Bills Season Injury Review- Guard/Center

Analyzing the injuries at the Center/Guard position for 2018 & outlook for 2019.

Another position, another review! The 2018 Bills lacked offensive firepower up front and as a result, the offense continued to be anemic. Like the Offensive Tackle position, the Guard and Center position were sorely ineffective and as a result, we should see significant turnover at the positions come 2019. Today’s post will review the injuries sustained at the respective positions in 2018 and how this may play out in 2019.

First up for is G Ike Boettger. The rookie out of Iowa saw game action in 4 games avoiding injury and not drawing any penalties. Like T Conor McDermott, he appears to be another player who was too good to be stashed on the practice squad but not good enough to garner consistent playing time. He appeared in 4 games towards the end of the season recording 0 penalties. While he did get some game experience, it begs the question whether that experience will be enough to earn a roster spot going into 2019 especially with all the recent signings this offseason. He will have to have a strong preseason to stick around next year.

Next is G Wyatt Teller. The former 5th round pick from Virginia Tech in 2018 earned some well deserved playing time appearing in 8 games & starting 7, racking up 2 holding penalties and 2 false starts. He also avoided injury which would have set his progress back. He did show flashes of why he was drafted but at times was inconsistent. While it was not expected that a 5th round draft pick would come in and play exceptionally well, there was still hope that he would demonstrate some ability to play at the next level, which for the most part he did. Having new O-Line coach Bobby Johnson working with him along with several veterans should help Teller to progress. I expect him to return in 2019 as key depth.

G John Miller was at times a frustrating player during his tenure in Buffalo. He was a 3rd round draft pick back in 2015 and initially played well with veteran leadership on the line. However, as the seasons progressed, he became less effective and at times injured, leading to the coaching staff to begin searching for his replacement. While Miller was inconsistent, he did appear and start in 15 games, accruing 4 holding penalties. Injury wise, Miller sustained an ankle and knee injury which appeared to be minor. The veteran lineman did suffer an oblique strain in the win over the Jaguars which forced him to miss the next game. As mentioned before, oblique strains are not awful injuries, but due to the nature of his job in pushing large bodies out of the way, those abdominal muscles were necessary to play effectively at his position. Fortunately for the Bills, Miller left in free agency to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals and be reunited with his former line mate Cordy Glenn.

G Vladimir Ducasse, similar to Miller, has had an up/down time in Buffalo. 2 years ago, he was able to come in and play exceptionally well with Juan Castillo as the O-Line coach and with the offensive scheme by OC Rick Dennison. After the offensive play calling was changed to OC Brian Daboll, Ducasse never seemed to regain the level of play he had in 2017, leading to a drop off and him at times being replaced by the rookie Teller. The veteran guard appeared in 10 games, starting 9 with 1 holding penalty, 3 false starts, and 1 penalty declined. Ducasse also suffered a left knee injury during the loss to the Texans but did not miss any games. Due to his poor play, he may not have a team come after the 2019 training camp unless he finds a new way to re-invent his game.

Transitioning towards the Center position, next up is C/G Ryan Groy. The versatile lineman has shown the ability to play both positions well when called upon, but was found to be inconsistent when asked to do only one position exclusively, specifically at center. Groy had appeared in 15 games with 6 starts, earning 1 false start penalty. Groy has filled in admirably when former Bills C Eric Wood was injured in past seasons, but demonstrated the inability to be a replacement level starter. Fortunately for Groy in 2018, he did not suffer any injuries which may help influence whether he comes back next year. Due to the recent signings of C Mitch Morse, C/G Spencer Long, and G Jon Feliciano, Groy will have to battle exceptionally hard to warrant a roster spot in 2019 and may be back due to his health and versatility.

C Russell Bodine played at times spotty starting at center for the Buffalo Bills in 2018. He played in 10 games with 10 starts suffering 2 holding penalties and a broken fibula. Bodine suffered the injury in the loss to the Dolphins as a result of several large bodies, specifically Dolphins DT Davon Godchaux falling on him and fracturing the fibula bone which required surgery to fix. As a result, his season was over and forced C/G Ryan Groy to pick up the center duties for the rest of the season. In addition to the fibula fracture, Bodine also suffered some type of shoulder injury first noticed in the win over the Jaguars. As far as I could tell, this was not an injury that forced him to miss anytime or affect his play. While it is clearly evident that Bodine will no longer be the starter as C Mitch Morse was signed, he could still prove to be a valuable depth pieces especially with Morse’s injury history. Bodine’s leg will heal fully and should not have any complications for training camp which will be ideal for him as he’ll be fighting for a roster spot. Hopefully Bodine can be a solid depth piece and no longer relied upon as the starter.

