could have a Jones fracture.

Considering he injured the same foot last year, had surgery, and then fractured again, I am leaning towards the Jones fracture. It’s a surgery that requires stabilization with a screw, it has a known failure rate after the first surgery, and the timeline fits with the reported recovery time. The mechanism of injury is similar to an ankle sprain which can be rather innocent when dealing with positional drills, someone tweaks their ankle, steps funny, pushes off differently. Kroft most likely woke up the next day having issues, had imaging, and found out the bad news.

While he is still a near lock to make the roster, losing him for 3-4 months will allow some of the younger tight ends to get more reps and make the roster. Kroft will likely start the preseason on the PUP list, possibly paving the way to allow someone to get some playing time in place during the preseason. If he is on PUP at the start of the regular season, he wouldn’t be able to return until Week 6 when he is eligible. By then, there could be corresponding roster moves such as injury or insufficient play from other players which may prevent having to cut another TE before the regular season. This designation would also not count against an IR-to-return spot.

Others coming off injury are RB Frank Gore (foot/ankle) and RB TJ Yeldon (groin). There has been a documented injury for Gore at the end of last season which sent him to IR. There has been no known surgeries, but considering that Gore is ancient in NFL terms and these practices are voluntary, it’s an easy out to not participate in drills.

As for Yeldon, he may have tweaked something early on and decided to avoid making things worse rather than trying to go through meaningless drills. For both backs, there is no concern moving forward unless new information comes to light.

Many became worried with the revelation that both newly signed C Mitch Morse and WR Cole Beasley required core stabilization surgery, better known as a sports hernia repair. This is the same type of injury that infamous Bills CB Vontae Davis suffered 2 seasons ago. I detailed his injury when he originally signed with the team, make sure to click the link above for more information. While there is concern that they may not be ready for Week 1, it was revealed that they had their surgery several weeks ago with a general recovery timeline of roughly 12 weeks.

Both could certainly come back sooner than that based on the amount of damage in the region, but having surgery in April gives them a return to full ability in July. These injuries do unfortunately happen considering the positional requirements throughout the season but are able to play through. While there is always concerns for complications, the return to play rate is ~90% for NFL players, I do not expect anything less for Morse and Beasley.

Others nicked up include S Rafael Bush (groin/shoulder) and CB Taron Johnson (shoulder). Bush was seen wearing a red non-contact jersey alongside Johnson, but considering these workouts are voluntary, he may be just be cautious as he was dealing with a groin injury last season, according to research by Nick Wojton. Bush also did suffer a shoulder injury last season that may have lingered to the point where he didn’t want to risk anything and could be the true cause of why he was sitting out OTA’s.

Johnson is coming off his labral repair and has made excellent progress to this point. Considering he is 5.5 months out from surgery, he is able to participate in drills but contact is not advised yet, he’ll be ready come training camp. To read more, please check out the article here from Buffalo Rumblings.

Rookie WR David Sills V (hamstring) suffered a hamstring strain in rookie mini camp, these injuries occur despite the best preventative methods out there. He just needs rest and rehab. TE Jason Croom (undisclosed) was seen walking with a trainer, dealing with something, but no further information has come out regarding what he injured.

Finally, C Russell Bodine (shoulder) did not participate in OTA’s as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. I had noted last year that he was wearing a compression sleeve later in the season. He most likely had a shoulder debridement, possible subacromial decompression. This would be similar to what Panthers QB Cam Newton had recently. The procedure would smooth down any arthritic changes in the shoulder or trim back the acromion which could cause impingement leading to weakness, pain, and possible further complications with the rotator cuff if left untreated. He is also coming off a broken fibula requiring surgery that appears to fully healed. Regarding both injuries, he will be fine for camp and this is not worth any further words.

Players that suffered injuries last season that practiced in full were LB Matt Milano (ankle), P Corey Bojorquez (shoulder), and P Cory Carter (knee). Milano is coming off his gruesome fibula fracture with dislocation practicing in full. He appears to be on schedule and working back into football shape as expected.

