The Buffalo Bills suddenly have a pair of high-profile injuries on their hands.
Sammy Watkins, perhaps the most talented player on the roster, underwent surgery three weeks ago to repair a broken bone in his left foot. He is expected to be available for Week 1 but will miss all of training camp.
Rookie outside linebacker Shaq Lawson, meanwhile, will need shoulder surgery and could miss up to six months, meaning he wouldn’t be available until mid-November.
Two first-round picks, two surgeries.
There’s no denying which injury is more concerning.
“Oh, Sammy Watkins,” CBSSports.com NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He’s had difficulty staying on the football field. When he’s had a chance to play four, six, eight weeks in a row, he’s looked like a player who has the ability to do Odell Beckham-like things and be fairly transcendent and the kind of guy who can raise the play of what’s otherwise a pretty sluggish passing offense. But before you’re productive, (you have) to be available – and availability has undoubtedly been an issue. He’s had issues with the foot before repeatedly. It’s obviously not a good thing.”
Watkins, the fourth overall pick in 2014, has 125 catches for 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns through two seasons. He has, however, had numerous injuries in the last 24 months, including broken ribs, a sprain ankle and a calf strain. He’s only missed three regular-season games, but he’s been operating at less than 100 percent for a good portion of his NFL career.
“Tyrod Taylor will be spending the whole offseason without the one guy he trusts throwing the ball to the most,” La Canfora said. “It’s not exactly like they’re going to make wholesale changes to that offense, but let’s face it: Shady McCoy, no one knows exactly what he is at this stage and he certainly seemed to slow down last year. This is not a team that has an abundance or plethora of skill guys who are going to make you nervous. And you’ve got a quarterback in a lame-duck year basically fighting for his future – if not in Buffalo, then somewhere else – as a starting quarterback. And there’s already a lot of pressure on the coaching staff and the front office as well. Whatever you want to make of their extensions and all the rah-rah talk after last year, everybody in that building knows that if that team doesn’t perform this year, then that ownership group is going to make changes – and sweeping changes in all likelihood.”
That includes potentially firing Rex Ryan.
“It would not shock me,” La Canfora said. “If this goes any way like it did last year, it would not shock me in the least. Doug Whaley as well. There’s a constant undercurrent of friction there. . . . We’ll see what kind of steps they make this year, but that’s a team that talked a lot about being a playoff team and they haven’t really been close to that. The Pegulas are certainly loyal and they’ll give people a certain amount of time, but they obviously want to win and they’ve spent a lot of money on that team. So yeah, if that team is 7-9 again, I think they blow the whole thing up.”
While the Bills have a potential hole at wide receiver, their AFC East rivals, the Jets, have a major hole at quarterback. The team has been unable to sign free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick and may enter the season with Geno Smith under center.
At this point, it seems Fitzpatrick has two choices: accept what the Jets offer, or retire.
“Is the football world going to weep because Ryan Fitzpatrick decides $8 million a year isn’t enough for him so he’s going to take his ball and go home and quit playing at age 33 coming off what was clearly his best NFL season?” La Canfora asked in a heck-no tone. “It would certainly set the organization back because they’re not going to be a nine-, 10-win (team) with somebody else at quarterback – unless you’re talking about trading for Josh McCown or something. But if we’re talking about the cast of bodies that are there right now – Bryce Petty, Geno Smith and (Christian) Hackenberg – you’re not going to be a .500 team with that cast of characters. But is it really about this year for that organization anyway? It’s truly not. I’m sure Jets fans don’t want to hear that because you almost made the playoffs last year, but that team is going to have to continue to try to get younger and better at the same time.”