Bills Season Injury Review- Running Backs

Assessing the 2018 Bills injuries at running back & roster changes for 2019.

The 2018 Buffalo Bills running game didn’t scare people or dictate games as it did several years ago which led to the offense to be rather one dimensional and easy to game plan against. Without LeSean McCoy producing as the engine of the offense, this put the pressure on the passing game which was severely limited secondary to the lack of weapons available. As a result, the team finished 9th in the NFL with 1984 yards total, 15 TD’s, and 4 fumbles. Despite finishing in the top 10 in rushing, the Bills RB’s were oft injured throughout the season and along with an inefficient offensive line, stunted their production greatly. This lack of effectiveness may be a precursor to what is to come next season with how the stable of backs looks in Buffalo.

There were a total of 5 backs that suited up for Buffalo this season including: RB LeSean McCoy, RB Chris Ivory, RB Keith Ford, RB Marcus Murphy, and FB Patrick DiMarco. To note: Taiwan Jones is listed as a RB but nearly all of his contributions to the team came on special teams. As a result, he will be addressed at a later time. Despite so many backs that played for the Bills this season, the leading rusher was QB Josh Allen with 631 yards and 8 TD’s alone. Without Allen, the numbers look drastically different: 1353 yards and 7 TD’s which would have put them 31st in the league. It would be assumed that whoever was under center would have put up their own respective rushing yards, but nowhere near the number that Allen produced.

The first back to assess is RB Keith Ford. The rookie UDFA out of Texas A&M was signed to the active roster in mid December after spending all season on the practice squad. He appeared in 2 games, starting 1 while amassing 21 attempts for 79 yards for 0 TD’s along with 5 targets in the passing game for 3 catches and 21 yards. While Ford’s stats did not jump off the page, he also managed to stay healthy during his two game stretch. He did suffer what appeared to be a mild inversion sprain to his right ankle during the Lions game, but he was able to quickly return after getting taped up and had no ill effects the week after against the Patriots. Despite his limited play, he appears to have found a home in Buffalo next season pending his continued progression as a running back. I would like to see him either on the practice squad again or as a depth piece in the rushing game.

The next back is FB Patrick DiMarco. The 8th year back didn’t do much this season and as a result, did not suffer many injuries. His 2018 stats were as follows: 1 attempt for 9 yards, 4 targets for 3 catches and 62 yards with 0 TD’s. These aren’t exactly eye popping statistics for an offensive captain. Most of DiMarco’s playing came on special teams and he was able to appear in all 16 games as a result. The only injury he sustained was an ankle injury during a punt return in the win over the Lions. He did appear on the injury report later that week but did not miss any time. Despite his leadership role, one has to really wonder if the money that he is getting paid is worth his production. As the team has built their culture, he may be a cap casualty going into next season. He is fine injury wise but in my opinion, not worth the money.

RB Marcus Murphy made his mark as the 3rd down back and on special teams this season with a very strong preseason before coming back down to earth once the regular season started. Murphy struggled with punt and kick returns early on, lessening his role on special teams before his season ended prematurely due to injury. His stat line this year: 11 games with 1 start for 52 rushes for 250 yards, 19 targets for 11 catches and 26 yards with 1 fumble. He missed one game against the Packers due to a rib contusion sustained in the Vikings win. Murphy managed to stay healthy until the Lions game when he dislocated his left elbow late in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately for him, his season was finished as a result. Normally, dislocated elbows are not season ending but as he only had 2 games left in the season, he would not have been ready to play. Had the Bills been in the playoff hunt, he would have probably stayed on the active roster, but this wasn’t the case this season. His elbow injury should heal fully and not have any complications moving forward. Overall, his injuries were minimal and are not going to have any lasting impact going into next season. He has a very good shot to make the team again, but he will have to fix the mistakes from 2018 in order to have a job in 2019.

