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Reports: Bills without both Watkins, Darby vs. Cardinals

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Posted at 9:58 AM, Sep 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-25 10:13:03-04

The Buffalo Bills will try to do everything in their power to snap the two-game losing streak that started their 2016 regular season. However, they'll have to do it without two of their best young players.

According to multiple reports, the Bills will not have their top wide receiver Sammy Watkins available to them against the Arizona Cardinals. Watkins had his foot stepped on during a walkthrough early in the week, and wasn't able to practice in any capacity on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

Watkins has been dealing with soreness in his surgically repaired foot since the first week of the season, but was able to play against both the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets. Watkins will not be able to suit up against Arizona, marking his first missed game since Week Seven of last season: October 25, 2015.

Making matters worse, the Bills will also be without one of their top two cornerbacks. According to Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com, Ronald Darby will also be unable to play due to a hamstring injury he suffered during Week Two.

Darby was a limited participant through the week, and looked to be moving more gingerly than usual on the hamstring. This is only the second game Darby will have missed for the Bills since joining the team last season.

In place of Watkins, the Bills will use a combination of Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Greg Salas as the three main wide receivers. For Darby, it's most likely that rookie Kevon Seymour gets the start, but since he just returned from an injury, the Bills could also consider using veteran Corey White as well.

The Bills take on the Cardinals at 1 p.m. at New Era Field.

Joe B's Take

This is a crushing blow to the Bills chances against the Arizona Cardinals. Of the two, the Darby news might be the worse news, considering just who they're up against.

The Cardinals boast a great trio of receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown -- three players that all do something unique to the other one. Without Darby, that puts a lot of pressure on either Kevon Seymour or Corey White to play the boundary against either Michael Floyd or John Brown.

That leaves Nickell Robey-Coleman to cover the much bigger, and much more physical Larry Fitzgerald. He primarily lines up in the slot, and it represents a potential big mismatch. The Bills do, however, have the option of sticking Robey-Coleman on the smaller, speedier Brown, and then allowing either Stephon Gilmore or Seymour/White to follow Fitzgerald around everywhere he goes.

Either way, losing Darby in this game is a tremendous blow, because all three of those receivers can make you pay if you're not on top of your game. Especially with Carson Palmer as the quarterback, he'll know exactly where the advantages are when he snaps the ball.

As for Watkins, the biggest problem it presents is that it means the Cardinals defense will now be able to play the Bills straight up. Usually, with Watkins on the field, teams designate a safety to oversee the job the cornerback is doing on him, and it opens things up in the middle of the field.

The Bills haven't taken advantage of it much, but, the opportunity at the very least was there.

Watkins, though, was a shell of himself last week against the New York Jets. You could tell he wasn't the usual version of himself. He didn't fight for jump balls, he avoided contact and loafed on run blocking, and he played a lower percentage of snaps than he normally does.

Not having him will close things up a bit more for the Bills from a schematic standpoint, but at least the Bills will have three healthy receivers on the field for the first time this season. Rest is what is in order for Watkins, and rather than trying to force the issue with their top receiver, they're giving him at least a little bit of the time and rest he needs to potentially get back to 100-percent health.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia