This is Part 6 of the Buffalo Bills training camp preview revisiting injuries from 2019 & the impact it may have on their performance and availability in 2020. Part 6 consists of the center/guard room.
C Mitch Morse
16 games, 16 starts, 908 snaps, 2 holding penalties
Like most of the other players on the offensive line, Morse is quite tough, not letting most injuries get him down. The Bills free-agent prize of 2019 had high expectations coming to him following a solid career in Kansas City. Regrettably, he brought with him some notable injuries including a long history of concussions. That history continued to follow him to Buffalo along with some other smaller issues that thankfully did not cost him anytime.
Below is Morse’s known injuries:
Morse suffered a concussion on a rather innocuous hit early in training camp. The time spent in the concussion protocol was extended due to his extensive previous injury history. As a result, he missed the entire preseason and all the contests as he slowly worked his way through the protocol.
Towards the end of the preseason, it was revealed that Morse cleared the concussion protocol just prior to the cut-down day and was cleared for the regular season. There is the thought that the team purposely did not rush him through the protocol to ensure that he was fully healthy, but that also meant that he was not allowed to speak to the media while in the protocol, thereby reducing the stress of coming to a new team.
- Right ankle
Morse suffered a right ankle injury when RB Frank Gore kicked him by accident as he ran up the middle in the 2nd quarter of the Titans game. He played a few more snaps that game before sitting out the entire 2nd half as Feliciano took over center duties. Considering all the injuries the Bills were dealing with prior to the bye, they did not want to risk the health of a starting offensive lineman.
- Right 5th digit hand
This injury was the result of engaging his Broncos defender before falling down to the turf, landing on his right hand. He came up grabbing the pinky area running to the sidelines. He was observed on the sidelines the rest of the afternoon with the finger buddy taped to the ring finger, even practicing snapping with QB Matt Barkley. Due to the Bills taking care of business, Morse was once again not needed for the rest of the game.
- Right ankle
Morse once again suffered a right ankle injury, this time when Patriots DE John Simon fell on the back of his foot late in the 4th quarter during the second meeting with New England. He was assessed by trainers and did not return to the game despite the Bills still having a shot to win the game. It was later reported that had the Bills had another drive, he would have been able to return which indicated that the injury was not severe.
Overall, Morse was relatively healthy once he got past his preseason concussion. The finger and ankle injuries are just a byproduct of the position he plays and is not concerning moving forward into 2020. Morse has had 4 documented concussions and there is a concern for a fifth. Looking back at the article from Buffalo Rumblings, players who suffer 3 or more concussions are 3x more likely to suffer another one. Morse is in that danger zone; hopefully, the augmented training camp may reduce his chances for a 5th head injury.
G/C Jon Feliciano
16 games, 16 starts, 947 snaps, 2 holding, 2 false starts, 1 fumble recovery
Feliciano truly is a warrior. He started all 16 games, was called upon multiple times to play center when Mitch Morse went down and overall was a mauler. He quickly established himself as an anchor at the guard position which really helped solidify the line to ensure consistency. Through all this, he played with multiple injuries that would sideline most players.
Feliciano’s injuries below:
- Left shoulder rotator cuff tear
Feliciano went down with a left shoulder injury at the Bills home scrimmage at the beginning of August last year. He was done with the practice for the night and at the time, it was not known what he was dealing with. It appeared to be minor and it quickly became a non-issue.
Fast forward to January following the playoff loss, it was revealed that he suffered a rotator cuff tear which required surgery to repair. It’s quite possible to play through a partially torn rotator cuff but the pain at times would be incredibly difficult to manage. According to this most recent video on Twitter, this is confirmation that Feliciano is fully healthy & ready for training camp. This likely indicates that he had the partially torn rotator cuff & he should not be limited in any way.
He suffered what appeared to be a whiplash injury during the 1st quarter of the Bengals game where he got hit from the side by Bengals DT Geno Atkins and slammed into Mitch Morse. He finished the 2-pt conversion before ending his day, getting downgraded to out. He was observed leaving the stadium in a neck brace which worried some people but he ended up getting through practice and playing against the Patriots the next week.
- Right lower leg
This injury was the result of friendly fire, courtesy of Dion Dawkins falling on Feliciano when he was attempting to make a tackle off the interception thrown by Josh Allen. He did not miss a snap following a defensive play series and was able to return to finish the game.
Feliciano is yet another lock to make this roster but the big question mark will be whether he will be 100% with his rotator cuff repair. I am leaning towards him being ready to go due to having access to excellent medical care along with the injury likely a partial thickness tear. If he is not ready for training camp, he will be afforded the time to get his shoulder into shape for the regular season.
