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Bills vs. Chargers: Midweek injury trends

Nothing unexpected, just business as usual at One Bills Drive

Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills will head across country to try and make it three wins in a row when they face the Los Angeles Chargers in just a few days. In looking at today’s injury report, the Bills should have a (mostly) healthy team when they get on the plane. Today’s injury list looks long, but it isn’t unexpected or overly alarming.

Bills players trending up

  • QB Josh Allen (shoulder)
  • LS Reid Ferguson (right thumb)
  • TE Dawson Knox (wrist)
  • P Sam Martin (knee)
  • EDGE Von Miller (vet rest)
  • RB James Cook (illness)

As we all know by now, Allen and Knox are likely going to be on this list for the duration of the season. By NFL rules, if they are receiving regular treatment for an injury, even if the injury isn’t affecting their playing, they have to be listed. So Allen and Knox are here to stay. Miller, too, will be here to stay as head coach Sean McDermott told us last week that they have gone back to giving him his scheduled rest day like they did last year — presumably in hopes of returning Miller to a familiar routine will let us see a familiar dominance over opposing quarterbacks.

The new, and hopefully temporary, names here this week are long snapper Reid Ferguson and punter Sam Martin. Not really sure how or when Ferguson was injured, but Martin took a hard fall when he was hit while trying to get a punt off in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys. It’s good to see that the special teams guys, while obviously a little banged up, aren’t in too much danger of sitting out.

While Cook missed today’s practice due to an illness, most players who are sick mid-week are ready to play by game day. Hopefully we see Cook get some extra fluids, a day’s rest, and then back to work tomorrow. Even if he misses a second day, I would still think he will be ready to go by Saturday.

Bills players holding steady

  • DE A.J. Epenesa (ribs)
  • DE Leonard Floyd (wrist/rib)
  • S Micah Hyde (neck/stinger)
  • RB Ty Johnson (shoulder)
  • TE Dalton Kincaid (shoulder)
  • DE DaQuan Jones (pectoral)
  • CB Kaiir Elam (ankle)
  • WR Justin Shorter (hamstring)

A.J. Epenesa and Micah Hyde have already missed one game with the injuries they suffered in Kansas City a week and a half ago. While initially McDermott said that the two would be week-to-week, now he’s saying they are progressing. That’s great news — even if it’s very unspecific news. What’s better news, is that they’re participating in team practices and haven’t been moved to Injured Reserve (IR) — something McDermott told us last week he wasn’t sure if would be needed or not. What’s more specific is the interview Epenesa gave after today’s practice about how he was injured and what it will take for him to get back in the game:

Floyd, Johnson, and Kincaid are all likely just maintenance issues. Floyd was on the injury list last week with the wrist injury and added some rib pain to that this week. He left Sunday’s signature win late in the first half but came back to continue to play. Johnson did the same — injured his shoulder, went to the medical tent, even headed to the locker room, but was back on the field before half time. I would expect all three of these guys to be able to go full steam ahead on Saturday.

DaQuan Jones, Kaiir Elam, and Justin Shorter are all practicing. Each with their own timeline to return to the field as their 21-day practice windows coming off of the IR are all just about a week apart. Elam’s will expire on Christmas Day, with Shorter’s just a little over a week later, while Jones’ window just opened yesterday. Despite two of the three being full participants — and Jones working hard to make big things happen quickly — I keep them in this category because none of them are actually on Buffalo’s active roster as of this time. For fun, here’s a video of Jones and how his second day back at work went:

Bills players trending down

  • DT Jordan Phillips (wrist)

Phillips underwent surgery on Monday after he dislocated his wrist while sacking Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott Sunday. We know he won’t be playing this week, but what we don’t know is when he will. While McDermott has said he would like to have the veteran back on the field for the playoffs, the 31-year-old defensive tackle is looking to be in action a little sooner than that.

Without Phillips or Jones, Buffalo has Ed Oliver, Tim Settle, Linval Joseph, and Poona Ford on their 53-man roster as defensive tackles. They’ve only been carrying four active tackles on game day as Ford has been a healthy scratch in 11 of Buffalo’s 14 games this season. Earlier in the week McDermott said that general manager Brandon Beane was looking to see if there were other tackles available to bring in, but with Phillips planning on only being out two games, and the fact that they have two — Eli Ankou and Andrew Brown — on the practice squad plus the possible return of Jones a week after Phillips, that may not be necessary.

Bills players on Injured Reserve

Buffalo still has several players on the IR who have not begun practicing with the team:

  • LB Matt Milano
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • RB Damien Harris
  • OT Tommy Doyle
  • TE Zach Davidson

Here’s a quick look at the Chargers’ injury list halfway through the week.

Chargers players trending down

  • WR Keenan Allen (heel)
  • DB Deane Leonard (heel)

Allen, who’s having the best season of his career, missed Thursday’s game, which the Chargers lost to the Las Vegas Raiders, and still hasn’t been able to practice. Not good news for a team that’s under brand new management this week (both the Chargers’ general manager and head coach were replaced after last week’s loss) and are playing with a backup quarterback in Easton Stick due to Justin Herbert being out for the remainder of the season with a broken finger.

Chargers players holding steady

  • CB Essang Bassey (concussion)
  • LB Tanner Muse (knee)
  • LB Amen Ogbongbemiga (hamstring)
  • OT Trey Pipkins (wrist)
  • DT Nick Williams (shoulder)

Bassey being limited for a second day in a row as he moves through the league’s concussion protocol is a good sign for the cornerback. If he can get a full day of practice in tomorrow, he should be able to clear protocol before game time on Saturday. If he doesn’t have a full day of practice tomorrow, it will be a lot harder for the fourth-year corner out of Wake Forrest to make it into a uniform since it’s a Saturday game instead of Sunday. While the Chargers had a few extra days of rest on the front end of the week due to playing Thursday night in Week 15, Bassey is running out of time now.

The others — except Tanner Muse, who is still on the Chargers’ Injured Reserve list and hasn’t been activated yet — should be able to work through and be on the game-day active list.

Chargers players trending up

  • G Zion Johnson (ankle)

Johnson injured his ankle back on December 10 when the Chargers lost to the Denver Broncos. Los Angeles has struggled to keep healthy lineman up front this season, but it appears that Johnson should be able to play Saturday night.

Chargers players on Injured Reserve

Like Buffalo, Los Angeles has a lengthy IR list. Unfortunately for the AFC West team, that list is headlined by their franchise quarterback who broke a finger on his throwing hand and required surgery after their Week 14 loss.

  • QB Justin Herbert
  • OLB Joey Bossa
  • G/T Zack Bailey
  • S Raheem Layne
  • OLB Chris Rumph II
  • T Andrew Trainer
  • CB Amechi Uzodinma
  • WR Mike Williams

It’s highly likely that we’ll see some game-day designations for both teams tomorrow. For Buffalo, obviously Phillips will be out with Hyde and Epenesa sliding back and forth from out to questionable. I would expect that Los Angeles will have Allen and Leonard at least listed as questionable if not out completely, and Bassey is likely to be questionable as he still has to have a day of full contact and then wait overnight to be sure no symptoms return. But this the NFL, so nothing is sure and McDermott likes to play his cards close to the chest — so anything is still on the table until then.