The Buffalo Bills wrapped up practice for the week, and with it came a sneaky injury that no one was expecting to one of the team’s best players. The Bills are up against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at New Era Field on Sunday, a crucial contest that they must win to keep afloat in the playoff race.
As practices for the week are all said and done, five roster notes heading into the Steelers contest:
1) Kyle Williams uncertain for Sunday
- The Buffalo Bills may be without one of their best players on the team on Sunday: defensive lineman Kyle Williams. It was a peculiar sign when Williams was nowhere to be found during Friday’s practice, and then Rex Ryan delivered the news to reporters once the session was over with. The defensive lineman’s back locked up on him the night before, and there is a real concern that Williams will not be able to be ready in time to play against the Steelers on Sunday. Ryan came across as dejected, knowing the outlook for his best defensive player in 2016 being ready on Sunday is in jeopardy. Williams is listed as ‘questionable,’ and there is still at least some time for the injury to improve. However, it’s really just a wait-and-see for all parties involved. If he is unable to play, that’s a huge blow against a Steelers team that boasts one of the best running backs in football: Le’Veon Bell. The Bills will call on Leger Douzable to play more snaps, Jerel Worthy will be active, and the roles for Adolphus Washington and Deandre Coleman will increase as well. Marcell Dareus must dominate at the point of attack, otherwise the Steelers could run wild on the Bills Sunday without Williams.
2) Watkins, Woods “ready to roll”
- Outside of the sudden Williams item, it’s been mostly good news from the injury front this week. Most of all, the Bills will have both of their starting wide receivers in the lineup on Sunday for the first time since Week Two. Sammy Watkins participated in practice on both Thursday and Friday, to which Rex Ryan believes the wideout is ready to play in his third straight game. The same goes for Robert Woods, who has missed the last two weeks with a knee injury. Woods practiced every day this week, and the Bills have been impressed with how much he’s been able to do. If the Steelers offense performs as well as their potential indicates, the Bills will have to rely on their offense and the passing game to keep them in the contest. Having both of those players in such a big spot for Tyrod Taylor is of utmost importance.
3) Lawson merely a ceremonial starter
- Earlier in the week, the Bills announced that rookie and first-round pick Shaq Lawson would be a starter this weekend against the Steelers, which would be the first time in his career that he’d be doing that. Since the declaration was made, the Bills have all backed away from the idea that Lawson was supplanting Lorenzo Alexander in the lineup. Rex Ryan said on Thursday that he believes that the team has three starters at outside linebacker, between Lawson, Alexander, and Jerry Hughes, and said there will be a healthy rotation with the three of them. Alexander, as of Wednesday, said he hadn’t heard anything about it from the coaching staff. On Friday, Lawson said the coaches haven’t said anything to him about it, although he had seen the announcement of it. So, Lawson might just get the “official” start, but expect to see a healthy amount of Alexander to go along with it.
4) No Logan Thomas… yet
- The Bills new project of a tight end has now been with the Bills for a week-and-a-half and spent his first game with the team amongst the inactives. Rex Ryan said that will again be the case this weekend against Pittsburgh, but added that he could definitely see Thomas being active somewhere in the final three weeks of the season. The head coach pointed to Thomas’ mental understanding of the position, and certainly the raw size and talent that he has at the position. Ryan pointed out that his blocking needs to get better, but even so, the Bills might just want to take out their new car for a test drive in the final month of the season, just to see what he’s got. They’ve been intrigued by it, and so have I. In limited exposure at practices, I’ve seen him catching the ball with ease and moving around really well for a man that size. If the Bills have nothing at stake at some point in the near future, it would be prudent of them to give him some time on offense and see if he sinks or swims.
5) Bryson Albright likely getting the call-up
- The Bills have gone the whole week with only 52 players on the active roster, and the only player that has been declared ‘out’ at this point for the Bills is outside linebacker and special teams player Lerentee McCray. On Thursday, I spotted undrafted rookie outside linebacker Bryson Albright getting time on the kickoff return unit that was normally McCray’s job — and it wasn’t in a scout team role. When asked after practice if Albright would, in fact, be getting the call-up to the active roster, Rex Ryan said there’s a good possibility of that being the case. The Bills loved Albright’s training camp this summer, and after a brief stint on the active roster, released him and brought him back on the practice squad. He’s been there the whole season, and it seems like he’ll be getting his first taste of NFL action on Sunday against the Steelers.