G Quinton Spain
16 games, 16 starts 1063 snaps, 2 holding, 2 fumble recoveries
Spain became a valuable contributor to the Bills offensive line, far outplaying his one-year contract. Fortunately, the Bills rewarded him with a 3-year deal following the offseason, ensuring that he will be with the team for the foreseeable future. Along with stellar play, Spain was fairly healthy throughout the season, allowing the offensive line to remain consistent.
Spain’s injuries below:
- Thumb surgery/ankle contusion/foot soreness
These injuries are lumped together due to occurring all within a short timeframe during training camp & OTA’s. Spain had injured his thumb severely enough that it required surgery which limited him during OTA’s. At the time, I had thought he either suffered a skier’s thumb injury in where the UCL ligament tore or if he suffered a fracture which required surgery to reset the bone. He was eventually able to be ready for training camp & did not have any known issues moving forward.
His foot soreness was reported early on in training camp but did not appear to be much of an issue as he was still playing through it. He suffered an ankle contusion as the result of RB Frank Gore stepping/kicking Spain during a routine play in the preseason and was, unfortunately, a victim of friendly fire.
Spain showed up later on the injury report with a foot designation following the win over the Dolphins in the first game, though little was known what caused his issue. There wasn’t any mechanism of injury and this did not appear to be a chronic issue requiring multiple weeks on the injury report.
Spain will make the roster in 2020 and he appears to be in even better shape than last season as evidenced by the picture below. He should continue to make an impact at the position and as long as he stays healthy like he did last season, he will be able to make another significant difference in the offense.
G/C Spencer Long
14 games, 174 snaps
Long, a six-year NFL veteran saw a considerable drop in his snaps compared to his previous seasons playing for the Jets & Redskins due to the presence of C Mitch Morse. He only got considerable playing time in 3 games with most of his other playing time on special teams. Despite the limited playing time, he still suffered several injuries.
Long’s injuries below:
- Right knee
Long was limited early in training camp with what the team described as “knee soreness”. He had a compression sleeve & a hinged knee brace while on the bike. He may have suffered a minor knee sprain but he has also had previous knee issues dating back to his time with the Redskins. It was not something that appeared to limit him as the season progressed.
He suffered an ankle injury late in the week prior to the first Patriots game which ultimately caused him to miss the game. During this timeframe, the team was dealing with a variety of injuries, and having Long out did not help things. It was not known which side he injured or how he suffered the injury.
Long was otherwise fairly available but got most of his snaps at guard due to the emergence of Jon Feliciano playing at center as needed. Long has a great shot at making the roster but if he is not in the team’s plans, the Bills can move on from him with a minimal financial penalty.
G Ike Boettger
2 games, 54 snaps
Boettger continues to be a depth piece on this offensive line where he has been too good to expose to the practice squad, but not good enough to get meaningful playing time. Only appearing in 54 snaps all season with a majority of his time in the regular-season finale. He did not suffer any known injuries during his limited play.
Considering he knows the playbook & has continuity in the room, he has a shot at making the roster or could be a valuable trade asset especially in the abnormal training camp of 2020.
New to the roster
G Marquel Harrell
Coming from Auburn, Harrell demonstrated the ability to play against elite competition in the SEC. He also comes to Buffalo with his health intact which may play into his favor as he attempts to make the roster. His injury history is detailed here at Banged Up Bills. He has a long way to make this roster, but Brandon Beane’s ability to identify talent may land him on the practice squad or a roster spot down the line as the front office has been known to bring back talent as it’s needed.
G Evan Boehm
Boehm is a well-traveled man who has suffered a variety of injuries during his various stops in the league. He demonstrates versatility playing at both guard and center which may help him find a spot on the roster, especially if injuries occur. Read his injury history at Buffalo Rumblings.
A lot will be riding on the health of Morse, Spain, & Feliciano, all locks to make the roster. All had outstanding play despite dealing with various injuries. If one of them goes down, there is depth at the tackle position that could move over to guard or a reserve lineman could step up to play until the starter returns.
Along with the three previously mentioned locks, I see the possibility of either Boettger or Boehm making the roster, Long as a possibility, though he could be an excellent trade piece as Feliciano has shown how good he is when asked to fill in at center. Harrell is a long shot and may find himself on the practice squad, especially if the rosters get expanded due to the pandemic. This is a strong group of players that could make or break the effectiveness of the firepower at the offensive skill positions.