Bojorquez suffered a torn labrum last season on his bonehead fake FG attempt, he was practicing in full and his shoulder won’t give any issues as he likely had surgery in October and he doesn’t take the regular contact or use the shoulder in a way that Taron Johnson would.

Carter is coming off his ACL tear that cost him all of 2018 due to a direct blow to the knee. He is roughly 9 months out from surgery and should be cleared to resume full activities. There is less concern for him returning from the injury than we saw last year with DE Trent Murphy.

Despite all the doom and gloom of Tuesday, there are still positives to take away as they still have 3 months before a meaningful snap is taken. All will be fine. We will also get to see more action on the 28th which will give us some glimpses into what the mandatory minicamp participation will be like. I believe most of these injuries will not be mentioned in June.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Buffalo Bills Bounty of Free Agents!

Analyzing the most recent Bills acquisitions & injury concerns moving forward into next season.

Whooo wee! What a week for the Buffalo Bills! 8 free agents total after the national media stated that Buffalo was not a place that free agents wanted to go? Where else would you rather be than Buffalo, NY?! The front office is building something special here, or they’re at least trying to. This has a totally different feel from past years where a free agent or two would show up and they were a piece that maybe fit part of the puzzle, but didn’t complete it. These most recent acquisitions are far from completing the puzzle, but the total picture is certainly coming together better than in past seasons. Today’s article will review the acquisitions and my thoughts on their injuries going into 2019.

First up is CB Kevin Johnson. The former 1st round pick recently released by Houston has had a litany of injuries during his short career in the NFL. To review, he has had Lisfranc and Jones fractures, wrist fracture, sprained MCL, and multiple concussions. In my article I wrote for Buffalo Rumblings, I dove into his injury history and my thoughts on the signing.  Make sure to check out the above linked article. He is overall a low risk, high reward signing due to his contract and has clearly demonstrated the ability to play when healthy. If he is able to avoid some of the seriousness of the injuries in the past, he could help resurrect his career and have a new start in Buffalo.

Next up is C Mitch Morse. The former starting center from Kansas City quickly found his way to Buffalo to become the NFL’s highest paid center. However, his arrival does not come without concern. During his also short career in the league, Morse has suffered 2 concussions which caused him to miss 3 games his rookie year, a foot injury costing him 10 total games with a trip to IR in 2017, and a concussion that caused him to miss 5 games in 2018. As with Kevin Johnson, I detailed my thoughts on Morse with Buffalo Rumblings.  While he is still young and highly talented, there is concern if he were to suffer another concussion at such a collision heavy position in the trenches with sub concussive hits nearly every play. The talent is there which makes the money worth it, but the Bills must have a contingency plan in place if injury occurs in order to ensure that the signing of Morse works in their favor.

Continuing to go down the list is WR’s Cole Beasley & WR John Brown. Both veteran receivers come via Dallas & Baltimore, respectively. Both have demonstrated effective play making abilities which appealed to both the front office and QB Josh Allen. After last year’s pitiful wide receiver production, significant upgrades at the position were a must. Injury wise, both look overall good. Beasley has only missed 1 game in his career due to illness and for the most part, manages to stay off the injury report only dealing with a knee & ankle injuries along with a concussion. As for Brown, most of his injury concerns involve hamstring strains along with a quad and toe injury that cost him 4 games in 2017. These are excellent signings by the Bills and really demonstrate the urgency to get the offense moving.

WR Andre Roberts comes to Buffalo after a season with the Jets in which he earned an All-Pro nod on special teams. Like Beasley & Brown, Roberts comes with several injuries, but minimal concerns. Roberts has saw time with Arizona, Washington, and the New York Jets suffering shoulder, ankle, and quad injuries missing only 3 games total as a result. He did suffer a knee injury that sent him to IR and prematurely ended his 2015 season with Washington. Other than a back injury in 2018 that he did not miss time with, Roberts will significantly upgrade the special teams group and provide a dynamic returner not seen since CB Terrance McGee.

