When the Buffalo Bills drafted Reggie Ragland with the 41st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, he was penciled in as an immediate starter. Now-former head coach Rex Ryan went as far as to say that Ragland was a “Ryan player,” noting that he was someone in the mold of those who played on the vaunted ‘85 Bears defense that won his father a Super Bowl. After injuring his ACL in training camp, Ragland finds himself rehabbing to play in a new defense, one that could potentially be totally different than one he has played in before.
According to Matthew Fairburn, Ragland’s rehab is progressing fairly smoothly, and although he is not yet cutting, he should be ready to return in August. ACL tears usually take 7-12 months to heal, and since Ragland tore his last August, it makes sense to target that month as the one where he will try to be full-go again. With no pressure to return for games in between, it allows Ragland to rehab and progress slowly.
When Ragland does return, his role may be something different than what he’s been used to over the last few years. As an inside linebacker in Nick Saban’s 2-gap 3-4 scheme at Alabama, he was considered to be the perfect fit for Ryan’s hybrid 3-4. With Ryan having been relieved of his duties, it’s possible that Ragland will have to adapt to playing one of the spots in a base 4-3 for the first time. Of course, NFL teams spend so much time in a nickel defense that it’s more likely that he and Preston Brown will merely play inside in that form, but the fact remains that it will be something new for him. For Ragland’s part, he isn’t at all concerned about the scheme, as he makes clear in this piece from The Buffalo News.
With any luck, Ragland will return healthy in 2017, and he, Shaq Lawson, and Adolphus Washington can provide the solid foundation that Rex Ryan hoped they would in 2016. With 2016 second-team All-Pro Zach Brown almost sure to depart as a free agent, Ragland will need to step right into a big role in his “rookie” season.
Rehab well, Reggie!