RB Chris Ivory served as a back up to McCoy this season and overall did not produce at a level equal to his pay. His stat line is as follows: 13 games played, 1 game started, 115 rushes for 385 yards and 1 TD. In the passing game, he had 21 targets for 13 receptions for 205 yards and 1 fumble. In addition to the lack of production, Ivory suffered a mild foot sprain in the Colts game that did not force him to miss anytime but did affect his production shortly after.

However, the big injury appeared to his left shoulder injury. He suffered this injury during the Chicago Bears game during a failed goal line plunge. He suffered what I believed to be an AC joint sprain that game and was unable to return. As a result, he missed the next game against the Jets but was able to return the following week. During the 2nd Jets game in December, he appeared to re-injure the area when his arm got pulled behind him on a run. He left the field favoring his left shoulder and missed the following 2 games despite practicing in full. I believe that he was dealing with pain in the shoulder region which prevented him from absorbing the hits that comes with the position. He was questionable for the final game but did play, having one of his better games of the season. Considering the Bills were also out of the playoff hunt, he may have felt that it wasn’t worth rushing back as he knows that he is on the tail end of his career, having just finished his 8th season. Prior to the season ending, HC Sean McDermott noted that Ivory’s injury was something that required rest in the off season which indicates that this was an injury that was not serious to require surgery.

AC joint sprains typically take several weeks to heal based on the severity of the original injury. I believe what happened to Ivory was that he suffered the AC joint sprain, he was able to come back mostly healed and then re-injured the area, worsening the original injury. Typically AC joint sprains do not require surgery but will require rest and proper rehab. As for 2019, this is not something that will affect him next season and he should return as his contract is not terrible and he provides stability at a weak position.

Finally, the bell cow RB LeSean McCoy. The veteran back had the worst season of his career totaling 14 games played with 13 starts for 161 rushes for 514 yards and 3 TD’s. He also added 46 targets for 34 receptions and 238 yards through the air. McCoy’s struggles could be blamed on several factors such as the off field drama with his ex-girlfriend that is still working through the courts, a subpar offensive line, and playing in his age 30 season which we have seen many running backs take a step back in their production. McCoy also dealt with several injuries that slowed his effectiveness this year.

McCoy saw groin, broken rib cartilage, left ankle sprain, concussion, and hamstring injuries this year. None of these injuries were serious on their own but cumulatively added up. He injured his groin in the preseason but was able to be available for the season opener with no lasting effects. McCoy then cracked his rib cartilage due to C Ryan Groy falling on him towards the end of the play during the Chargers game forcing him to miss one game. This was an injury that was very slow to heal and forced him to play through pain with his production varying. He was able to then play 3 games without further injury before suffering an ankle sprain and concussion on the 2nd play in the loss to the Colts. He thankfully did not miss any games afterward due to having extra time to work through the concussion protocol to be cleared in time for the MNF game. McCoy’s final injury came early in the 2nd Jets game in which he pulled his hamstring and was unable to return. As a result, he missed the next game but was able to return for the final 2 games.

Looking at these injuries, he did not have effective blocking to move the ball as he had in past seasons. The small injuries accumulated throughout the season meant that he was never fully healthy which only made things more difficult to be effective. Fortunately, all these injuries will heal in the off season and should have no lingering issues going into 2019. While he did have the worst season of his career, I believe that he will have a bounce back year in 2019 with a rebuilt offensive line and show why he is still one of the top backs in the NFL. There are some rumblings that he could be a cap casualty but GM Brandon Beane has committed to him and I expect that he will keep his word unlike previous regime’s.

This is one position that needs some serious love over the next few seasons. The position itself chews and spits out players regularly with running backs having the shortest career’s in the NFL. While there is a veteran presence, turnover will be important for 2019 and beyond. I expect McCoy and Ivory to return with Ford staying on the roster in some capacity. Murphy has a shot to stay on the roster but will have to prove his worth and battle in preseason like he did last year. As a fan, I do not see any benefit to having DiMarco come back outside of the leadership role he has, but considering veteran presence leadership is thinning out, he may stick around. It is very possible that the front office spends some draft capital to find a running back to be the heir apparent to McCoy, allowing a rookie to develop. 2019 may very well be a bridge year to 2020 and beyond to reshape the running game and further develop the offense.