Moving onto the offensive line depth, the Bills signed both OT Ty Nsekhe & OG Jon Feliciano from Washington & Oakland respectively. Nsekhe has had quite the journey to the NFL, starting his career in 2009 playing in Arena Football for several years before getting a crack at the NFL with the Colts. He then proceeded to bounce around in the CFL, more Arena Football, and cups of coffee with St. Louis and New Orleans before solidifying a job with Washington. I am unaware of his injury history during his time in other organized leagues, but his NFL injury list is short with foot/ankle injuries in 2016 along with a core muscle injury in 2017 that caused him to miss 5 games. Last season, he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss 2 games but considering his age of 33, most guys are exiting the league, Nsekhe appears to continue improving. He has demonstrated the ability to play well when called up to start along with demonstrating the ability to play multiple positions, but understands how to be an effective backup.

Feliciano is cut from the same cloth as Nsekhe, however, not bouncing around from various professional leagues. The veteran guard has spent his entire career with Oakland before signing with Buffalo a few days ago. Along with moving across the country, Feliciano comes with several calf injuries and a concussion over his career. However, while he can start in spot situations, his ability to understand O-Line coach Bobby Johnson’s game plan allows him to fit in nicely and allow to be an effective piece moving forward in 2019.

TE Tyler Kroft comes from Cincinnatti after playing 4 years for the Bengals. Kroft began coming on as a tight end as TE Tyler Eifert began suffering injuries which limited his ability on the field. Unfortunately, Kroft had difficulty staying healthy at times, suffering a knee/ankle injury at the end of 2016 followed by a foot injury that caused him to miss 11 games with a trip to IR, ending his season prematurely. While he is a young player to help open up the offense, he is far from the answer moving forward and will complement any draft pick or future tight ends signed to the roster.

Finally, old man RB Frank Gore. This man has been playing so long, he predates the injury reporting on pro-football-reference.com. While his injury history may have a few blank spots, his career has been defined by his durability. After suffering two ACL tears in college, Gore was able to find a home in San Francisco for many productive years until 2014. He has had a smattering of injuries over the course of his productive career with most notably shoulder injuries during his rookie year, a broken bone in his hand a few ears after that, and a hip injury that sent him to IR and ended his 2010 season early. Other than the hip, he suffered a foot injury which ended his season in Miami 2 games early. Many consider Gore to be a future Hall of Famer with his dominance at the position and his overall stats. Despite going into his age-36 season, Gore has managed to keep injuries to a minimum and avoid some of the larger injuries that spell out shorter careers in an already high turnover position that is running back. While he will not be as productive in past seasons, he should be able to be an effective back up behind RB LeSean McCoy and provide leadership to a young team. I believe that he will show some of the younger players how to prepare mentally to maximize their skills on the field while also minimizing injuries in order to stay healthy.

Overall, I like most of these signings. I do not expect every once of these to be a slam dunk upgrade, some will simply not work out. Gore was an odd one considering the age, but if there is still something left in the tank, the Bills want to ride him until there’s fumes. I have concerns about the Johnson & Morse signings, but if both stay healthy, they could turn out to be lucrative in the long run. I like the offensive line depth that the front office focused on because no NFL team is immune from injury, it is imperative that the backups are able to play effectively until the starter returns. Nothing will torpedo the Bills 2019 season more than poor depth. Finally, the WR & TE signings signal that they are serious about taking QB Josh Allen to the next level and show everyone how he can throw it over them there mountains. I don’t believe the Bills are done in the free agency market; they are showing that they are willing to bring in anyone they feel that can upgrade the quality of play on the field. Just think, we still have 6 weeks before the NFL draft and me personally, I’m pumped!

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!