While the Bills are still banged up, they are far from out of contention after the quarter pole of the season. They sit at 3-1 with the 3rd best record in the AFC and still very much in control of their own destiny. While there is a lot of uncertainty heading into Week 5 against the Titans, most of the players are starting to turn the corner injury-wise. Today’s article outlines the injuries heading into Week 5 and who is expected to play.
LB Corey Thompson (ankle) & TE Tyler Kroft (ankle)
Thompson is still dealing with surgery that was likely the result of a cleanout from a previously unknown injury. His timeline is fluid and is not expected to be back for another 2-3 weeks at best guess. Kroft is still working back from his low ankle sprain in his left ankle & I would not expect him to be back until after the bye. Until he gets 3 consecutive full days of practice in, consider him benched until further notice.
QB Josh Allen (concussion)
As it’s widely known, Allen is coming off a concussion sustained Sunday at the result of Patriots CB Jonathan Jones. There has been a lot of optimism that he can return to play Sunday but historically, most players who sustain a concussion miss the next week. There have been instances where last season QB Phillip Rivers cleared concussion protocol before clobbering the Bills in the 2017 season in the infamous Nathan Peterman game. Former Bill RB LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion last year in the loss to the Colts & returned in time for MNF against the Patriots.
Concussions are unique in that no one is ever the same and timelines for recovery vary. Considering Allen was in Stage 4 of the protocol all this week & practiced in full, this still isn’t a guarantee. He still has to be cleared by the independent neurologist. The reports look promising and I’m leaning towards him playing, but until we get word that he’s cleared, there isn’t a guarantee he plays.
S Dean Marlowe (concussion)
Marlowe suffered his concussion after the first Bills scoring drive in which he wrapped up the kick returner before getting hit in the head as he required assistance to complete the tackle. This was with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. He appeared wobbly on the field before reportedly was assessed for a head injury. Like Allen, Marlowe is in protocol & appeared to be in Stage 4 as well. If Marlowe is able to clear the protocol, he will be a key special teams player & necessary depth. If he isn’t cleared, expect S JaQuan Johnson to go.
FB Patrick DiMarco (concussion)
DiMarco was a surprise addition to the injury report this week with the 3rd concussion from Sunday. While we generally know when Marlowe’s occurred & certainly when Allen’s happened, DiMarco’s was less apparent. DiMarco was in the game with 3:19 left in the 4th quarter on punt coverage indicating he wasn’t knocked out of the game like several others. He did suffer a hard hit several times including on 2nd & 9 on the flea-flicker to RB TJ Yeldon while performing a chop block. He does get a knee to the head but doesn’t appear to be initially fazed. He also takes a hard hit on 4th & 10 with 8:44 left in the 4th quarter, but this wasn’t out of the ordinary for physical football hits.
During Wednesday’s practice, he was able to be on the sidelines working on the stationary bike indicating that he is in Stage 2-3, working through increasing the heart rate & tolerating sustained physical activity. Thursday improved his status to Stage 4 with him participating in non-contact activities. Friday indicated that he practiced in full. It’s likely but uncertain if he will play Sunday, but considering how important he is in special teams, it would be beneficial.
I try to keep these articles as objective as possible with a little bit of opinion because, well, it’s my website. But I’ve noticed that a lot of people on Twitter are on the bandwagon that if Allen sits for an extra week, then he’ll be extra healthy, especially after the bye. Some people have commented that how do we know if the brain is fully healthy? How can he heal so quickly?
Frankly, we don’t know the brain is fully healthy. We don’t have the technology at this point to look further. But what we do have is objective measure testing. What this encompasses is testing his memory and processing through cognitive testing, his coordination & how his eyes are responding/interacting with input from the outside world with vestibular testing, his physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness which can be measured by heart rate & blood pressure.
We’re looking at baseline testing from the beginning of the season & compared to how he re-tests to measure where he is at. The hope is that he excels and outperforms the baseline. The baseline acts as a control in the scientific method. The experiment is objective testing. The idea is that does this objective testing correctly measure whether he is healthy & able to return? So far, we have seen this utilized successfully & with great results.
So what does this boil down to? Once the testing shows that a player has been tested & passes protocol, then he is cleared. Simple as that. Until there are methods that further identify whether the brain is fully healthy, we go with what we know best. Remember, doctors used to use leeches for bloodletting, cocaine/heroin for nearly every remedy, & lobotomies for mental illness. We learn from these mistakes. The hope is that we work with what we know at the time & look to improve the process.
WR Robert Foster (groin)
Foster suffered a groin injury late last week, missing Week 4 due to the acute nature of the injury. He was able to practice in full Wednesday & Thursday which was an excellent sign & may be ready to contribute in both the offense & special teams. We do not know the specifics of the injury, there is a higher risk to re-injure the area, but practicing in full is always a good sign. However, he was limited Friday and is now officially questionable for Sunday. Considering he is still dealing with the turf toe from training camp & in addition to the groin, it’s reasonable he’s questionable, but certainly more likely to play this week than last.
