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Joe B: 5 Bills roster notes heading into Monday (11/5/16)

Posted at 3:21 PM, Nov 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-05 21:53:56-04

The Buffalo Bills are through with practice for the week, and the next time we see them, they’ll be the center of attention on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks. The Bills have been dealing with plenty of injuries over the past few weeks, and this week presents its own challenges.

The Bills will once again have to deal with some key injuries, but on the whole, they’re getting healthier — little by little. Just a reminder, if you're in Buffalo, you'll be able to see the game Monday Night on 7ABC, along with a localized pregame show with full focus on the Bills starting at 7:30 p.m.

Until then, five roster notes heading into the game on Monday:

1) Bills think McCoy is ready to play
- In the mind of the Buffalo Bills, it appears a week-and-a-half is all that was needed to rest star running back LeSean McCoy’s hamstring injury in this upcoming game. According to multiple reports at Saturday’s practice, Rex Ryan believes McCoy is ready to play against the Seahawks — despite being given the ‘questionable’ tag for the game. Now, take this for what it’s worth, but during Thursday’s practice LeSean McCoy looked to be moving a lot better than he had been ahead of the game against Miami two weeks ago. It remains to be seen just how ready McCoy will be, but with him likely to play and considering there is a bye the weekend right after, you would have to think that the Bills are going to be cautious with McCoy. They’ll likely have him play a role, but I would tend to think that the first time McCoy starts to feel anything in his hamstring, that the Bills would shut him down for the rest of the night and allow the capable Mike Gillislee to take the reigns of the running game. Considering how much usage the Bills gave McCoy in the early going of the Miami game, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him lead the backfield in a similar capacity against Seattle.

2) Dareus out, Bryant too… now what?
- One week into Marcell Dareus’ long awaited return to the lineup, the Bills will have to attempt to beat Seattle without the stud defensive lineman. Even though he had a strong game against New England, Dareus injured his groin and has since been declared ‘out’ against Seattle. Dareus, who was the clear mainstay at nose tackle, now will be missed for the eighth time out of nine weeks this season. Making matters worse, the Bills will also be without backup nose tackle Corbin Bryant, who has been officially listed as ‘out’ with a shoulder injury. So now, the Bills have a total of four healthy defensive linemen on the active roster as of Saturday. Kyle Williams, Leger Douzable, Adolphus Washington, and Jerel Worthy are all that they’ve got. There is also the possibility that the Bills could bring up their lone practice squad defensive lineman Deandre Coleman, a massive 6-foot-5, 341-pound nose tackle. However, it’s unlikely Coleman would play a big role even if promoted, so that leaves the core four, and the nose tackle responsibilities will likely fall on Kyle Williams. The Bills have played quite a great deal of two-man fronts as well, so Leger Douzable will once again play a huge role, just more now when the Bills are in a basic three-man set. Even without Dareus and Bryant, Washington’s playing time will probably stay around the same — potentially more if the Seahawks run basic offensive sets — but the most usage uptick you could expect would be for Worthy, who has usually averaged under ten snaps per game.

3) How much to expect from Percy Harvin, other WRs
- The Bills made a bold move to sign wide receiver Percy Harvin out of six months of retirement, and never ruled out the idea of him playing as early as Monday night. After only three days of practice, Rex Ryan and company told reporters on Saturday that they have deemed him ready to play. However, it would be unfair to expect that Harvin becomes a major player in the game — in fact, the Bills even said as much about how much he’d actually play. I think it’s more likely that they have a little more than a handful of designed plays for him, not to overuse him to the point that they’ll regret it for the rest of the season. The Bills have the bye weekend coming up after the Seattle matchup, and that will be a time for Harvin to get back up to ‘game shape’ in time for their Week 11 matchup in Cincinnati. As for the other receivers, it was pretty clear that Robert Woods was not his normal self last Sunday. He practiced on a limited basis the whole week, which likely means we can expect a similar snap rate against Seattle that we saw against New England (60-percent). The best news is that Marquise Goodwin looks poised to play after sitting out against the Patriots. That’s a big development, because it allows the Bills to use receivers that at least present a slight matchup problem for the Seattle secondary. It will be tough for the passing offense either way, though.

4) Get ready for a whole lot of Shaq Lawson
- The jury is still out on starting outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (hamstring) and whether or not he’ll be able to play on Monday night. However, even if he does, rookie edge rusher Shaq Lawson is bound to see his snaps go up for a couple of different reasons. First, Alexander is dealing with a hamstring injury, which is especially problematic in the first week or two of the injury. Alexander’s snap count will likely go down as a result, which will give Lawson a direct opportunity to take those reps. And in the event that Alexander can’t play, Lawson becomes the starter at that position. Secondly, with only four healthy defensive lineman, the Bills could use Lawson as a hybrid outside linebacker and five-technique defensive end if they so choose. The rookie has the type of thick frame to be able to hold his own at defensive end on those downs if they needed him to. No matter how you look at it, I’d expect to see Lawson on the field for at least 70-percent of the defensive snaps against Seattle — barring an injury, of course.

5) Bills tipping their hand on Watkins return?
- Might the Bills be planning for a potential return from wide receiver Sammy Watkins? On Friday, Rex Ryan told reporters on hand that they’re “looking toward the future with a certain receiver.” That receiver, the head coach confirmed, is Watkins. Taking it a step further, I had the chance to ask Rex about a potential Watkins return in an interview that you’ll only be able to see on the Chevy Countdown to Kickoff Pregame Show airing Monday Night on 7ABC ahead of the game.

“Man, I hope so,” said head coach Rex Ryan in a one-on-one interview with 7ABC. “There’s a reason we put him on I-R designated to return. We’re real hopeful that he can come in — whenever it is — if he’s healthy, to give us a big spark.”

Now, a couple of things here. First, the Bills don’t have to technically designate a single player as the one they want to return. All they need to do is to put him on the active roster after his eight-week absence. However, the fact that Rex Ryan is thinking in those terms seems to tip their hands that they’re going to test it out with Watkins. From there, just how soon can the Bills get Watkins back on the field? Since he was placed on Injured Reserve on the Friday ahead of their Week Four matchup, the wide receiver is technically allowed to start practice Friday of next week (November 11). Seeing as how the Bills are unlikely to have a practice session that day due to the bye week, whenever the Bills choose to run a practice the following week (could be earlier than Wednesday, November 16 due to the bye), Watkins will be eligible to participate. He cannot play in a game, though, until the November 27th home contest against Jacksonville. As of this weekend, the Bills top wide receiver has had roughly seven weeks of rest for his surgically repaired foot. His return, if he’s at full health, would be a huge boost to a potential run towards the playoffs.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia