This is Part 5 of the Buffalo Bills training camp preview revisiting injuries from 2019 & the impact it may have on their performance and availability in 2020. Part 5 consists of the offensive tackle room.
OT LaAdrian Waddle
Waddle was a Buffalo Bill barely in name, having gone through OTA’s & 2 weeks of training camp before an awful quadriceps tear ended his 2019 season.
This occurred on a routine practice drill in which Waddle took a step and went down hard, injuring his right leg. He had surgery shortly after suffering the injury and was done for the year. While he was best suited as a swing tackle, the depth on the offensive line for 2020 indicates that he will not be returning. He has yet to find a home this offseason.
OT Conor McDermott
McDermott appeared to be a favorite of the. Ills coaching staff over the previous two seasons. He was too good to be exposed to the practice squad, but never good enough to garner any playing time on the field.
During training camp with the Bills, McDermott suffered a concussion during the win over the Panthers. This head injury, unfortunately, cost him a chunk of the preseason, finally playing against the Vikings.
He then spent the first month of the season with the Bills, not seeing any action before getting waived to make room for WR Duke Williams. Unfortunately, N.Y. Jets needed offensive line help & grabbed him off waivers. He ended up playing 7 games with them and appears to be staying.
OT Dion Dawkins
1 reception, 1 yard, 1 TD, 16 games, 16 starts, 1016 snaps, 3 holding, 3 false starts, 1 fumble recovery
Dawkins had a bounce-back year in 2019 that firmly established himself as the franchise left tackle. As evident above, Dawkins was durable, not missing any games and showing versatility in the offense, catching a TD pass. He has quickly become a leader in the locker room as this young core continues to develop.
As for injuries, Dawkins has been incredibly healthy during 2019 and relatively over his career. There were no instances of known injuries & he proved to be a valuable anchor in a supremely improved offensive line. He is a lock for this roster in 2020 & while his lack of injuries does not prevent him from suffering future ones, he does not have anything known that may restrict him this fall.
OT Ty Nsekhe
10 games, 1 start, 359 snaps, 1 holding, 4 false starts
Nsekhe didn’t quite have the 2019 season he wanted to. As an aging veteran, he split snaps with rookie Cody Ford through the season to help reduce the burden as Ford transitioned to the NFL. Unfortunately, Nsekhe suffered several injuries which forced the rookie into action more frequently than the coaching staff likely wanted. One particular injury cost him nearly half of the season.
Nsekhe’s injuries below:
- Knee tweak
He suffered a knee sprain towards the end of preseason that kept him out of the final game that was described as a “tweak”. It was not known which knee he injured and it did not prevent him from playing Week 1.
- Left Knee
Nsekhe suffered another knee injury, this time in the win over the Giants. He injured it during the 2nd quarter where he slipped and fell on the knee. He required some time to sit out but was able to return to play to finish the game. The one thing that was never established was whether this was the same knee from preseason and if it was a re-injury or a new occurrence.
- Right ankle
The veteran lineman suffered yet another injury, this time against the Bengals where he was bull-rushed backward, appearing to ham the right ankle. Like the knee injury, he was able to return to play in that game, getting 83% of the total snaps offensively.
He returned to play in the Patriots game the next week, re-injuring the area again, though it was not clear when he suffered the re-aggravation or it was the same side. He once again split snaps with Ford at the position and finished out the game.
This ankle injury became so tough to deal with that Nsekhe ended up missing the following week against the Titans. He was unable to practice that entire week and sat out as injuries started piling up just prior to the bye week.
Regrettably, this is not the last instance of ankle injuries for Nsekhe.
- Grade II-III Right low ankle sprain
Nsekhe was not finished with injuries for 2019 when he injured his right ankle yet again. This time midway through the 3rd quarter. His foot was caught from behind by a Dolphins defender, landing on the back of his heel, forcing the ankle to roll under violently.
He was in obvious pain and was quickly put on a cart for imaging and acute pain management. The initial thought was that he dislocated and fractured his distal fibula, but tests came back negative and was determined that he suffered a severe sprain.