Rounding out the remaining players: C/G Spencer Long, C Mitch Morse, and G Jon Feliciano fill out the remaining offensive lineman currently on the roster. While Morse is virtually guaranteed a spot on the 53 man roster due to his play and contract, Long and Feliciano provide versatility and depth that should make the 2019 training camp battle for starting spots something worth your viewing pleasure.

Normally, I put my thoughts on who will make the roster next season in a summary at the end. Outside of G John Miller, who left in free agency, all the players listed above have a realistic chance to make the roster with the only lock being C Mitch Morse. I’m excited for this position group to re-establish the run game and give effective protection to QB Josh Allen.

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 7 Bills Injury Preview- Colts

Read up on the latest Bills injury news heading into Week 7 against the Colts!

Things are finally starting to calm down after an eventful start to the week. Between the regrettable loss to the Texans, initial speculation about QB Josh Allen’s elbow injury, followed by the hysterical fallout of the details following the injury, it’s been a week. Today’s post will review the Bills injuries going into the Colts game.

Those already ruled out at QB Josh Allen (right elbow) & RB Taiwan Jones (neck). We know all the nitty gritty details of the Allen injury along with reports are indicating he is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. I believe the team should use the bye week to its advantage and shelve him for 4 games with rest for 5 total weeks. Time will tell how he responds but the extra time can and will help him heal to prevent further issues or complications of the injury. As mentioned in my previous article, it can take 6-10 weeks for a ligament injury such as this to heal properly.

RB Taiwan Jones (neck) is however, a mystery. Jones presented on the injury report with a neck injury and did not practice all week. Reviewing film from the last game, he did not appear to suffer any jarring hits or injuries to his head/neck that would have led to an early exit from the game. He was also able to play in most of the special teams snaps, having one of the highest percentages on the team. We also know that he did not suffer a concussion, fracture, or any injury publicly reported. So at this point, things get tricky. There is no video to even consider a diagnosis, no reports to identify what is specifically going on with the complaint; only “DNP” & “neck”.

The next section is entirely speculation and does not infer or imply that this is what is he is dealing with. Just trying to identify possibilities so as to give a timeline for a return. Reviewing injury reports since Jones came in the league did not reveal any previous neck injuries which could identify chronic conditions. There also has not been any reported concussions during his time with Oakland & Buffalo. This leads me to believe this neck injury is more acute in nature. We also know that not all injuries are always reported which means he may have been dealing with a neck injury that finally became painful enough to sideline him. This could have been something a hit could have aggravated a minor injury, another possibility that something could have occurred in practice we are not aware of, or something totally unrelated. We did see last year that C Eric Wood suffered a now career ending neck injury that was largely unknown until a season ending physical. This is not to imply that Jones is dealing with an injury or situation as dire as Wood’s, but I am stating that we never quite know the whole story. Jones may be having localized neck pain limiting his ability to move his neck; he may be having pain along with numbness going down his arm classified as radiculopathy; he may be having cervicogenic headaches related to neck pain; just a small sample of issues that could be possible, though far from exhaustive. This neck pain could also be related to the horrific shot he took against the Chargers resulting in his gnarly head wound. He may only miss a week and return without limitations, or this may leave him sidelines for several weeks if symptoms persist. Without more information, I cannot confidently state what he may be dealing with. This will be something that we will have to wait for more information to come out or if the front office begins making roster moves as a result.

Others that dealt with injury from Sunday include DE Trent Murphy (ankle) and OG Vladimir Ducasse (left knee). Both are cleared to play and their injuries were relatively minor. Based on film, I can’t even quite specifically identify the exact injuries they sustained. Murphy took what appeared to be an awkward step which slowed him on that particular play and as a result, missed several plays after but was able to return. Ducasse was hit from behind and had another lineman fall onto him but was able to jog off though with a mild limp. He may have just fell on his knee directly, plus adding in ~300 lbs from another body could certainly cause some type of discomfort. We know the defensive line is on a rotation, it’s possible that Ducasse may be on rotational play if he continues to experience issues.

