1st Down: Matt Milano, Hamstring
Perhaps an under the radar ailment from the Titans game was the hamstring injury Matt Milano suffered during the third quarter. Given Milano’s role on defense, his speed and change of direction ability is of critical importance to the Bills. According to NFL Game Book, Milano had played 100% of the team’s snaps this season prior to the injury.
There are many opinions on Milano’s level of play thus far in 2019, but his presence on the field alone adds to the swagger and attitude of the entire defensive unit. He is currently third on the team in total combined tackles and has also recorded one of the Bills six fumble recoveries on the season. As Steve Mathes pointed out on a recent episode of The Bills Guys, the Bills defense operates as an extremely cohesive unit, and the combination of Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano as the core of the linebacking group is one of the better young duos in the league.
Maurice Alexander filled in for Milano at the tail end of the Titans game, but he doesn’t possess the same physicality as Milano. The Bills are fortunate to have a versatile player like Alexander, but we should hope that Milano’s injury is one that does not keep him out multiple weeks as fans have experienced with the Devin Singletary injury.
2nd Down: Tyler Kroft, Ankle
While Bills fans should certainly be excited about what they’ve seen from rookie Dawson Knox, it is veteran free agent signing Tyler Kroft that remains sidelined. After battling all the way back from a foot injury suffered on the first day of training camp, Kroft seemed set to return to action in week three against the Bengals. It would have been fitting for Kroft to do battle with his former team in his first game with the Bills, but he injured his ankle in a practice leading up to the game.
Kroft hasn’t practiced since suffering the injury on September 19th. Fortunately, Kroft’s most recent ankle injury was not to the same foot in which he suffered on the first day of training camp. At this stage, there has there has been no indication either way on his availability for the Week Seven game against the Dolphins.
Hopefully, Kroft will be back at practice in some capacity as the Bills go through their bye week routine, but the door is clearly open for Dawson Knox to play a healthy allotment of snaps regardless. If Kroft is unable to make any significant impact on the field in 2019, the Bills may be facing a decision on whether to keep Kroft on the roster beyond the first year of his three year deal.
3rd Down: The Offensive Line
The multitude of injuries across the Bills offensive line has led me to reserving a single down for the entire group. Ty Nsekhe already missed the most recent game with a leg injury, but the Bills suffered two more notable injuries in the slugfest that took place in Nashville this past Sunday. Mitch Morse suffered an ankle injury in the first half and was unable to return.
Jon Feliciano filled in admirably for Morse, and depending on the severity of the injury, we could be looking at another absence for Morse coming out of the bye. Cody Ford also suffered a head injury during the second half, and was unable to return. Left to right, the Bills finished the game with Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Jon Feliciano, Spencer Long, and Ryan Bates. In a worst case scenario, this would likely be the Bills starting group coming out of the bye if any of the aforementioned names cannot heal over the next two weeks.
All things considered, with the investment made on the depth of this unit throughout the offseason, the Bills could survive with this group if need be. Let’s hope the injuries to Morse and Ford are not serious…Morse would be the name to watch of this group. As long as he’s avoided a high ankle sprain, there should be a decent change he can return in week six. Nsekhe still appears to be the biggest question mark, as he didn’t log any practice time heading into the Titans game.
4th Down: Devin Singletary, Hamstring
It’s been said a million times…”hamstring injuries are tricky.” Singletary appeared to be on track to play against the Titans until weather conditions ultimately forced the Bills rule him out. Ultimately, the Bills appear to have made the right decision here, as they were able to escape Nashville with a win.
With an additional two weeks to rest and rehab, Singletary should be close, if not all the way back, to being 100% healthy. For a player like Singletary, it is crucial that the Bills ensure he is 100% healthy before putting him back on the field in real game action. There is, of course, the mental hurdle that comes with soft tissue injuries. Cutting and bursting at full speed after such an injury should be the last test to pass from both a physical and mental standpoint.
The Bills running game has almost exclusively relied on Frank Gore through five games, outside of the limited action we saw from Singletary during the first two weeks. For the Bills offense to improve and to become even more multi-dimensional, they will need Singletary to be healthy through the middle and latter stages of the regular season. I am not one to doubt Frank Gore in any way, but I would imagine Gore would not have any issues ceding a handful of carries to the rookie each week.