The Buffalo Bills were very thin at cornerback heading into the season, but All-Pro Tre’Davious White has been incredibly healthy throughout his career. On Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, White tore his ACL and is done for the year. That lack of depth caught up with them quickly.
The first man up is Dane Jackson, Buffalo’s 2020 seventh-round pick. Jackson had two starts in 2020 and played in a total of five games. He spent the 2020 season on the practice squad but was elevated for their October 24 game against the New York Jets and added a pick to the stat line. He was once again elevated for Weeks 8, 9, 10, and 17 but never signed to the active roster. He was also elevated for the Divisional Round and AFC Championship playoff games. He made the active roster in 2021 as the team’s top reserve outside cornerback.
Jackson has shown flashes of ability but has remained inconsistent throughout his time in the NFL. He has a few pass interference penalty calls and can be suckered into double-moves, but should provide a fair enough baseline.
On Monday, the team signed Tim Harris to their practice squad. Harris was with the Bills for a week this August. Initially a sixth-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, he spent his rookie season on injured reserve. He was cut prior to 2020, but spent the year on the practice squad, playing in two games as a call up. After being hurt in August of 2021, he was released by the 49ers before ending up on the Bills. He was released August 30 and signed to the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad, where he played in one game at the end of October. Cleveland let him go from the practice squad on November 10.
Buffalo’s sixth-round pick in 2021, Rachad Wildgoose, was signed off the Bills’ practice squad earlier this season and is no longer with the club.
With Jackson getting the first crack, I’d like to see them bring in one more veteran option with more significant starting experience in the NFL to learn the system and perhaps take over down the stretch for the playoff run. Jackson, Harris, and safety-turned-cornerback Siran Neal, who has mostly played special teams throughout his career, can’t be the only depth you have at CB. Cam Lewis is primarily a slot cornerback but could play outside in a pinch—and, make no mistake, the Bills are already in pinching territory.
No matter who they plug in, the defense is certainly going to be altered. Tre is that good that he can’t even partially be replaced by one guy. Buffalo’s safeties were often able to shift or shade to other zones with White in lockdown mode. They could focus their attention elsewhere and take risks like going for picks. It’s going to cramp their ability to disguise coverages, as well.
As for White, head coach Sean McDermott said Tuesday he’s “confident Tre will return to form.”