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!!

Bills Post Draft: UDFA Signings

Assessing the injury histories of the Bills UDFA signings and their injury histories.

Even though the Bills addressed a lot of needs through the draft last weekend, they were far from done, signing a slew of undrafted players to nearly fill out the 90 man roster. Today’s article will review the injury histories of each UDFA and whether they have a shot at making the roster come the regular season.

First up is QB Tyree Jackson out of University at Buffalo. The familiar face was reportedly one of the first players signed following the draft and appeared to be a priority for the front office to begin developing future signal callers. This is a far cry from past regimes that were looking for a quick fix through free agency or hoping to hit in the draft. Injury-wise, he was relatively healthy through his college career despite being a mobile QB. He did suffer a knee injury in 2017 that caused him to miss 4 games. Specifics were not given on the injury but considering the timeline, his mobility, and lack of reports indicating further complications lead me to believe he suffered an MCL sprain. This is not an injury that typically lingers and is supported by the fact that he played in all 14 games last season.

As for Jackson’s future in Buffalo, I expect that he’ll make the practice squad, soaking up what it means to be an NFL pro with the possibility of moving up to a backup role with the Bills or getting scooped up by another team to develop. Still, an excellent signing by Buffalo to identify future talent.

Next is WR Nick Easley out of Iowa. The productive WR out of the Midwest spent only 2 years with the Hawkeyes compiling 103 receptions for 1024 yards and 9 scores. During his 2 years, he suffered a collapsed lung with broken ribs during the regular season finale but recovered well enough to play in their bowl game which is incredible due to the pain alone of broken ribs. In 2018, he dealt with several nagging injuries for which I could not find specifics but he did not miss any games as a result. One article from 2017 revealed several injuries he stated that he had dealt with over his collegiate career included: turf toe, ankle sprains, two concussions, and a severe high ankle sprain from high school. The ankle sprains could have been something chronic over the past year in which he suffered a sprain but quickly recovers due to the scar tissue already present. However, most of these injuries are unfortunately common injuries players sustain but can vary in severity with regards to games missed. I am not certain that these injuries mentioned are what he dealt with this last season, but merely opens a window into what he played through. Future injury concerns moving forward, the broken ribs/lungs are not concerning but the concussions and ankle injuries can cause further worry as previous concussions increase the risk for future concussions. In addition, the ankle injuries could become chronic if not rehabbed properly, leading to more frequent injuries due to instability.

Considering he had to work his way up from Iowa Western Community College to D-1 football to the NFL, he has shown the ability to work and tough it out. While I don’t know how he will fit in with the WR corps, he may be someone who could sneak onto the roster with special teams play and an excellent training camp.

OL Blake Hance our of Northwestern demonstrated that during his time in Evanston, he was incredibly durable at a violent position. He at one point made 35 consecutive starts until an ankle injury forced him to miss one game early in 2018. Overall, he played in 51 out of a possible 53 games for the Wildcats demonstrating his health. He is yet another player that the Bills have placed a priority on with regards to avoiding major injury during college and being available. Considering the academic reputation that Northwestern has, he could be an intelligent developmental player on the practice squad that earns roster consideration in the future as the Bills continue to mold their offensive line.

Another local player that the Bills picked up as a UDFA was CB Cam Lewis out of Buffalo. It’s always said, you can never have too many cornerbacks. The Bills certainly understand this as it seems like while they have talent at the position, if an injury occurs, the quality of play goes way down and finding a CB4 that can be consistent has been challenging for this regime. While Lewis may not be the answer, he may be someone they can develop if he shows promise in training camp. He could also be someone that they put on the practice squad or cut but keep close by in the event of a shortage of defensive backs. Injury-wise, he did deal with several while in college but nothing that is likely to become a problem at the next level. In 2017, he dealt with a broken thumb and forearm that caused him to miss 5 games. In 2018, he suffered a leg injury which forced him to miss the Army game, but no specifics regarding the nature of the ailment could be found. This could have been something as simple as a contusion, pulled calf muscle, etc. that necessitated rest.

LB Juwan Foggie out of UNC-Charlotte continues the trend of effective, healthy players that the Bills have targeted in the draft. Foggie appeared in 47 games over his career, appearing to avoid injury which is remarkable in itself. As there are no injury concerns, he could be another player that sees practice squad time with an effective training camp or cut and brought back if injuries mount.

WR David Sills out of WVU appears to be an incredibly sneaky signing by the Bills during the UDFA period. The former QB turned WR has been a hot topic in past years, famously being given a verbal scholarship offer by then USC HC Lane Kiffin when he was 13. Unfortunately for Sills, he broke a knuckle on his throwing hand during his junior year of high school which altered his throwing motion which led to the position change. During his time at WVU and El Camino College, he did not suffer any reported injuries which is remarkable considering how much physical demand is required at that position. Sills will have a tough climb up the depth chart at WR, but could make noise with a great training camp and may warrant a roster spot to avoid losing him altogether.

LB Tyrel Dodson out of Texas A&M declared for the draft as a junior but that decision appeared to be short-sighted as he was not drafted and will have to work even harder to get an NFL roster spot. While has productive during his time in College Station, the one thing that he has going for him was that he did not suffer any major injuries. The only injury that can be found was in 2018 he suffered a minor sprained ankle against Ole Miss for which he did not miss any games. While the linebacking corps can always use extra depth, Dodson may be another player who makes an NFL training camp and nothing further.

Finally, K Chase McLaughlin out of Illinois rounds out the UDFA signings. McLaughlin was the 2018 Big Ten Kicker of the year, hitting 4 of 6 FG’s from 50+ yards out. As he is a kicker, special teams players are typically not known for getting injured and he was no exception. While K Stephen Hauschka continues to produce at a high level, he has begun showing his age along with suffering an injury last year due to a blindside block. I do not believe that McLaughlin will seriously challenge for the starting kicker role. However, the competition will certainly help keep Hauschka on his toes to produce.

Overall, these UDFA signing’s show some promise but are relative long shots to make the team. Bills fans know all about UDFA’s making their mark in the league with LB Lorenzo Alexander spending nearly 15 years in the league along with CB Levi Wallace and WR Robert Foster eventually making the roster and producing despite their starting position as a UDFA. This will be an exciting group to watch through training camp who can make their presence known. I believe at least 1-2 of these guys will find their name on the Buffalo Bills roster come 2019.

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!!