The Buffalo Bills entered into brand new territory on Wednesday, as they conducted their first practice of a playoff week in just a shade under 18 years. And as they get ready for their upcoming contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, all eyes are on No. 25 of the Bills.
Five practice notes from Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for the Wild Card round:
1) McCoy is “day-to-day”
- Undoubtedly, the biggest question of the upcoming contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars is all to do with the injury status of running back LeSean McCoy. The runner is dealing with an ankle injury and his availability for Sunday is very much in question. On Monday, the Bills said he “has a chance.” On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that it would be a true game-time decision. And on Wednesday, the Bills really didn’t offer up much more than that. McCoy was held out of practice to start the week, and the Bills wouldn’t say anything other than that the running back was “day-to-day.” Because it’s LeSean McCoy we’re talking about here, I think a good sign for fans would be if he’s back on the practice field by Friday at least in a limited capacity. Though at this point of his career, McCoy isn’t the type that really needs any practice time leading up to a game — so even if he doesn’t get on the field during the week, I still think there’s a chance. McCoy, above all else, wants to empty to tank to try and win a championship — and really getting his first win in the playoffs would certainly be a step in the right direction. Let’s not forget that this is the same LeSean McCoy that tried to fight through a hamstring injury down in Miami last year in October because it was an important game. I wouldn’t bet against McCoy to have at least some sort of role by the time we get to Sunday, where adrenaline would likely take over.
2) Murphy setting up for a big role?
- Even if we see McCoy get on the field on Sunday, he likely won’t be at 100-percent which would then pave the way for a pair of running backs to have a heightened role on Sunday. Much to the chagrin of many Bills fans, this likely includes Mike Tolbert — but it also includes the somewhat intriguing Marcus Murphy. Against the Dolphins it was Murphy, not Tolbert, who received the first handoff of the game by a running back not named LeSean McCoy. He showed some burst, vision, and provided a spark for the Bills. I think the Bills, much like they did with Travaris Cadet, will look to enhance Murphy’s role on Sunday against Jacksonville. We could end up seeing a committee approach by the Bills to ride the hot hand with an injured McCoy, but that’s going to be their best chance to move the ball on Sunday. If there’s any spot of the Jaguars defense that’s a bit weak, it’s the run defense — so the Bills will need to have a plan of attack with all the runners they have available to them.
3) Matt Milano injury?
- This news kind of snuck in out of nowhere, but upstart rookie weakside linebacker Matt Milano had to miss Wednesday’s practice due to a hamstring injury — which is clearly not the best of news for a Bills team that will be going up against an offense that’s completely committed to the run. Rookie runner Leonard Fournette is undoubtedly one of the most talented players at the position they’ve seen all season, and with how the Bills have struggled to stop the run — it proposes quite a daunting task for Buffalo. However, since Milano has taken over at weakside linebacker, the big plays on the ground have not been as commonplace. He’s quick, reads the play quickly, and can even shed blockers on the way to helping bring down the ball carrier. If he’s not available to them, that would be a big blow to their chances. However, I did spot Milano running almost full speed along the sideline with an athletic trainer as I was leaving practice, so perhaps giving him the day off from practice on Wednesday was merely a precautionary thing. We’ll find out more on Thursday, but having the rookie is of utmost importance against the Jaguars.
4) Mills should be good to play
- For the first time this season, the Bills had to play without starting right tackle Jordan Mills for a significant stretch of Sunday’s game due to an ankle injury. It forced Seantrel Henderson into duty for the first time all year, but it seems that will be the only time they’ll need Henderson if the current trends continue for Mills. The starting right tackle was held out of practice on Wednesday, but head coach Sean McDermott said he believes Mills will be ready to play on Sunday. Honestly, it wouldn’t be that much of a difference between the two at this point from a playing level perspective. It’s likely a position that needs to be upgraded in the offseason. However, with a choice between the two, the Bills would prefer to have Mills — who has been in that spot all year and the rest of the line and Tyrod Taylor knows all his tendencies and there won’t be much lost from that perspective. Familiarity is their friend, in this case.
5) McDermott playing up the underdog role
- Don’t even begin to talk about the Buffalo Bills potentially having a chance to win this game, because head coach Sean McDermott doesn’t want to hear it. At least, he’ll pretend not to hear it in a press conference setting. Firing up what has worked for his team all season long, McDermott is electing to attempt to stoke the “underdog” fire of the Bills once again this week. The way he was talking about the Jaguars, he made it sound as though they had no advantages heading into this game. See for yourself:
Sean McDermott is trying to play up the #Bills as the underdogs in a big way.
"You look at where they're ranked, and where we're ranked, and you say, 'Hey, what favors us? Not a whole lot.'"
Full quote here: pic.twitter.com/rNyNv6EEt1
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) January 3, 2018
McDermott knows his team by now, and he also knows that the underdog role is the way to best get a response out of his team, so I don’t blame him for trying to go about his business this way. But make no mistake, this is a beatable Jaguars team — and I think the Bills know that as well. If they can get an early lead and force Blake Bortles into some turnovers, anything can happen — regardless of which team is the higher seed.