ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) - After a weekend to remember for the Buffalo Bills and their fans in the victory over the Oakland Raiders, the turnaround to the next game is an extremely short one. The Bills have immediately turned their attention to the upcoming Thursday night tilt — on the road, no less — against the New York Jets.
Against Oakland, the Bills were without three defensive starters and a key piece to the offense but still managed a win. On Tuesday — the team’s big day of practice for the week — we received updates on the quartet of injured players.
What else happened on the Bills final day of practice for the week? Five notes from Tuesday’s practice:
1) Poyer making strides, Gaines in question?
- When going up against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, it seemed the Bills were at a bit of a disadvantage without both starting cornerback EJ Gaines and Jordan Poyer in the lineup. To their credit, they made adjustments within the game after some early points by Oakland and stifled the Raiders passing attack for the majority of the game — at least when it mattered, anyway. Now, there is at least a chance that one — or both — could be able to get back in time for Thursday night’s game. Head coach Sean McDermott said that they’re still holding on to hope that Gaines will be able to play Thursday, after sitting out with a hamstring injury. He was at practice and on the stair machine, while Poyer was limited at practice. The knee injury for Poyer has been progressing well according to the Bills and got his second straight day of practice in on Tuesday. Last week, Gaines was the more important of the pair, but this time around, I think Poyer would be the more advantageous player to have if they had to only get one back. The Jets, particularly in the passing attack, like to attack the middle of the field — and one of Poyer’s strengths is his football intelligence in the ability to diagnose plays early enough to get to the spot and make a play. His presence could help bring on a turnover or two for a Bills defense that has made forcing turnovers their identity in 2017.
2) Milano helping Humber’s recovery
- Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen rookie linebacker Matt Milano make some big strides while starting at weakside for the injured Ramon Humber. His level of play through the last two games has been so good, that it’s likely challenging the preconceived notion from the Bills coaching staff that Humber would automatically regain his starting role upon getting back to full health — at least you would think, based on all the principles of the staff. The good thing for them, though, is that they’ll likely have another week to delay that decision. While Humber has returned to practice on a limited basis this week, Sean McDermott admitted that Milano’s play over the last two weeks has given the ability to “slow” down Humber’s recovery from injury — further allowing the hand to heal. For what it’s worth, Humber told reporters that he's expecting to play on Thursday. You can’t blame him for wanting to rush it and get back out there. He has eyes, he’s seeing how Milano is doing, and as a veteran in the NFL, I’m sure he’s seen a situation where a player loses his job to an upstart backup after suffering an injury. However, if Milano keeps playing as well as he has, I just don’t know how you can take him off the field on defense completely. He needs to have a role once they get back to full health at the linebacker position — and so should Humber. It’s all about finding the right mix.
3) Clay probably won’t play, but some optimism
- Near the end of the practice week ahead of the Raiders game, the Bills snuck in a minor participant that no one was really expecting: tight end Charles Clay. His injury in Cincinnati a few weeks ago certainly did not look good, and him getting carted off the field looked even worse for this team. However, Clay has slowly been gearing up through injury rehab and has been on the field each of the last three practices, in a minor capacity, for the Bills. McDermott told reporters that they weren’t sure that Clay was going to make it in time for the Thursday night game against the New York Jets, but the mere fact that they were even considering it speaks volumes. Based on that logic, and a full 10 days of rest before the team’s next game against the New Orleans Saints, you’d have to think that Clay's availability to them for the game is at least a consideration. Either way, what looked to be a potentially catastrophic injury for the Bills’ top tight end has turned into a likely best-case scenario for them — all things considered.
4) Incognito doesn’t practice Tuesday
- The Bills, as well as the Jets, are faced with the task of being able to not only cram a week’s worth of preparation into three days but to get all of their sore and injured players to a point where they’ll be able to play on Sunday. The Bills had to rest starting left guard Richie Incognito for the majority of the practice week leading up to the Oakland game. He finally got a limited session in on Friday and was able to play Sunday. This week, Incognito was listed as a limited participant in the walkthrough session on Monday — but that’s not really a normal practice. On Tuesday, the left guard was not seen during the stretching portion — perhaps in an effort to rest the ankle ahead of Thursday’s game. It didn’t sound as though Incognito was in any immediate danger of missing the game, but it’s at least something to keep an eye on as we get closer to Thursday night.
5) McDermott wins a real Football Guy’s award
- The Bills and their fans have certainly had some fun following the 34-14 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders, and that continued into Tuesday — especially with the news that McDermott had won the Pardon My Take podcast’s “Football Guy of the Week” award. What is a football guy? Well, just look at who McDermott was up against, and why:
So, after topping all those nominees and getting the award for the week, McDermott was asked about it by my Bills Beat podcast partner and NYUpstate.com’s Matthew Fairburn. And in true football guy fashion, McDermott delivered a perfectly #humble response:
The man also wore a cloth hoodie in a downpour. As football guy as you can get. But it all underscores a bigger point: The Bills and their fans are reveling in this 5-2 start. We’ll see if that can continue on Thursday night against another beatable opponent.