Others to watch out for is CB Taron Johnson (shoulder) and P Corey Bojorquez (shoulder). Both have some type of right shoulder instability evident with bracing. This could continue to limit their effectiveness, though much more apparent in Johnson’s case due to his position. Both have not been on the injury report recently and hopefully can continue to play until the end of the season when they can address the issue with possible surgery.

This wraps up another Bills injury preview with the Bills continuing to stay healthy. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the Colts, who have been beset by injury which helps explain their 1-5 start. Here is a link to an overview of their injury report; they are still missing key contributors at this time. Despite QB Derek Anderson making his first start for the Bills, I expect the Bills defense to contain the Colts offense, forcing turnovers, and pulling out a win to move to 3-4.

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

Week 6 Bills Injury Review- Texans & Allen’s Elbow

Read about the latest Bills injury to QB Josh Allen and what this means going forward.

Well this isn’t good, this isn’t good at all. The ultimate form of adding insult to injury, though reversed. The Bills lost a very winnable game, dropping to 2-4 on the year, losing to the flawed Houston Texans 20-13 on a QB Nathan Peterman pick 6 to give the Texans the lead and the game. Adding the injury part, QB Josh Allen suffered what appeared to be a rather innocuous elbow injury, glancing his elbow off DE Whitney Mercilus’ helmet. However, he was able to attempt one more pass before exiting the game. Unfortunately, recent news has shed light on the severity of the injury. Today’s article will assess what Josh Allen did to his elbow and what it means going forward.

Credit: physio-pedia.com

To give a brief anatomy lesson, the elbow is made up of 3 bones: the ulna, radius, and humerus. The elbow is primary comprised of the capitulum on the humerus fitting inside the semilunar notch which is part of the olecranon process on the ulna to make a hinge joint. Surrounding the joint are ligaments that provide support to the joint to provide support. These ligaments are the lateral collateral ligament, the ulnar collateral ligament, and annular ligament. The lateral collateral sits on the outside portion of the elbow, mostly injured due to fracture or dislocation. The annular ligament holds the head of the radius in place along the elbow joint, and the ulnar collateral ligament sits on the inside of the elbow. This is similar to the MCL of the knee in its function. It is more of a stabilizing ligament due to the throwing motion required in the human body. This ligament is made up of 3 bundles that spread out like a fan to cover the entire inside portion of the elbow. The elbow is a rather stable joint as compared to the shoulder or ankle, but as with any joint, can be injured with the proper forces.

In true Bills fashion, QB Josh Allen suffered a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) injury to the elbow. This was the result of a bang bang play as Allen got hit from the left by Clowney, followed by Mercilus hit from the right, coming up underneath, hyperextending the rookie’s elbow. Initial thoughts were that he hit his funny bone off the helmet and had some residual numbness, similar though, to a lesser extent of the QB Marcus Mariota injury. However, later video review showed the arm in hyperextension which was worse but not terrible injury. At that point, I began thinking maybe he can come back this week or miss one game. However, recent video from Thad Brown revealed ironclad proof that this is an injury more severe than anyone thought.

The ulnar collateral ligament helps to provide medial support to the elbow so that the ulna does not shift off the humerus during elbow flexion/extension. This ligament also provides support during the throwing motion seen in many sporting activities. Injuries occur to this area as the result of acute hyperextension, excessive external rotation of the shoulder leading to chronic issues such as pitching, or a sudden forceful lateral stress to the joint during elbow extension which was the case with Allen.

Credit: eorthopod.com

In the video above, you can see the medical staff performing a milking technique or moving valgus stress test. The arm is put into full external rotation and the elbow is moved throughout its range, attempting to assess whether there is a painful response. In the video, there is clearly a painful response indicating a positive test. This test would not specify which band is injured, only the area in general. Due to this testing along with the mechanism of the injury, an MRI was performed to determine the severity of the injury. At this point in time, we know that this is not a season ending injury and we know that he will not require surgery as reported by Dr. James Andrews following a second opinion.

