The 2019 edition of the Buffalo Bills’ defense hasn’t missed a beat from last season, continuing to produce as a top five unit after finishing second overall last season. They haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points all season and have been the difference in going 4-1 vs 1-4. Similar to the offense, the defense has been beset by injury, but still keeps chugging along. Today’s post will review the defensive side of the ball in regards to injury and who will be healthy coming out of the bye.
LB Corey Thompson (ankle surgery)
Thompson was a surprise addition to the injury report prior to the home opener. He did play several special-teams plays but only made it through the first quarter before ending his day. At the following Monday’s press conference, it was revealed he was having ankle surgery that would keep him out several weeks.
LB Corey Thompson had ankle surgery, though the #Bills do not believe his year is over as a result.— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) September 25, 2019
Based on not placing him on IR and not revealing how he suffered the injury limits the possible injuries. I believed he required some type of clean out in the ankle from possible bone chips or other loose bodies, leading to pain and locking up of the ankle.
Clean outs can have timelines anywhere from 2-6 weeks based on healing rates and how the player performs in rehab. We also don’t know what ankle he had surgery on, which might limit his skill set. For example, if the right ankle was injured, the team may want to line him up on the left side on special teams to maximize power off the left foot. As he is heavily used in special teams, it’ll be interesting to see how he is reintegrated.
Considering he has already been out two games, it stands to reason that he can come back after the bye and at least practice, if not play.
CB Taron Johnson (right hamstring)
Johnson continues to work through a right hamstring strain suffered in the season opener covering New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder. Since then, video has shown him running through drills through the week with fluid motion, but he continued to miss games. I had believed that he was ready to play during the Patriots game, but he was held out for precautionary measures. He then missed the Titans game likely due to the weather conditions to prevent re-aggravating the injury.
I have no proof but I wonder if he had some type of set back prior to the Patriots game that led to him being inactive. There has been little to no information revealed over the past two weeks, which may support my theory. Either way, missing four games plus a bye week should be more than ample time to return. I’m expecting he’s able to play, but if he misses more time, then I may begin to think whether there’s something that just isn’t known at this time. He will require three full practices in a row before he’s a lock to play.
LB Matt Milano (left hamstring)
Milano suffered a hamstring strain trying to chase down Titans TE Jonnu Smith late in the third quarter. The injury occurred as he began to slow down and potentially change direction in order to get a better angle on Smith. On film, it’s clearly shown that he grabbed towards his left hamstring as he slowed to a trot.
He was able to play on one more snap but motioned to come out afterward, ending his day. While hamstrings are difficult to grade on video alone, the hope is that this is just a minor strain. Looking at the timeline for Singletary and Johnson, Milano could be out for some time. There’s also hope that he’s not out with a hamstring injury similar to TE Jason Croom and TE Dawson Knox.
Having the week off to truly rest and rehab may speed up his timetable for return, but it’s a very realistic possibility that he misses the Week 7 match up against the Miami Dolphins. Keeping in mind the weather and how he feels, he could miss the Philadelphia Eagles game as well. He may have a longer recovery time due to the position that he plays. As a defensive player, he’s unable to dictate the game like an offensive player has the ability to do. So this means that Milano is always a step behind his assignment and has to react instantly to try and keep up. He is one of the few players who I don’t have expectations of playing in Week 7.
DE Trent Murphy (concussion)
Murphy suffered his concussion early in the fourth quarter due to colliding with teammate LB Lorenzo Alexander in the Titans’ backfield. This was simply unfortunate as Murphy was beginning to show why the Bills brought him to Buffalo last season with his steady play and ability to stay on the field this season. Like all others, Murphy will work through the protocol and we likely won’t know if he clears until practice starts next week.
DT Ed Oliver (left foot/ankle contusion)
Oliver suffered what appears to be a left foot/ankle contusion attempting to tackle Titans RB Derrick Henry late in Sunday’s win. He got flipped over during the tackle and his feet hit the ground hard. He appeared to be in obvious discomfort but was able to walk off under his own power. He didn’t return after that play, but he wasn’t needed as the Bills ran an effective four-minute offense to seal the win. Oliver should be fine come Week 7.
CB Tre’Davious White (neck/right ankle)
White was dealing with a neck injury earlier in the season prior to the Bengals and Patriots games. We still don’t know the exact nature of what, exactly, he sustained. It didn’t limit him during games, but it’s still something to be aware of.
As for his low-ankle injury he sustained in the Patriots game, he played through that with no noticeable loss of function. The bye should resolve most of the remaining complaints and he should be about as healthy as an NFL player can be during the season.
By and large, the defense continues to stay incredibly healthy in comparison to the offense. I expect that Oliver and White will have no issues moving forward. The Bills will likely only lose Milano for a game or two at worst based on past history with hamstring strains as it relates to the rehab management by the team. Johnson should be cleared to play, but it’s a wonder that his body has been able to hold up through his brief time in the NFL. Even if he does come back, one has to wonder when the next injury will be.
There’s a chance Murphy could miss some time, but concussions can never be predicted based on hit alone. Finally, Thompson should be able to return soon, but is not a guarantee until he at least begins to step foot on the practice field. This defense is special and so are the backups. If one goes down, another steps up. No team can sustain multiple severe injuries over multiple weeks, but the Bills are clearly able to take (and dish out) a beating with their depth for a while until the starters return.