It’s not good news for the Buffalo Bills on the injury front. After a clash against the Tennessee Titans in week two, the Bills will be without both Dane Jackson, who was injured in a brutal collision with Tremaine Edmunds, and Micah Hyde, who will reportedly miss the remainder of the 2022 season with a herniated disk in his neck, according to his agent.
Losing Hyde for the rest of the season is clearly far from ideal for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. He has been one of the anchors for the Bills’ defensive backfield, with that being especially true since Tre’Davious White’s injury during the 2021 season. It’s Hyde’s fifth season in Buffalo, in which time he has recorded 13 interceptions, and the only touchdown of his career. Undoubtedly, it’s a massive loss, but thankfully for the Bills, it’s likely one that they can overcome.
The most likely solution for the Bills at the free safety spot is Jaquan Johnson, who has been a member of the Bills for the past four seasons. His playing time has been limited in the NFL, and he has only picked up 20 tackles thus far, but in 2021, he got his first regular-season interception in a game against the Houston Texans. His experience should help plug the hole, but if he can’t, the Bills still have other options.
Damar Hamlin, who spent last season under Hyde learning the ropes, and was forced into action in week two, playing primarily against the Titans’ backups is another option. Hamlin spent his college career with the Pitt Panthers, playing five seasons in the ACC before becoming a sixth-round draft pick by the Bills in 2021. With the Panthers, Hamlin secured six interceptions and 21 passes defended, earning a prospect grade of 5.8 from NFL.com, signalling an “average backup or special-teamer.”
Who steps in for the Bills is only a fraction of the equation, however. Rather, the more important question, and by some margin, is who steps up? This Bills defence is a scary unit, but now looking a touch thin in the backfield, someone is going to need to pick up the slack, and make a difference on the unit. Thankfully, they have a plethora of names who should be able to pitch in.
Of course, Johnson and Hamlin will need to be a part of the solution in the defensive backfield, but Jordan Poyer is there to help, and with a fair investment during the draft in defensive backs such as Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford, there’s certainly enough talent there to make up for what has been lost. Additionally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that White will eventually come back, and is eligible to do so after week four. Whenever his return does come, it will be an incredibly large relief for Bills Mafia.
It’s not just the defensive backs who can step up and make a difference through this, either. The Bills’ linebacking group is exceptionally talented, anchored by Edmunds and Matt Milano. They both have the ability to get after the quarterback when needed, but they can also help out in coverage effectively, giving relief to the defensive backs.
On the defensive line, the Bills have upgraded considerably since the 2021 season. You don’t need to mention more than Von Miller, who came over from the Los Angeles Rams with a Super Bowl ring, but the Bills are more than just Miller. An effective rotation featuring Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, A.J. Epenesa, Jordan Philips, and Ed Oliver leaves opposing quarterbacks limited time to find an open receiver, making life a tremendous amount easier for the defensive backs in coverage.
So far in 2022, there’s only one team who has surrendered fewer points than the Bills, and that’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Buffalo has only allowed 17 points without their best cornerback, showing their overall cohesion as a defensive unit. Although not having Hyde or White is going to hurt the Bills (because you obviously won’t get better when you lose star players), they play real team football, and should be able to overcome the loss.
For as good as the Bills have been on the defensive side of the ball this season, they have been even better on the offensive side of the ball. Buffalo has scored a league-high 72 points, and have the best points differential in the NFL, sitting at plus 55, more than double that of the Kansas City Chiefs, who are in second. Josh Allen and his offensive unit will know that they need to take care of the ball, and put points on the board, to make things as easy as possible for this defence while they transition some new pieces in.
All told, it will not be easy for the Bills to maintain the level they have been at with some of their injuries, and without Hyde, they are certainly worse off, but they are still a good unit, and a good team. It’s next man up, and injuries are no excuse. This is why general manager Brandon Beane spends all offseason trying to bring in quality backups, and it’s time to put them to the test.
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