The reason it was the UCL that was injured was due to where the force came from. It came from below and outside the arm, pushing the inner portion of the arm up and out via the hyperextension, partially tearing the ligament. The reason everyone is hyper-concerned is that this is a rather famous ligament made popular by Dr. Frank Jobe and baseball player Tommy John in 1974. This is the ligament that stabilizes the inner elbow when a pitcher is throwing a baseball 100 mph. Dr. Jobe was able to surgically repair the ligament that Tommy John had torn and John was able to return to playing, racking up more wins in the process than he had prior to the injury. Today, this is known as Tommy John surgery and is typically a death blow to a pitcher’s season, hence the concern with Allen. Incidentally, many pitchers have since tore this ligament as a result of being bigger, faster, stronger along with overuse and sport specialization.

According to Dr. Andrews, Allen does not appear to require surgery nor will he be sidelined for the remaining season with the information that we currently have. This is something that many of us in the medical community believed prior to the Andrews report. This is an injury that like any ligamentous injury, will take some time to heal. Many conservative rehab guides along with medical professionals are looking in the neighborhood of 6 weeks for this to heal to the point of playing which would take the Bills past the bye week. I believe within this amount of time, he would be able to come back and while not 100%, would be close enough to be effective and continue to grow as a player. There are reports that he could miss 2-3 games but I think the Bills would be foolish to rush him back that quickly. It is likely that he will have some type of bracing on the elbow for protection.

While this is incredibly terrible, this will allow the Bills to let Allen rest and learn until he is ready rather than rushing him back out there and causing further damage to his arm. If this had been his non-throwing elbow, it would be more likely he would have been back by next week with bracing. This is an injury that despite best prevention, could not have been avoided. It was a collision and even with padding and protection, forces can still overcome the preventative measures.

Overall, UCL injuries are relatively rare in the NFL. Studies show that from 1994-2008, there were 10 UCL injuries with 9 taking 26.4 days to return and not requiring surgery. In addition, from 2010-2018, there were 12 UCL injuries with only one requiring surgery. Based on the past 25 years from those two studies, there has been 22 UCL injuries to QB’s in the NFL with only 2 requiring surgery. These numbers are smaller due to the relatively small sample size available. This is evident in the difference of the style of the throw, the amount of times the player is throwing, how many consecutive times a throw is performed, and the speed of the throw; all significantly less in football compared to baseball. While it is the same injury, the incidence is drastically different.

Thankfully, from baseball, we know how to treat this effectively. The non-operative rehab will consist of regaining full, pain free ROM in the elbow. They will also begin light resistive training to the area involving bicep/triceps work and grip/wrist exercises to build the muscles up around the area to give support as the muscles that perform flexion in the wrist and hand attach very closely to the UCL on the medial epicondyle of the elbow. As the ligament heals, he will begin to work on dynamic stability with grip and weight bearing through the arm. He will progress towards throwing progressively weighted balls along with strength training all while managing pain before resuming football activities. This injury, along with all other injuries, DOES NOT fit the motto of no pain, no gain. That motto doesn’t fly in therapy and will only delay his return to the field. The limited NFL research along with what we know about the baseball injuries will dictate when he returns. As he is young, he can heal quicker than an older QB, but this is not an injury that he should play through before he is ready as greater damage may occur as a result.

While this was a majority of the article as it is a major topic, there were other injuries that occurred during the game. DE Trent Murphy injured his left ankle late in the 2nd quarter. He appeared to take an odd step and came up limping slightly, missing several plays. He was able to return and it does not appear that he sustained any noteworthy damage at this time.

OG Vladimir Ducasse suffered what was reported a left knee injury early in the 4th quarter and was questionable to return. He was able to jog off the field with a small limp and was seen after the game walking in the tunnel without apparent pain. On video, he got hit from behind and got rolled up on. My initial reaction thought maybe mild high ankle sprain with how he fell or some type of contusion to the calf region. He could have also came directly down on his knee due to getting hit, causing discomfort. Either way, it doesn’t appear to be serious and we will know more once the injury report comes out tomorrow.

While this was an incredibly lengthy article, I hope that you walk away from this knowing that Josh Allen will be ok, not all injuries are avoidable, and the Bills are still relatively healthy compared to other teams in the league.

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