Buffalo Bills Season Injury Review- RB/FB

Season ending review of the Buffalo Bills backfield and implications for next season.

The Buffalo Bills had a variety of personnel in the backfield this year which leaves many questions regarding roster turnover for next year. Many factors go into these decisions based on production, salary, and injuries. Today’s post will address the RB/FB positions for the Buffalo Bills

This past season, there were 6 running back/fullback’s listed on the roster that saw playing time. Starting off, RB Marcus Murphy appeared in one game against the Miami Dolphins in relief for LeSean McCoy due to his sprained ankle. The most recent backfield addition thankfully suffered no injuries during his short stint with the team and showed the ability to play in the NFL. His future with the team remains murky at best as he is an unrestricted free agent and there is a dearth of talent at the position ahead of him.

Next up is RB Taiwan Jones. Jones actually never saw a carry in the RB position, instead was targeted 2 times resulting in 1 reception for 11 yards. Most of his game action occurred on special teams which unfortunately ended his season. The 7th year back broke his forearm during an onside kick return during the Week 9 loss to the Jets. Along with the fracture, Jones dealt with a knee injury early in the season that did not cause him to miss any time. Jones is also an unrestricted free agent and while his forearm is not concerning, his age and effectiveness may leave him without a team during the off season.

Travaris Cadet headlines the next RB in this post. Cadet as you may recall, suffered a traumatic left ankle fracture and dislocation during a routine play against the Patriots. Up to that point, Cadet was an effective change of pace back who allowed McCoy to stay fresh through games. Surgically, Cadet had his ankle relocated and then had a plate with screws inserted to stabilize the area. A typical rehab protocol allocates for 12+ weeks to return to walking, but may take much longer to return to full game speed. Cadet also suffered a concussion in December prior to the ankle which did not cause him to miss time. The 6th year journeyman is an unrestricted free agent and with a long recovery time factored in, his ability to recover fully will determine whether he has a roster spot next season.

Another back who saw no time in the backfield is RB Joe Banyard. The veteran back only saw time on special teams and while he does not have the carries that similar backs have at his age, he does not appear to be able to carry a workload for a NFL team. As he is a free agent right now, I do not see him on the roster for next year.

Patrick DiMarco was used sparingly in the offense this year at the fullback position. While he only saw 2 attempts for -2 yards, he saw some time in the receiving game and as a blocking fullback. DiMarco saw injuries to his ankle during the Kansas City game but did not miss any time. The 6th year fullback may find himself back on this roster next year as he was signed for 4 years for $8.4 million dollars.

The back who saw the most time in the backup role is Pro Bowl FB Mike Tolbert. The 10th year veteran carried the rock 66 attempts for 247 yards and one TD. He became the ire of the fan base due to his use during 3rd and long with short passes or runs that shut down offensive drives. Analyzing his injury complaints, he suffered a knee injury early in the season and sustained a moderate hamstring strain that sidelined him for 3 games. While he was able to return for the Colts game, he appeared to be limited until the regular season finale. Hamstring strains and tears not managed correctly can continue to limit players through the season. With the off-season to recover, he should not have any recurring issues, but his use in the offense and an unrestricted free agent determines whether he returns next season.

Finally, RB LeSean McCoy, the engine of the Bills offense continues to climb up the rushing ranks past the all time greats. Fortunately, McCoy only had a variety of minor injuries through the season which did not affect his production. The only significant injury McCoy sustained was a sprained ankle in the season finale against the Dolphins which did not limit his productiveness in the Wild Card loss against the Jaguars. Other issues McCoy dealt with included wrist, groin, and knee injuries in addition to illness that did not force him to miss any time.

McCoy has been incredibly resilient during this season & career but is approaching his age 30 season. As history has shown, many running backs begin to suffer decline in production around this time and McCoy is no exception. Those that have rushed for 1000 yard seasons after their age 30 season have seen a drop in production 1-2 years afterward. For those that rushed for over 1000 yards either did not accumulate the yards early in their careers or they were true outliers. I expect to see McCoy return to the starting RB role next season and continue to produce for the short window he has left.

While none of these small injuries are concerning for long term, that long term wear and tear adds up and he will eventually decline. With McCoy’s production both on the ground and in the receiving game, he is vital to the Bills successes. However, the Bills are aware of this and will hopefully address the backfield in the off season. As much as both McCoy and the Bills would like to remain productive, it is inevitable that he will decline in ability and relinquish his role.

