Just days removed from their Week 12 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills returned to the practice field on Wednesday to get ready for a huge test against the AFC East juggernauts and defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
At 6-5, the Bills don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the number of wins they’ll need to make it into the playoffs in 2017, but an upset win at home over the Patriots would go a long way to ending the playoff drought this season.
What are some of the things to keep an eye on as practice began for the week? Five notes from Wednesday’s practice:
1) Cordy Glenn no longer has a timetable
- The Buffalo Bills made the decision heading into their game against the New Orleans Saints to shut down Cordy Glenn for that game, calling him “day-to-day” for the entirety of that week, and each of the two weeks to follow. Glenn hasn’t appeared in a game since the Thursday night blowout against the New York Jets, missing the past three total. But on Wednesday, there was a bit of a change in Sean McDermott’s tune regarding Glenn. The head coach opened up and said that Glenn does not have a timetable — a stark difference from the day-to-day delineation that he’d garnered for weeks on end. Glenn is still dealing with foot and ankle injuries that have plagued him since the spring workouts and has missed a total of five games this season as a result of that. With the change in how he was considered by the Bills, I asked McDermott if there was a fear they could lose Glenn for the remainder of the season. His response:
“I don’t know, Joe. I’m not going to go there. It’s still up in the air at this point. I do think he’s getting better, but, it’s really more so kind of a status quo at this time until we know more today and tomorrow.”
So while it doesn’t immediately rule him out for the season, it doesn’t sound promising from the first three sentences. Plus, the final part of his answer seemed to indicate that there was more information on the way to them. It could be as simple as seeing how much he can do with the athletic training staff and doctors, or, it could also mean that there is some additional testing being done now that he’s gone from day-to-day to without a timetable. The more this situation drags on — especially considering this latest twist — the more it seems Dion Dawkins has a great chance to finish out the season as the left tackle of the Buffalo Bills.
2) Kelvin Benjamin visible, but a non-participant
- Just a pair of days removed from the Bills confirming that wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has a torn meniscus in his knee, they have still maintained his status as “day-to-day,” though there has been some skepticism from at least one former NFL medical professional that this type of injury is anything but “day-to-day.” However, the wide receiver was on the field working to the side with athletic trainers with his helmet on, showing that he’s at least progressed enough to resume some on-field activities. While it still might be a stretch for him to play against New England on Sunday, it firmly puts next week’s game against Indianapolis on the radar for a potential Benjamin return. He has already missed one game with the injury and started off this practice week without being on the practice field in a technical sense. The Bills have only seen a flash of what could be with the humongous wide receiver. The Bills have received next to nothing in their playoff push from their deadline acquisition — with much of that not being his fault. Tyrod Taylor barely looked his way against the New Orleans Saints, and then he was injured early on in his second game with the Bills — against the Los Angeles Chargers. The latest sign on Wednesday, at the very least, was an encouraging one as the Bills enter their stretch run of the 2017 season.
3) No change in sight at right tackle
- The play of the offensive line for the Buffalo Bills has mainly been up and down through the 2017 season, with the exception of one consistent notion: Jordan Mills has struggled in his time starting at right tackle. Without Cordy Glenn available to them at practice, his main competition to start at right tackle would have been Dion Dawkins, but the rookie has had his time occupied over on the left side. However, Seantrel Henderson has been back for a few weeks now and even worked into the game as a sixth offensive lineman the past two weeks, and could be a potential replacement for Mills. However, just like the rest of the season, it doesn’t appear a change is imminent in any capacity. At practice on Wednesday, Mills was still the right tackle with the first unit and Henderson lined up next to him. While the Bills will likely look to move on at the position in the offseason (either in-house with rookie Conor McDermott, or with an offseason acquisition), it doesn’t appear he’s in any immediate danger to lose his job at the moment.
4) Henderson takes a tumble
- Speaking of the potential candidate for the right tackle spot, Seantrel Henderson had an out of the ordinary moment during positional drills. Henderson was lined up next to Jordan Mills on an average blocking rep, and somehow Henderson’s legs got swept out from underneath him and Henderson dropped to the ground with a thud. He slowly rose to his feet and Henderson laughed as they asked him if he was alright. He then went on to rub his back for the next minute or so, followed by him trying to stretch his back out. Henderson has been on the injury report this year, even after returning from suspension, due to a back injury. It could be nothing, but Henderson clearly was in a bit of discomfort after the rep. Keep an eye on the injury report the next two days to see if that back injury pops up again for Henderson.
5) Other Wednesday non-participants
- In addition to Cordy Glenn and Kelvin Benjamin, the Bills are also dealing with ailments to some mid-tier players to start the week. For the third straight Wednesday, the Bills were without backup running back Mike Tolbert due to a hamstring injury. Tolbert ended up sitting out the full week each of the last two and then missing the game itself. Along with Tolbert, the Bills were also without tight end Nick O’Leary, defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, and backup guard John Miller on Wednesday. The O’Leary and Yarbrough injuries are new — as each is considered “day-to-day.” So is Miller, though he has missed each of the last two weeks with an ankle injury. For O’Leary, it’s a back injury and he was unable to even get on the field for individual drills, and for Yarbrough, it’s a chest injury that’s bugging him, though he was able to participate in positional drills with the rest of the defensive linemen. For those two, we won’t know if they’re at risk of not playing until we see the participation on Thursday or even Friday of this week. As for tight end Charles Clay and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, both players were limited on Wednesday which likely signals that they should be good to play on Sunday as they did in Kansas City.