The Buffalo Bills concluded their eighth full week of practice as they continued to prepare for the daunting matchup of the upcoming weekend. The New England Patriots are coming to down, and they may just be a bit shorthanded for the contest.
It’s an incredibly important game to keep them above .500 halfway through the season, but what players will they have heading into the battle?
Five roster notes heading into Sunday:
1) McCoy likely will not play vs. Patriots
- Star running back LeSean McCoy is likely going to get the rest that he needs to. After sitting out every practice during the week due to an injured hamstring, the Bills officially designated McCoy as doubtful against the New England Patriots. In my personal opinion, this decision is a week too late. Were the Dolphins the more beatable opponent out of the two weeks? Sure they were, but that doesn’t mean that putting the most important player on offense with the stark possibility of re-injury looming was a good idea. Hamstring injuries don’t go away with after a week away — let alone after only a day-and-a-half of rest. So, at least the Bills are getting it right this week as opposed to trying to continue to force McCoy out there, when it a few things were abundantly clear last week: he didn’t look right in practice last Friday, he sounded a bit dejected after the practice was done after not being able to do much, and then again on Sunday in the game he didn’t look like the same player that we saw in the first six weeks of action. That being said, Mike Gillislee will be the starting running back against New England, with both Reggie Bush and Jonathan Williams likely to work in occasionally as well. However, worth noting, Gillislee was limited all week due to a foot injury, though Rex Ryan expects the runner to be ready to go against New England.
2) Woods says he’d play if game were on Friday
- The Bills were without wide receiver Robert Woods all last week and into the weekend against the Miami Dolphins, but that might just be only a one-week hiatus for the starter. Woods was on the practice field all three days this week, and has now been given the label of ‘questionable’ heading into the weekend. Woods said on Friday that if the game were that day, that he’d be able to play — which should inspire some degree of confidence in him being on the field Sunday. However, to play the role of devil’s advocate here, players will usually want to play through an injury and think that they’re healthy enough to play. That’s when it’s the role of the coaching and medical staff to make the determination about what’s best for the player. Woods barely did anything on Wednesday, was “very limited” on Thursday according to Rex Ryan, and was able to do a bit more on Friday. The Bills could definitely use him, because the rest of the receivers on the roster don’t pose many matchup problems for the Patriots, while Woods at the very least — when healthy — can gain separation from defensive backs on short routes. Really, this is a true game-time decision for the Bills — with a skeleton crew of offensive skill players looming if he is unable to give it a go.
3) Bills down another WR: Marquise Goodwin
- Part of the reason the Bills are down to the bare bones on offense is because of all the injuries suffered to the wide receiver position. Having already detailed the Woods decision, the Bills also placed both Sammy Watkins and Greg Salas on injured reserve. Woods might not play, and now will have to operate potentially without a fourth wide receiver: Marquise Goodwin. The wideout suffered a concussion late in the game against Miami and has not practiced at all since being placed into concussion protocol. Now, let’s say all four of those players don’t play. Who would the Bills be giving the large portion of their snaps to? Starting on the outside would likely be Justin Hunter as their number-one option, along with Walt Powell. I would expect Brandon Tate to filter in occasionally in that scenario, as well. Then on the inside, the slot would be made up of Powell (on the snaps with Brandon Tate), Ed Eagan, and Reggie Bush depending on the play. Not exactly desirable for the Bills, and even easier to defend. If Woods is active, at the very least that allows Powell to play in the slot rather than being forced to the outside. Either way, I’d still expect to see Bush play some snaps at slot receiver as well — especially after the Bills started to use him there last weekend.
4) Who steps in without Aaron Williams?
- The Bills have been mum on what happens at safety without Aaron Williams as the starter. Of course, Williams will not play against New England due to the neck injury he suffered against Miami, which means there’s a hole at that starting position. And with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Martellus Bennett coming to town, that is one heck of a scary proposition. Williams hasn’t been playing incredible this season, but he’s been playing at a much higher level than that of both Robert Blanton and Jonathan Meeks. Williams is a lot more natural in coverage, and is less susceptible to the big play than both Blanton and Meeks, and certainly ahead of Duke Williams in that department as well. That tight end duo might have a field day with Tom Brady at the helm. If the Patriots are dedicating themselves to the running game, Meeks will probably mix in, whereas Blanton would against the passing attack. Either way, the Bills will be conceding a matchup not in their favor.
5) Incognito, Glenn, Zach Brown are good to go
- Both left guard Richie Incognito and inside linebacker Zach Brown had to miss time on the field because of illness during practice this week. Brown missed the first two days, while Incognito couldn’t participate on Thursday — but both were back on the field Friday as the week wrapped up. The duo will both be expected to play against the Patriots. The same goes for left tackle Cordy Glenn, even though he missed the first two days of the practice week due to an ankle injury that has been bothering him for three months. Glenn was able to participate on Friday, and Rex Ryan said he should be able to play. While the Bills have plenty of injuries to worry about on offense, at least they’ll have their entire starting offensive line intact.
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