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Injury analysis: Buffalo Bills RB Matt Breida

Can Breida stay healthy in Buffalo?

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NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

New Buffalo Bills running back Matt Breida brings a substantial injury history to Western New York after signing a veteran minimum contract Thursday afternoon. He’ll add speed and depth to a growing running back room that could still add more bodies via the draft. Below is Breida’s publicly known injury history.


Injury History

High School

Going back to his junior varsity days, Breida suffered a broken right forearm during his freshman year of high school.

Georgia Southern

Played in 48 games out of 48 games while in college. Noted to have an ankle injury against Georgia State followed by offseason shoulder surgery in 2016.

Based on the wording from this article at The Athletic, it’s possible that he suffered a torn labrum in 2013 requiring surgery. The prior article noting the 2016 surgery isn’t as detailed, which suggests that he suffered two shoulder injuries during his time in college.

2017 San Francisco 49ers

Appeared in 16 games, did not suffer any publicly known injuries.

2018 49ers

Breida suffered a separated shoulder in the preseason, missing time leading up to the regular season. He then suffered a knee hyperextension in Week 3. The following week, he suffered a shoulder subluxation/dislocation in Week 4, not missing time for either injury. For each of these injuries, the side was not specified.

Despite not missing any games due to those injuries, Breida then suffered a left ankle injury termed a “mid-ankle sprain,” but more likely a high ankle sprain in Week 7. Breida then suffered another ankle sprain on the left side that was a different injury, which suggests a possible low ankle sprain in Week 12, forcing him to miss Week 13. Another ankle injury suffered in Week 16 led to missing Week 17 to end a disastrous 4-12 season, overall missing two games.

2019 49ers

Not able to stay fully healthy, Breida sustained a slightly torn pectoral muscle during OTA’s resulting in missing a portion of the offseason program. This was the result of a weightlifting injury that is a common mechanism of injury for a pectoral tear. He ultimately did not require surgery.

Breida suffered yet another ankle injury, side not specified in Week 8, aggravating it again in Week 10, missing three games.

2020 Miami Dolphins

Breida suffered a hamstring strain in Week 8, missing Weeks 9 and 10. Shortly after returning, he tested positive for COVID-19, missing Weeks 13 and 14.


Bills impact

Dating back to his high school days, Breida has had a plethora of injuries that have really impacted his performance at times, but not so much his availability. He has missed nine games over four years since entering the NFL, however, two of those games are due to COVID, which was out of anyone’s control.

This reduces the number of games missed down to seven games over three years with the bulk of injuries occurring in 2018. Looking at everything as a whole, his ankles are a concern as he has sustained possible multiple high and low ankle sprains over 2018 and 2019. I am concerned that he has some type of chronic ankle instability present, which could lead to further injuries.

He has also dealt with a partially torn pectoral muscle, A/C Joint sprain, shoulder subluxation/dislocation, and hyperextended knee over the past few years. These all appear to be one-off injuries of the unfortunate variety, but which did not result in significant missed time.

Looking at how he entered the league as a UDFA, Breida likely figured that if he didn’t try to play through whatever injury he was dealing with, that meant that he might lose his job. Considering the shelf life of running backs as a whole, his room for error is razor thin when it comes to his career. I do enjoy the availability aspect of Breida, but what is his effectiveness when dealing with an injury?

Every player in the NFL deals with injuries outside of maybe special teams specialists so it’s not expected that he could avoid all injuries, but this many in a short time is concerning as it relates to his usefulness. I would compare his injury history to current Bills RB/ST Taiwan Jones. He has had a multitude of injuries yet continues to find work in the league as he is such a vital threat on special teams.

I like the upside and cost of what Breida brings to the table, but his injury history does concern me. In my opinion, his talent doesn’t far outweigh his injury concerns like other players on the roster. This could either be a home-run signing where the Bills get an excellent depth piece who can start occasionally, giving a new wrinkle to the offense in the backfield. This could also be a strikeout if he suffers an injury early on in camp, which is very possible, or doesn’t get the reps in a crowded running back room. I certainly worry about a strikeout in this case.

I can live with this signing as he’s an upgrade over T.J. Yeldon, but I do worry about his durability and production if he does suffer any injury and attempts to play through it in 2021. General manager Brandon Beane has been more of a risk taker when it comes to signing players with injury concerns in free agency rather than finding them in the draft. For the price and contract length, I like it, but it is not a signing that moves the needle for me looking at the whole picture.