Looking back over his early-season struggles with the ankle, it’s possible that the ankle injury could have contributed to this, but it may have also saved him. There was no way that Nsekhe could have prevented getting his ankle rolled on as bad as it did. But the previous laxity in the area along with the heel sliding out on video replay may have allowed the ankle joint to take the brunt of the forces rather than his distal fibula breaking. Check out the video of the injury below.
Nsekhe ended up missing 5 games due to that injury and while he looked healthy enough to play, his troubles were not over. A more detailed timeline of the ankle injury can be found at Buffalo Rumblings.
- Right ankle
Nsekhe suffered yet another injury to the right ankle in the season finale over the Jets. Similar to his previous injury, he had a Jets defender fall on the back of his foot which took him down to the ground. He was observed wearing an ankle brace which helped support the area and limits inversion/eversion movement. His shoe also fell off during the play which prevented his foot from getting caught in the turf. As a result of that injury, his day was done in a meaningless game.
Looking back on all the injuries Nsekhe suffered during the season, it’s incredible that he continued to play. His knee injuries are not all that concerning and didn’t appear to cause him issues later on. However, it’s evident that his right ankle will be a big concern moving forward. It is not known whether he had surgery to the area, but it is expected that he required rehab to the ankle to tighten and strengthen it back up.
The risk for a re-injury for a lateral ankle sprain is as high as 80% in athletes which isn’t surprising considering the demands of the position. The re-injury to the ankle alone wasn’t a huge deal early on in the season. The fact that he missed 5 games with the severe ankle injury is the concern moving forward.
It would not surprise me at all if Nsekhe continues to battle ankle issues. Prior to 2019, he did not have any documented NFL ankle injuries, though his path to the NFL was unusual, so it’s expected that there is an incomplete public record. Ideally, he rehabbed his ankle, will have bracing, and come into the season healthy. There is concern that he now has chronic ankle instability due to the repeated ankle injuries of 2019. The downside of that is he will be more likely to suffer an injury to the area. The upside is that if he does, he will miss time, but he may not miss as much time due to the laxity of the joint. This is similar to what Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette deals with dating back to college.
OT Cody Ford
While Ford is a lock to make the roster heading into 2020, he is one player that got beat up a lot during his transition to the NFL. Splitting time with Ty Nsekhe as he adjusted, Ford held his own at times as the season progressed, but several injuries could have made that transition more difficult.
Listed below are Ford’s known injuries:
Ford suffered a concussion following the win over the Titans in Week 5. Like many other players that got injured in that game, the bye week was timed well to allow everyone to recover. Ford likely was a beneficiary of the bye week as he did not miss any games with the concussion, able to progress through the NFL concussion protocol on a tight timeline.
- Left elbow
Ford injured his left elbow late in the loss to the Eagles during Week 8 where he had his medial elbow struck while trying to maintain a block. While there are bumps and bruises during each play, this injury lingered for the rest of the season indicating that Ford may have injured his UCL, similar to the injury Josh Allen suffered in 2018.
Due to Ford not having to throw the ball and repeatedly stress the area, the team was able to put a brace and wrap on the area to protect it while he continued to play through the season. He essentially missed the next week against Washington, playing only special teams with Ty Nsekhe getting all the offensive snaps. How much it restricted him could be up to discussion when reviewing film from last season but it certainly didn’t help make his job any easier.
- Right trapezius/neck strain
In the regular-season finale against the Jets, Ford came off the field grabbing at his right neck/trapezius area following a play where he took on a Jets defender before losing the battle and getting hit into Spencer Long. This could have presented more like a minor whiplash injury which required some brief rest, but Ford was eventually able to return.
- Right shoulder surgery
Following the conclusion of the season, Ford quickly had shoulder surgery on his right side with little information available. My thoughts can be found at Banged Up Bills, but he either had a rotator cuff or labrum repair based on the timeline and position he plays. He is a player who should be healthy coming into training camp, but may not quite be 100% as the season starts.