CB Taron Johnson (hamstring)
Johnson has missed the past 3 games with a hamstring injury dating back to the season opener. He has looked excellent in practice the past 2 weeks performing agility & football-specific drills, but was, in my opinion, a surprising inactive for Sunday. Either he felt he was not ready or had some type of setback with tweaking the area prior to the game. He has been limited the past 2 weeks in practice.
However, looking back through the past 3 years of Bills injury reports on pro-football-reference.com, historically, with this medical staff, players have missed 2-3 games before returning to play. To go down the rabbit hole further, none of the players that suffered a hamstring strain appeared on the injury report later in the season with the same injury. I believe that the team would rather have the player miss more time to recover then rather than suffer re-injury later. I still believe he can play Sunday, but it may be truly his decision on whether he plays.
RB Devin Singletary (hamstring)
Like Johnson, Singletary has been dealing with a hamstring strain suffered in the win over the Giants. He missed the Bengals game as expected, but was nearly able to play against the Patriots. His hamstring injury appears to be milder than Johnson’s based on games missed and reports indicating that he was almost better to play last week. He is still questionable going into Sunday from the injury report. I believe he has a better shot to play Sunday than Johnson, but it may come down how he feels & whether the weather will play a factor with a chance of rain. Along with Johnson, the slick grass could potentially aggravate any injuries if they were to slip or attempt to stop.
OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle)
Nsekhe was dealing with an ankle injury from Sunday but has been on a constant rotation with rookie Cody Ford. It’s not apparent when he suffered this ankle injury, but he was working through what appeared to be a right ankle injury last week in the Bengals game. He did leave briefly & returned to the game, but it is possible that he could have re-injured the area. We do not know what ankle he is dealing with, but I bet it’s the same ankle again. He did not participate in practice on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday which normally indicates that a player won’t play Sunday.
OG Spencer Long (ankle)
Long suffered an ankle injury late in practice last Friday for which he was limited. As the team has several reserve linemen, they likely did not feel that it was appropriate for Long to try and play through a fresh ankle injury, whatever it may be. He has since practiced in full on Wednesday indicating that he is moving past the issues from last week.
CB Tre’Davious White (ankle)
White is coming off an obvious low right ankle sprain suffered midway through the 2nd quarter. He was able to leave briefly before returning to finish playing. At times, he appeared to be a step slower with his coverage assignments due to the inability to pivot & push off the foot. From what is available in practice, he does not appear to be wearing any bracing & not wearing a red contact jersey as well. Barring setbacks, he should play in full Sunday & then have an extra week to rest & recover.
WR Cole Beasley (ankle)
Beasley was a new addition to the injury report with an ankle injury. Looking at the film, he played in 85% of the plays & there wasn’t any clear instance where he would have suffered an ankle injury. Without more information, it’s hard to speculate the exact injury, but considering it’s an ankle & he practiced in full, he should play Sunday. To note, he does require veteran rest days throughout the week which explains the DNP on Friday.
OTHER’S TO NOTE
OG Jon Feliciano (neck)
The reason I bring up Feliciano is due to a play that was tweeted from @Cover_1. It shows that Feliciano blocks effectively, but gets hit in the mouth before dropping to his knees, becoming rigid like a board, and falling to his right side, lying for a moment before getting back up. It’s unknown if this was related to the neck injury, but he hasn’t appeared on the injury report indicating he is healthy enough to play football.
WR Zay Jones (shoulder)
Jones continues to be an enigma to Bills fans this season. After having a regrettable rookie year due to a torn labrum in the shoulder, he was able to return in 2019 and produce some solid statistics. The hope was that he was able to continue building off the promising 2018 campaign, but so far, he has missed the mark. He did not appear on the injury report this week, but I still question if this shoulder injury isn’t somehow contributing to his decline in production this season. Looking back on his rookie year, the torn labrum was clearly a factor.
WR Isaiah McKenzie (ankle)
As you can see the theme with the injury report, McKenzie is also dealing with an ankle injury. This occurred sometime late during practice last week but he was active on gameday. He only played in 1 offensive snap, indicating he probably needs to rest & recover, but the Bills required certain depth and to fill out the 46 man gameday roster. He wasn’t on the injury report this week indicating that he is getting better with & should be able to play in full if another receiver can’t go.
OT Conor McDermott- waived
McDermott was waived Thursday afternoon leaving the Bills at 52 players. While there hasn’t been a corresponding move yet, the team can go in several options. There is an outside chance that Allen can play Sunday, which means someone like WR Duke Williams could come up to show what he is able to do. If Allen can’t play Sunday, then practice squad QB Davis Webb could be called up to back up QB Matt Barkley. Another option could be if RB Devin Singletary can’t go again, then they could call up RB Byron Marshall due to DiMarco unlikely to play.
TE Tyler Kroft
LB Corey Thompson
S Dean Marlowe
CB Taron Johnson
WR Robert Foster
OG Ike Boettger
OT Ty Nsekhe
Overall, this bye week is coming at an opportune time. Last time this year, the Bills were incredibly healthy, dealing with little to no injuries according to records. Most of the players should be able to come back after the bye & contribute barring any new injuries Sunday.
Top Photo Credit: CBS Sports