It’s been two days since the Buffalo Bills beat the Detroit Lions in dramatic fashion on Thanksgiving Day.
Bills fans have a lot to be thankful for with their team riding a two-game winning streak into a critical three-game stretch against the rest of the AFC East in December. But the win in Detroit didn’t come without major concerns for the organization and the fan base.
Future Hall of Fame pass rusher Von Miller suffered a knee injury in the second quarter that resulted in him getting carted off to the locker room. Reports since then indicate that Miller avoided a torn ACL, but there is still concern over the extent of the damage to the knee.
On Saturday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Miller, who was ruled out for Thursday night’s game against the New England Patriots by coach Sean McDermott on Friday, is going to wait a week to see how the injury feels. Miller’s hope is that he can then test the knee and play with a brace He’s done it before and feels confident that he can do it if the knee is healthy enough, but that may not be possible if it’s found that he needs season-ending surgery.
With the uncertainty around the Miller injury, looking ahead is complicated. The safest bet is that he’s not available for the next two games against the Patriots and the New York Jets. That’s a convenient pair of teams to face because both teams have had inconsistent play at the quarterback position.
McDermott said on Friday that second-year defensive end Greg Rousseau and third-year defensive end A.J. Epenesa, both dealing with ankle injuries that forced them out of the Thanksgiving Day game, are improving. He stopped short of giving a definitive update on their status for Thursday night but it’s a good sign that there’s some hope for both players.
“They’re both improving one day at a time,” McDermott said. “This week, we’ll see, I’m not going to rule it out. Also, I’m not going to say for sure they’re both going to be able to play or either one will be able to play, but we’ll just take it one day at a time here.”
The Bills have received strong play from veteran defensive end Shaq Lawson, who signed back on a one-year deal after spending the past two seasons away from Buffalo. Lawson should be able to help stabilize things on the edge if Rousseau and Epenesa are still unable to play by Thursday.
This situation at the position also opens up a huge door for second-year pass rusher Boogie Basham, who’s been stuck behind all four defensive ends on the depth chart. Basham had played less than 40% of snaps in eight of nine games before Rousseau’s injury. In the last two games, he played 65% against the Cleveland Browns and 75% against the Detroit Lions.
Basham hasn’t played as much as the other ends because there hasn’t been enough production. In 102 snaps the last two weeks, he hasn’t generated a single quarterback pressure, according to Pro Football Reference. But the good news is that with the Bills so banged up at the position, these reps may finally unlock him a little bit. It’s hard to improve when you’re not on the field. Even the reps he’s lost can be used to recalibrate his approach.
Getting Rousseau back and healthy is the number-one priority for the Bills right now. He’s the best pure pass rusher they have on the edge after Miller, but a high ankle sprain tends to linger. The Bills have to rely on their healthy interior pieces, most notably Ed Oliver, who is coming off of a breakout performance against the Lions with a sack, safety, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. It’ll be worth monitoring the health of Patriots star center David Andrews this week. He missed New England’s last game with a thigh injury.
McDermott put injured Bills center Mitch Morse (ankle) and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (groin) in the same boat as Rousseau and Epenesa. They’re going to get some work this week and the team will see if they’re healthy enough to play by Thursday. Morse was doing some pre-game work with the training staff before ultimately getting ruled out against the Lions.
Left tackle Dion Dawkins suffered an ankle injury against the Lions, and McDermott said it’ll be a day-to-day approach to see how he is able to bounce back.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Friday that he was pleased with cornerback Tre’Davious White’s performance on a snap count against the Lions. He added that he thinks he’s ready to play more snaps than the 15 he played in Detroit, and the Bills plan to give him more against the Patriots.
“Just the fact that he got out there, that was enough to get us excited,” Frazier said. “And then when he was there, he was in position. He looked confident in what he was doing. Seeing him turn and run, plant and drive, just doing some of the things that he did prior to his injury.”
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