OT Ryan Bates
8 games, 78 snaps
Bates proved to be valuable to the Bills this past season despite not playing a lot. After coming over from the Eagles during a training camp trade, he quickly found himself on the roster as insurance in case injury occurred.
He only played in 78 snaps during his rookie year over 8 games, most of those games in the second half of the season, but his versatility is valuable as he can play every position if needed. He did not have any known injuries during 2019 & his versatility along with health suggests that he has a strong case to make the roster in 2020.
New to the roster
OT Trey Adams
Adams is an incredibly unique player in that he has the ability to play at a first-round talent level. However, his injuries are documented throughout his time at Washington. Stinger, herniated discs, torn ACL, hamstring strain. Along with a poor combine performance, he went undrafted and signed with the Bills.
To understand his injury history, go read the article over at Cover 1. At the time, this was a purely objective analysis of the player & his injuries. For a briefer, more Bills-centric view on Adams, check out the article at Buffalo Rumblings.
Adams has a legitimate shot to make the team. If he stays healthy in this truncated training camp, he could find a home on the 53 man roster. It’s possible that he drops to the practice squad, but there is concern losing him to waivers.
There has been discussion of putting Adams on PUP or IR and stashing him there all season to allow his body to acclimate to the NFL. Since he suffered these injuries during college football, he would be put on the Non-Football Injury list instead of PUP. As for IR, the Bills have been known to get creative to hold onto their guys, but Adams would have to have a documented injury that could prevent him from playing, allowing them to hold onto him that way. Never want to wish injury on a player, but also want to protect all your assets.
OT Daryl Williams
The Carolina connection is strong! Williams is yet another former Panther to come up north to help bring the Bills to the promised land. Regrettably, Williams also comes with several notable injuries that have cost him considerable playing time over the years including all of 2018. His versatility on the offensive line and ability to return from the 2018 injury indicates he may still have something left. To read more about the torn right MCL & dislocated patella from 2018, check it out at Buffalo Rumblings.
Williams isn’t a lock to make the roster, but he’s a pretty close one. He could be an excellent trade candidate if the Bills suffer an injury elsewhere or could just be excellent depth at a strong tackle position. Even if he doesn’t grab a tackle job, his versatility allows him to move to guard in order to find a home for 2020.
OT Victor Salako
Salako is a well-traveled man who like McDermott mentioned above, is good enough to stick around on teams but not good enough to play. He is likely a camp body but does have health on his side as evident by this injury review at Banged Up Bills.
OT Brandon Walton
Walton, a UDFA out of FAU, comes to the Bills as a developmental piece following the 2020 NFL draft. He doesn’t carry with him any serious medical injuries & he does have familiarity with RB Devin Singletary from their time together. Due to the depth at this position, Walton may have a better shot at the practice squad as he adjusts to the NFL. You can read his injury history here at Banged Up Bills.
OT Garrett McGhin
McGhin is a familiar face to the Bills going through training camp with them last year before an ankle injury led to an injury settlement release. He eventually found a home in Carolina where he got some playing time before another ankle injury ended his season on IR.
In the Buffalo Rumblings article, it goes into further detail regarding the thoughts on the injury and impacts it may have in 2020. McGhin may have more of an issue cracking the depth chart than worrying about previous injuries in order to make this roster.
Outlook for 2020
This tackle position is a deep position and may stay deep even with the threat of premature roster cutdowns due to the ongoing pandemic. Dawkins, Ford, Nsekhe, Williams and Bates are likely to make this roster due to previous experience. There is a strong chance that Adams makes the roster due to the potential; this will be determined if he has a strong preseason & the team cannot risk exposing him to waivers.
McGhin has a chance at the roster but will more likely find himself on the practice squad along with Walton and if Salako has eligibility and upside left. The two big question marks heading into 2020 will be the health of Ford’s right shoulder and Nsekhe’s right ankle. If both are ready to go, then the depth chart is set. If they are not ready or have setbacks, expect Williams, Adams, or McGhin to find a bigger role on this team. Tackle is such a vital position that the Bills have begun to lock down, but setbacks at either position on the line could result in unfavorable outcomes on the offense.