It has been no secret that salary cap issues and poor drafting has left the Bills roster devastatingly thin. Few, if any, position groups are deep enough to withstand an injury to a starter. With that being stated, some injuries could prove to be more critical to the Bills season than others.
Here are the five players the Bills can least afford to lose. (Note: Any team that loses its starting quarterback is in trouble, however, a Tyrod Taylor injury would give the coaching staff a chance to see what it has in either Cardale Jones or Nathan Peterman. It would also likely secure a top 5 pick for Buffalo in the 2018 draft. While nobody wants to see a Tyrod injury, something positive could come from that scenario. Tyrod Taylor was not included on the list for that reason.)
The big left tackle has become one of the best in the game. At this point, any thought about sliding him to right tackle or guard can be completely squashed. The Bills offensive line is one of the best in football, even with some uncertainty at right tackle.
While there is some depth on the interior, a Glenn injury would make LeSean McCoy’s job much more difficult. The Cyrus Kouandjio departure means some combination of Jordan Mills, Seantrel Henderson, and rookie Dion Dawkins would be left to try and protect Shady and Tyrod Taylor. Not only would the offense struggle to put up wins, but they’d be hard pressed to develop some of the young talent on that side of the ball.
Shamiel Gary is listed as Micah Hyde’s backup at the moment. There isn’t much to say about Shamiel Gary, other than that the Bills are in a world of trouble if they are expecting to run him out with the first team defense. Hyde is arguably the most versatile player on the defensive side of the ball for this team. They will need him to be healthy. There is a good chance he will lead the team in snaps if he plays in all 16 games.
I sat near the tunnel last season when Buffalo played San Francisco. Shady went down and stayed down, clutching his knee after an electric run. The crowd was going nuts, until they realized he wasn’t getting back up. At that point you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium. That summarizes his importance to this team better than any stats could. McCoy has had over 200 carries in each of his eight NFL seasons with the exception of his rookie year. If the Bills have any chance of ending their 17 year playoff drought, Shady needs to be on the field.
Jerry Hughes/Shaq Lawson
Okay, I cheated on this one. The Bills can not afford to lose either of their edge rushers this season. Both are primed to have huge seasons in a system that is predicated on their ability to get to the quarterback. The secondary was a concern last year, and there are going to be question marks surrounding that group again in 2017.
But, if Hughes and Lawson can put consistent pressure on quarterbacks, then they should be able to minimize the damage done down the field. Ryan Davis is really the only depth player the Bills have defensive end, so these two will be crucial for Buffalo’s success.
The often criticized wide receiver needs to stay healthy for himself as badly as he needs to stay healthy for the team. Fans question Sammy’s toughness too often. He played through several injuries as a rookie and only missed as many games as he did last year because he was too anxious to come back to the team.
When he’s healthy, his talents are undeniable. He will need to prove that he can stay on the field in order to secure a contract that matches his natural abilities. Buffalo will need him to stay on the field to open up the offense for McCoy. Fans saw what the wide receiver position looks like with Sammy Watkins on the shelf last season. If they have to put up with it this year, it will likely be for the last time.
Editor’s babble: Many thanks to Joe Geniti for his contributions to our blog. You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeGeniti.