Bills Season Injury Review- Defensive Backs

Breaking down the 2018 injuries and players who suited up for the Bills and what to expect in 2019.

Training camp is less than a week away! As the opening day nears, a bullish outlook on the secondary is the general consensus after the excellent play the last two seasons. The only weak spot is CB2 in where there was a carousel of players throughout the season due to injury which led to inconsistent play. Today’s post will review the injuries from last season, impact they’ll have on this season, and new faces added to the mix.

First up is CB Phillip Gaines. The veteran corner appeared in 7 games, starting 6 accumulating 2 pass deflections, 30 total tackles, 24 solo and 6 assisted with 1 tackle for loss. Gaines also suffered a dislocated elbow during the loss to the Chargers. As a result, he missed 1 game. Gaines was cut in early November due to his inconsistent play where he later signed with the Browns. He won’t be back and the cornerback position will be better without him.

Next up is CB Denzel Rice. The 4th year back has bounced around the league, most notably playing in 8 games with the Browns last season. Rice was a late-season addition to the roster in which he appeared in 4 games and completed 2 tackles. As he came in late and with little consistency sticking with a team, it will be a long shot for Rice to make this team unless he has an amazing camp along with injuries to other players.

CB Lafayette Pitts has shown to be a somewhat dependable player though his contributions were felt more on special teams during the 2018 season. Pitts appeared in all 16 games and recorded 9 tackles, 8 solo and 1 assisted. Injury wise, Pitts suffered a concussion when he collided with Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook on a punt return in the 1st quarter. Thankfully, Pitts did not miss any future games and appeared to have no lasting effects. Pitts has a solid chance to make this team due to his previous play over the past 2 seasons but is far from a lock.

CB Ryan Lewis marks another returner from 2018. Lewis was a waiver claim from the Patriots and had an immediate impact on the field early in the season. However, he must have drawn the ire of the coaching staff as he was inexplicitly benched shortly after his debut and received sporadic playing time thereafter. Lewis appeared in 7 games, starting 3, notching 3 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 15 total tackles with 12 solo and 3 assisted. To note, a majority of those stats came in the 3 games he started before his benching. Injury wise, Lewis suffered a concussion during the 2nd Jets game which caused him to miss the remaining 3 games of the season. Considering his doghouse status and concussion at the end of the year, things do not bode well for Lewis. It is unlikely that the concussion will affect him this year, but he will also have to have an outstanding camp to make the 53.

One of the Alabama UDFA darlings, CB Levi Wallace makes his appearance. Wallace replaced Lewis midway through the season and never looked back. He appeared and started in 7 games with 3 pass deflections, 37 total tackles with 24 solo, 13 assisted, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 QB hit. While at times Wallace was inconsistent as he made the jump from CFB to NFL, he was able to remain healthy and show he could lock down the CB2 position. Wallace did suffer an ankle injury during the 2nd Jets game in where his ankle bent oddly as he was attempting to tackle the ball carrier. However, he did not suffer any long term issues and is a near-lock to make the roster barring any surprising performances by others.

2nd year CB Taron Johnson shows up and he made quite the impact as a rookie in 2018. He appeared in 11 games, starting 2 with 1 interception, 3 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack, 42 total tackles, 34 solo, 8 assisted, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 QB hit. For a rookie coming from a small school, that is an impressive stat line. What makes it even better is the fact that he suffered a torn labrum early in the season opener against the Ravens. He missed the next game but played the entire season with a damaged shoulder before being shut down after the Bills were out of the playoff hunt. I have detailed his injury and recovery at Buffalo Rumblings for those interested. Johnson may be at risk to re-injure next season but still overall low risk. He is certain to make this roster barring any season-ending injuries in training camp.

Finally, CB Tre’Davious White rounds out the group. The stellar 3rd year back out of LSU has really made a mark in the past 2 seasons with the Bills, but hasn’t quite got his dues from the national media. As he continues to play, I expect his stature to grow and be more well known. Regardless of national media perception, opposing teams are certainly aware of what White brings to the table.

He played in 16 games with 16 starts, accumulating 2 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, 54 total tackles, 44 solo, 10 assisted, and 1 tackle for loss. While he was stellar on the field, having minimal injury also did not hurt either. White suffered an ankle injury during practice prior to the Titans game which he did not miss. Unfortunately, he suffered a head injury in the season finale over the Dolphins where he was later downgraded to out. While no official information was released indicating concussion, precautions were still taken to ensure his health. If he was indeed diagnosed with a concussion, this would be the 2nd one of his professional career in as many seasons. White is a player that any coach can put in writing as a starter, the only concern will be who will be playing opposite him.

New faces this year include CB EJ Gaines who was with the Bills in 2017 as a key cog during the playoff run, CB Kevin Johnson, and CB Cam Lewis. All with the exception of Cam Lewis will have a legitimate shot at making this team. We know White, Wallace, and T. Johnson will make the roster, good shot that K. Johnson & Gaines round out the CB position. Pitts & R. Lewis also have a shot but injuries are always the great equalizer at the end of the day, so only time will tell how the cornerback position fleshes out.

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!!