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!!

 

 

 

Week 16 Bills Injury Preview- Patriots

Assessing the rash of Bills injuries prior to the Week 16 matchup against the New England Patriots!

The end of the season is rapidly approaching and the Bills roster is showing its cracks. The Week 16 injury report is quite lengthy and while there are positives coming out of this week, the players are clearly hoping to get through these last two games despite giving it their all for Coach McDermott. One player who will be giving his all for another 2 years is QB Matt Barkley who signed a 2 year extension which will give the Bills an effective veteran backup to QB Josh Allen as he matures. Today’s post will review all the injuries with greater clarity and determine how these injuries affect Sunday’s game.

A total of 11 players found their way onto the injury report, 6 alone from this past game. All the players listed are available to play besides CB Ryan Lewis (concussion) ruled out and RB Chris Ivory (shoulder) ruled questionable. However, each week at Banged Up Bills, we will still assess the injuries sustained from this week and how it will affect Sunday’s contest. First up is FB Patrick DiMarco (ankle) who suffered an ankle injury during a punt return in Sunday’s game. I had originally thought that he suffered a thigh/knee injury but it appears as though he tweaked his ankle as a result. As he was able to return to the game Sunday plus practice this week doesn’t concern me in his performance this Sunday or worry for long term issues.

K Stephen Hauschka (back) was able to practice in full this week after being limited all last week with his performance still clearly limited. This was most evident when the Bills were forced to punt early in Sunday’s win despite being in Hauschka’s normal range. He was still able to complete kickoffs and extra points but the team currently doesn’t have faith that he is able to make the long kicks right now. I still believe that he is dealing with a hip pointer injury which is essentially a contusion to the area. He may also still be dealing with back soreness following the hit which will affect his kicking motion secondary to the muscles pulling on the painful area when planting and kicking. This is an injury that takes time along with stretching and slow resumption of activity in order to heal properly. As he was practicing in full this week, there is hope that he is healed enough that he is able to resume making the long kicks that has allowed him to be one of the best in the NFL.

RB Chris Ivory (shoulder) continues to deal with a re-aggravation of his left shoulder injury originally sustained in Week 9 and then aggravated against in Week 13, forcing him to miss last game. I have suspected that he suffered an AC joint sprain that was healing but after the re-aggravation, this set him back in his recovery and may continue to limit his participation in Sunday’s contest. He was able to practice in full last week but still missed the game as a result. At this point, my guess is that he is still dealing with pain with direct contact along with limited range of motion in that shoulder, restricting his abilities to effectively carry and catch the football. He could receive interventions to assist him with pain, but if he continues to demonstrate instability in the region, the pain interventions will only make it more difficult to listen to his body if he re-injures the area. Right now, rehab and rest will get him back to normal in the off-season. If he continues to injure the area further, surgery may be required and those rehabilitation procedures are not fun to go through. Ideally, he would benefit from rest, but considering the Bills only have 3 “healthy” running backs on the roster, he may not be afforded the ability to rest. He is truly questionable and without further information, it is very difficult to determine whether he will play.

CB Ryan Lewis (concussion) is still working through the concussion protocol and appears to be in Stage 4 with light football activity participation as determined by the limited designation. He has since been ruled out and may be available for the season finale.

RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring) continues to work back from his hamstring strain from 2 weeks ago and appears to be moving quite well in the video provided by Josh Reed. Shady has also indicated that he is ready and able to play Sunday. He is a player that despite the down season he has had, will still want to go out and give it everything he has especially against a hated divisional rival to end the season.

WR Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) appears to still be recovering from the cramping episode from Sunday that appeared much worse than the eventual diagnosis. While he is listed as an ankle, this may still be the ankle/calf region as its very possible he is dealing with soreness to the area along with activity specific pain, preventing him from going full speed. As he practiced in full, I expect him to play Sunday but it is clearly evident that the long season has been taking it’s toll.