Outside of McCoy and DiMarco, I expect this backfield to be turned over with fresh legs and develop the next running back for the Bills. As I am not an expert in roster management and salary cap issues, it’s possible that others from this article find their way back to the roster as depth players. The Bills do have RB Aaron Green on a futures contract but is not guarantee to make the team next season. Injury wise, everyone can come back healthy with proper rehab and time, but it will all depend on personnel needs.

I did not forget Kyle Williams contribution of his memorable rushing touchdown during the season finale. As this was atypical, I will not categorize him in with the RB’s, but give him the words and thoughts he deserves during his position review. Continue to check back with me for the latest updates on Bills injuries and season reviews. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Speculating Sprains

Breaking down the latest Bills news and an overview of general sprains and their severity.

As the Bills come off their well deserved bye week, two new pieces of information have arisen since last post. The Bills have signed WR Deonte Thompson and released RB Joe Banyard. Thompson has been with most recently the Chicago Bears before being released last week and had previously spent time with Buffalo the past two off seasons. This will help add depth to the WR corps and give Tyrod Taylor a deep option as WR Kaelin Clay hasn’t made much noise since acquiring him earlier this season from the Panthers.

In other news, it has been reported that WR Jordan Matthews is ahead of schedule in regards to his thumb fracture. He has been seen in practice without padding and with just a bandage over the area, though not cleared to catch balls yet. While not fully recovered, this is a promising sign. I had initially thought that Matthews would not be ready to return until the Jets or Saints game, giving him 4-6 weeks to heal. While healing times do vary person to person, it is still early to state when he will play.

Regarding return to play, I could see Matthews sitting out the Buccaneers game, possibly returning against the Oakland Raiders, giving the passing game a much-needed boost after losing Charles Clay last game. The key thing with his recovery is how quickly the bone has healed, the strength/range of motion in the hand, and his ability to manage pain effectively. I continue to hope that these players exceed expectations with return to play and contribute towards making the team more dynamic.

Today’s post will consist of an overview of general sprains. Sprains are very similar to strains, but differ in function and location. Sprains are an injury to a ligament or multiple ligaments based on location. Ligaments are found all over the body and provide connections between bones to create a joint. When an injury occurs to the area, instability, pain, and swelling occurs based on severity.

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Credit: therapydiadenver.com

Grade 1 sprains are when the ligament is stretched minimally and minor swelling/pain occurs. This can cause some players to miss time based on location and position, but typically can be managed conservatively in order to return to prior level of function. These types of injuries are week-to-week and can be played through if absolutely required, though increased risk of injury occurs. X-rays may be performed to ensure no fractures have occurred but are usually diagnosed through physical examination.

Grade 2 sprains are when the ligament is partially torn and moderate swelling/pain occur. These types of sprains typically keep players out for some time and cause moderate loss of function. A conservative expectation for a Grade 2 sprain could be anywhere from 4-6 weeks, though could vary based on location. At this time, an X-ray is performed to rule out any fractures. An MRI is performed to support physical examination and determine extent of damage.

Grade 3 sprains typically involve near or complete tearing of the ligament leading to significant loss of function and possible season ending surgery based on location of area. At this point, the ligament is classified more of a tear than a sprain which is why you do not see this as a Grade 3 sprain. Typically, ACL, PCL, and severe MCL tears can be categorized as such. Ankles, shoulders, and wrists are also┬ácommon areas for complex ligament damage to occur. It is common to see other structures become damaged as the result of a severe sprain/tear. MRI’s are performed to determine severity of tear and to assess for any injuries missed by physical examination or initial swelling.

In most cases, a sprain can be due to an overload to the joint as a direct blow, violent twisting/pivoting, or excessive tension on the ligament. As with all other materials in the body and in nature, everything has a breaking point. Injuries such as these can be reduced but not totally prevented. Preventative measures include playing on forgiving surfaces such as grass which reduce the friction and prevent cleats from sticking in the surface. Proper strengthening to the area and proprioceptive exercises which include body awareness activities help keep the body from overloading the joint. Bracing and taping may also give support to an area if there is a high risk for injury or prior instability. Taped wrists, knee braces on lineman, and ankles braces assist in limiting excessive range of motion, reducing the risk.

Thank you for your time today and please continue to check back regarding updates on Bills news and general injuries in the coming days. While it is impossible to review every injury, this is merely a guide to assist you in understanding the severity and expected timeline upon injury. I hope you continue to enjoy and GO BILLS!!