Bye week healing? Not so in Buffalo.
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 27, 2011 @ 2:11pm
The Bills (4-2) are finally back in action Sunday—4 p.m. in Toronto against the Washington Redskins (3-3)—two weeks after the demoralizing loss to the New York Giants. In that fortnight, Buffalo’s cast of injured contributors was expected to return to health—most of them at least—but instead, the coaching staff has received bad news from the training room.
Still out: Shawne Merriman: The ultimate high-risk, high-reward signing was placed on injured reserve because his Achilles tendon needs further surgery to avoid rupture. Do you know what’s a terrible sounding word? Rupture. It hurts to say that the Bills could use Aaron Maybin right about now. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Merriman’s contract situation is awful—the Bills are still on the hook for $3 million in 2012 even if “Lights Out” doesn’t return.
Set to step in: Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Spencer Johnson, Antonio Coleman. While Moats and Batten will likely battle neck-and-neck for snaps at weakside linebacker, it’s interesting that Gailey will try to weave Johnson in as well. He’s by no means a prototypical rush linebacker—Johnson’s a defensive end by trade—and the conversion hasn’t been too smooth. Stopping the run is of paramount importance against Mike Shanahan’s Redskins, and the Bills likely won’t add to their league-low sack total of four.
Still out: Donald Jones A Week 8 return was probably a long-shot for Jones, but the wide receiver still hasn’t returned to practice. The Bills will move forward with Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and Naaman Roosevelt as the top three WR targets.
Set to step in: Naaman Roosevelt will continue to see more reps in the slot, and C.J. Spiller will line up wide more frequently as well. What are the odds that Spiller makes the transition full-time to wide receiver? Probably higher than we think. Roosevelt’s TD against New York is worth watching again, if only for Naaman’s underrated speed and the painfully-bad angles the Giant defenders took.
Still out: Kyle Williams The news is even worse on this front, as Williams will likely sit out the next two games at the bare minimum—there are rumbles, although unsubstantiated, that suggest he’ll miss the rest of the season. The Bills’ coaching staff will have to weigh the pros and cons of having Williams in the lineup at 60% or Torell Troup/Kellen Heard at 100%.
Set to step in: Unfortunately, the depth behind Williams isn’t very inspiring. Troup, a run-clogger who can be effective without being particularly noticed, has only logged 23 snaps this year, while camp-sensation Heard has been unremarkable in 85 snaps. Marcell Dareus’ fantastic rookie year must continue—heck, improve—if the Bills have a prayer of stopping Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. True, Washington’s prized left tackle Trent Williams and starting running back Tim Hightower will both miss the game, but lesser runners have been plugged into a Shanahan scheme and excelled.
Still out: Demetrius Bell, Chris Hairston. The left tackle situation is ugly, and the Redskins have the pass-rushers to exploit the Bills’ weakness. Of the two, Bell is closest to full health—he’s expected to return from his shoulder injury in time for Week 9. Hairston, on the other hand, has a more indefinite timetable; 2-4 weeks was the expected absence for the Bills’ rookie.
Set to step in:
Andy Levitre: Brian Orakpo (I’m tired of that GEICO ad, by the way) and 2011 first rounder Ryan Kerrigan will battle Levitre, the Bills’ usual left guard that’s been converted as an emergency. Rated as the NFL’s top guard through seven games by Pro Football Focus, Levitre swings over to left tackle, a position he played regularly at Oregon State. The worry isn’t so much how Levitre will fair, but whether or not Chad Rinehart can capably fill the void at left guard. Communication issues often result from an offensive line shake-up; for this reason alone, the bye week may have come at the right time.
Prediction: 34-14 Buffalo. Fortunately, Washington is not very good. At all.