DE Trent Murphy (chest) apparently suffered a non-descript chest injury in Sunday’s win over the Lions. He did not appear to require assessment from the trainers nor indicate anything was wrong. He may have sustained a contusion to the area from a hard hit or suffer a minor strain to his pectoral muscle as he engaged offensive blockers. While chest muscles are very important to defensive ends, practicing in full gives support to the notion that he will play Sunday.

TE Logan Thomas (hamstring) missed last week’s game with the same injury. He was able to practice in full the past 2 days and appears to be fully healed at this time. Most strains we have seen all season have taken the player roughly 1 game to rest and recover from and Thomas is no exception. Thomas, along with TE Jason Croom, have to be available to assist TE Charles Clay in the passing game in order to keep the ball moving against the Patriots. Expect Thomas to play Sunday.

LB Corey Thompson (ankle) also suffered an ankle injury on the same play as DiMarco. He got tied up with a Lions defender and limped off the field, eventually returning. Similar to DiMarco, he was able to return to the game and practice in full this week which indicates that this was a minor injury and should be good to go Sunday.

WR Deonte Thompson (Achilles) was listed with an Achilles injury Thursday, having practiced in full. He was not listed on Wednesday’s injury report which indicates that he may have suffered this injury during Wednesday’s practice. As there is no video and he practiced in full, this appears to be a minor strain which may limit Thompson from pushing off effectively and decelerating. However, he should still be able to stretch the field and provide QB Josh Allen another target downfield.

Finally, DT Kyle Williams (back) suffered a back injury during some point on Sunday. He was DNP Wednesday, Limited Thursday, and Full on Friday. As there does not appear to be any conclusive video of the type of injury that he sustained or any assessment by training staff, it is quite difficult to identify the specifics. All I know is that the only way Kyle Williams misses a game is if he breaks something. Otherwise, he will be playing Sunday in hopes of putting a hurting on QB Tom Brady.

One interesting omission from the injury report is RB Keith Ford (ankle). Ford injured his left ankle late in the 3rd quarter which forced the Bills to get creative with the playbook as all the RB’s were out, leaving them with DiMarco and Allen in the backfield. Ford’s injury did not appear to be serious as he was not on the injury report which means he will be available Sunday. There is potential that he is the backup to McCoy in very possible event that Ivory is unable to play.

While this was a lengthy article for injuries, most appear to be relatively minor with most of the players expected to play through these ailments. At this point in the season, every guy is aching and hurting, requiring limited participation just to get through the week. While us Bills fans would love for them to still be playing for the playoffs, the recent rash of injuries would make it very difficult to compete with some of the high powered offenses come playoff time. The hope is that the back up’s playing now will get invaluable playing time to bolster depth going into next season with everyone expected to come back healthy.

The prevailing thought going into Foxboro is that the Patriots are finally starting to show cracks in their dynasty having lost 2 straight. A third loss would be unprecedented with the Patriots and send them to a rare 6th loss on the season and a spot in the Wild Card round where they have typically not fared well in season’s past. The Bills did play relatively well in their previous game on Monday Night Football in October’s loss, but, it’s still the Patriots. If the Bills play lights out defense and QB Josh Allen is able to move the ball effectively to his new weapons Foster and McKenzie, anything can happen. I would love to see the Bills win and send Tom Brady packing, but I do not know whether this will be the game or next season. We all see the end coming for the Patriots, we just don’t know when it will get here.

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

Bills Week 15 Injury Review- Lions

Assessing the latest Bills injuries following the win over the Detroit Lions.

Sunday was certainly a nail biter! The Bills managed to squeak out a win over the lowly Lions 14-13 to move to 5-9 on the season. However, the win didn’t come without sacrifice as injuries continue to mount and will force the team to shuffle the roster around in order to get to the end of the season. Today’s post will assess the injuries sustained and what they mean going forward into Week 16.

