Following a disappointing loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Buffalo Bills returned to the practice field on Wednesday in preparation for their next opponents, the Denver Broncos. In comparison to last week’s game, the Bills will be facing an entirely new challenge — dealing with key injuries.
The Bills are facing another tough defense in the Broncos, and what looks to be a much more well-oiled offense as well. At least two of the injuries could be troublesome for the Bills in their third week of the season.
Following Wednesday’s practice, some takeaways from the Bills’ day of work:
1) A real concern that Dareus can’t play
- Against the Carolina Panthers, the Bills only had starting defensive tackle Marcell Dareus for a handful of snaps in the early going. That was before he suffered an ankle injury, which has been clarified by the Bills as a sprain. In the second half, Dareus returned to the lineup for the Bills and his official snap count was at 17 for Sunday — which isn’t ideal as it is. As the days have ticked by for the Bills this week, there is still concern over the ankle injury to Dareus, so much so, that head coach Sean McDermott said on Wednesday that they’ve had to make a roster move as a contingency plan in the event that Dareus cannot play. The defensive tackle did not practice on Wednesday and sported a big brace to support his right ankle while doing some work on the side with the training staff. Considering the potential matchup against the Broncos, this is a tough game to lose Dareus for. One of the weaknesses of the Broncos offense is along the offensive line — specifically at left guard. It’s certainly been a disappointing start to the 2017 season for the Bills with Dareus. Normally a game breaking talent, when he’s been on the field, he hasn’t been noticeable and gets taken off the field for most key third down situations. A big week could push aside a lot of the concerns that seem to grow louder by the week, but if he can’t play, those won’t be subsiding anytime soon.
2) One foot injury already, how about another one?
- Since the start of the new year, starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been a little snakebitten by one injury that just hasn’t gone away. Glenn has been dealing with an ankle/foot injury through the offseason workouts, through training camp, and it’s been on the team’s mind enough to limit his snap count in Week One of the regular season. Just before the end of the first half in Carolina, Glenn was taken out and hung back in the locker room at halftime to have his ankle evaluated — and as it turns out, it’s not the same ankle that’s been bugging him all year long, it’s the other one. As a result, the Bills had to sit Glenn down at practice on Wednesday to rest the newest injury. Now that he’s dealing with two injuries, there is a pretty powerful argument against trying to force him into the lineup which is one I would have made even if it was only just the one ankle injury. Rookie Dion Dawkins performed moderately enough, and showed some potential, to where it looks like he can be trusted to mind the store while Glenn is away and gets fully healthy. Will Dawkins struggle? It would be foolish to think that a first-year player going up against a defense like the one the Broncos have would be able to come out with a clean sheet. However, it does them no good to continue to have an injured player — and one that is clearly struggling because of that injury — when you have a perfectly healthy replacement that also shows some potential. Get Glenn healthy, and then go from there. However, we’ll see if the Bills feel confident enough in Glenn to practice on Thursday. If he is unable, that will likely hinder his chances of playing on Sunday.
3) Wide receivers coming into focus
- The Buffalo Bills offensive attack, to put it nicely, left a bit to be desired against the Carolina Panthers. Poor blocking up front thwarted any and all hope that the running game could get established as it normally does, and the passing game never came around to help them get over the hump. Now, with another tough defense on tap, the Bills have to figure things out quickly with their wide receivers. On Wednesday, head coach Sean McDermott laid out pretty plainly:
“We certainly have to work on getting better separation and winning our one-on-one’s.
It doesn’t get more obvious than that. The Bills receivers had only two receptions heading into the fourth quarter of the game, and it wasn’t until the Panthers backed off underneath coverage so as to not give up a big play, that the Bills actually incorporated the wide receivers prominently. Part of that problem has been the lack of respect teams have shown to Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones, to beat them over the top. The receivers aren’t getting separation underneath, the Bills can’t connect on a deep ball, and all that makes for a clustered intermediate area which makes it that much tougher for the run game to get established. The best way to attack? Just like McDermott said: they need to start winning on their routes. If they don’t, Sunday could be equally as long for the Bills on offense as it was against Carolina.
4) Lawson doesn’t practice, but trending up
- After a great showing against the Carolina Panthers, second-year defensive end Shaq Lawson was spotted being helped out of the locker room on Sunday. It was called a ‘nerve contusion,’ by McDermott on Sunday, which called into question his potential availability on Sunday. Over the last 48 hours, the Bills have been quite encouraged by Lawson’s progress — so much so that they seem fairly confident in his chances of making it back in time for the game on Sunday. Now, Lawson did not practice on Wednesday, so the team would likely want to see him back before the week is over to try and get him ready for the game. However, McDermott sounded a lot more encouraged than he did with both the Dareus and Glenn injuries.
5) Worthy still sidelined
- If Jerel Worthy does not get on the practice field in any capacity on Thursday, the Bills backup defensive tackle will have been in concussion protocol for three weeks, without ever advancing to the on-field workout stage at any point in time. The unpredictable nature of concussions is worrisome enough, but for a notable player, if memory serves correctly, this has been the worst concussion (in terms of time spent away from the team) since former running back Karlos Williams during his rookie season. The Bills have not been expressive about Worthy’s condition, saying only that he remains in the concussion protocol and not offering any further details than that. Worthy is their best backup defensive tackle, and now it’s looking likely they’ll be without him for a third straight game to start the 2017 season. If he can’t return and Marcell Dareus can’t play, that leaves a pretty big void and puts a lot of importance on players like Adolphus Washington and Cedric Thornton. The Bills signed Deandre Coleman — a player that plays Dareus’ position on the defensive line — just in case they wouldn’t have the pair.