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Injury analysis: new Buffalo Bills DT Quinton Jefferson

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Will Jefferson be able to put his injury woes behind him to add extra depth to the defensive line?

Wild Card Round - Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

By and large, the Buffalo Bills fielded an elite defense last season, but it showed its weaknesses during key points. While the defense bailed the offense out at times, it appears general manager Brandon Beane wants to upgrade upon some weaknesses for the 2020 season. In comes defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson who agreed to a two-year contract with Buffalo on March 17th, likely signed to bring some more production to the defensive line.

Jefferson is a younger player who caught the tail end of an elite Seattle Seahawks defense that was just one year removed from back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. He ended up playing four years in Seattle before becoming a free agent. Jefferson’s medical history is below, followed by my analysis of his fit within the Bills’ system.


2016

Drafted in the fifth round, Jefferson dealt with a thumb injury in training camp that required surgery, but made it through to Week 1. He appeared in three games before having his season cut short by an ACL tear in practice, ending his rookie campaign. It’s important to note that this was Jefferson’s second torn ACL as he tore his right one during his junior year at Maryland. No specifics have been released regarding which ACL he tore in 2016.

2017

Appeared in six games, starting none. During the final cut-down day before the regular season, Jefferson was waived by Seattle and quickly claimed by the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams waived him the following week only to sign him to their practice squad. He did not appear in any games for Los Angeles, but he was picked back off the practice squad by Seattle less than one month later. Unfortunately, sometime before Jefferson even stepped foot on the field, he suffered a hand injury that cost him a game against his former team in California. He returned and was able to play several more games throughout the season.

2018

Jefferson finally found a home in Seattle, appearing in all 16 games with 12 starts. He also did not suffer any reported injuries, allowing him to finally break out as a regular in the NFL.

2019

Appeared in 14 games, starting 12. He suffered a hip injury early on that he didn’t miss any time for, but an oblique strain several weeks later cost him two games. He was able to recover well enough to help push Seattle into the playoffs where bad luck with injuries struck once again.

During the win over the Philadelphia Eagles, he suffered an ankle injury, of which details are scarce. He was ruled questionable for the following game against the Green Bay Packers, but he ultimately played in the loss. It was revealed afterward that Jefferson suffered a Jones fracture, which could have occurred due to the already pre-existing ankle injury.

He had surgery to correct the fracture this past January, and his timetable to return was set at eight weeks. Fortunately, this means he will be healthy come time for OTAs and training camp.


Bills Impact

Jefferson has had his fair share of injuries during his football career, including two ACL tears, several minor injuries, and a Jones fracture.

This injury history does not look great and it does give me pause about believing he’ll be able to stay healthy in Buffalo. The minor injuries such as the thumb and hand injuries—and even the ACL injuries—are not concerning when considering how long ago each of the ACL tears was. There is always a risk, but the likelihood of tearing again outside of a two-year window is minimal.

The injury that concerns me is the Jones fracture. This injury is the result of an acute injury such as having the foot stepped on or when the foot is planted and hit from the outside, commonly observed in a supinated foot. Overuse injuries are always a concern, but this could present more like a stress fracture over time.

radiopaedia.org

There are varying types of Jones fractures, but what concerns me are the outcomes. According to this article, 50% of NFL players who suffer a Jones fracture demonstrated incomplete healing. This could obviously lead to further injury or reaggravation of the current injury.

Despite the Jones fracture being far more common in wide receivers, defensive linemen are not far behind according to this article. Playing Jefferson in a rotation may reduce his injury risk, but I could see a scenario where Jefferson continues to require additional surgery to repair the original area.

Jefferson can either go the way of Tyler Kroft last season, or he could move past all these injury concerns and contribute to an already formidable defensive line. This isn’t exactly the ideal player if I were picking one for the Bills, but Brandon Beane has been known to take oft-injured players and turn them back into effective players.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a clause written into Jefferson’s contract that voids it if he is not healthy, but until there is a physical or any updates, we can only assume that he will be a Bill in 2020. I hope that Jefferson’s foot holds up during this season, but don’t be alarmed if he has problems down the road.