The most serious injury of the day happened to RB Marcus Murphy (elbow) who suffered a dislocated elbow late in the 2nd quarter. Murphy ran up the middle and as he began going down, he planted his left arm on the turf and Lions LB Jarrad Davis came in and hit his elbow with enough force that it gave way and dislocated. As expected, he appeared to be in significant pain but was able to walk to the locker room with the assistance of the training staff. After the game, it was reported that the elbow had to be reduced or in other words, put back in place on the field by Ian Rappaport. As a result on the injury, his day was done. While the elbow itself is rather stable, it can dislocate just as any other joint and will still take 1-4 weeks for him to return to full function per most guidelines. My assessment is that it takes the better part of a month for him to regain full function without any associating fractures. If you recall, CB Phillip Gaines sustained the same injury earlier in the season, missing one game. However, Murphy would require greater use of his elbow to cradle the football and fend off defenders which would necessitate a longer recovery. Murphy has since been moved to IR which is the smartest move at this point as there is nothing to play for and he would not be able to return to 100% by the end of the season. He will be able to make a full recovery for OTA’s and have no lingering issues.

Another injury that appeared to be rather serious initially was WR Isaiah McKenzie (calf). The shifty wide out went down suddenly with no contact during a punt return midway through the 3rd quarter. Initial fears were an ACL tear or Achilles due to suddenly going down without contact. An Achilles tear was especially concerning when McKenzie began pointing to his right calf, eventually requiring a cart to get off the field. However, almost miraculously, he was able to return in the 4th quarter and finish out the game. This alone indicates he avoided serious injury with his ability to return. While riding on the cart, it was observed that he had his feet in full dorsiflexion by training staff. Thoughts later by @ProFootballDoc Dr. David Chao, speculated that he may have had a muscle cramp which required stretching and IV to recover. This appeared to be the case as there was no specific mechanism for injury or tell tale signs upon video review. The severity of the injury was magnified due to the presence of the cart which certainly altered my thought process at the time. As expected, McKenzie was still clearly not 100% during his return but was able to be available dealing with some residual pain and soreness. Believe it or not, this is an injury that he should not miss any time with and should finish out the season.

LB Tremaine Edmunds (back) required a quick assessment from training staff after getting blindsided by OL Frank Ragnow early in the 3rd quarter. Walking off the field, Edmunds appeared to be walking gingerly and motioning to his back. Edmunds was able to return to the game next defensive series and did not appear to be laboring through the rest of the game. This is not an injury that I expect him to miss any time or even find his way onto the injury report.

RB Keith Ford suffered what appears to be a left ankle injury late in the 3rd quarter which forced the team to go to FB Patrick DiMarco and at times, empty backfields, briefly before Ford was able to return early in the 4th quarter. The ankle injury that he sustained isn’t conclusive but may have been a typical inversion sprain or contusion that was taped up and allowed him to return. This is not an injury that should sideline him for any duration of time. He should play next week as the Bills have been running 3 running backs all season and with Murphy out, Ford moves up.

FB Patrick DiMarco (thigh/knee) and LB Corey Thompson (left leg) suffered what appears to be hard hits to the left thigh/knee area for both players when trying to run back up field towards the ball carrier on a punt return early in the 4th quarter. DiMarco got tangled up with LS Reid Ferguson who was knocked out of the way by DB Quadre Diggs, forcing Ferguson into DiMarco for some friendly fire. As for Thompson, he got tied up with S Tavon Wilson and went down injuring his left leg in the process. Both were able to return later in the game without any residual effects. No concerns for the rest of the season.

The Bills have since moved Murphy to IR and signed WR Victor Bolden from the 49ers practice squad to fill his roster spot and attempt to find another WR for potentially next year. The Bills should be able to get to the finish line with this roster barring any further injuries, hopefully finishing on a high note by beating both the Patriots and Dolphins. These past few weeks are the fears we all have as injuries can certainly derail a season. While this season is essentially done, it still is terrible to see guys who have worked hard all season end their year prematurely and not on their terms. Regardless, all these injuries still allow the players to come back at full health next season as they march towards a Super Bowl championship.

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!!