Watkins suffers 2nd rib injury in Bills preseason finale
by Joe Buscaglia,posted Aug 28 2014 10:55PM
The Buffalo Bills entered their final preseason game with the idea of playing their starters against the Detroit Lions. In only their second offensive possession of the game, the Bills once again saw their prized possession of the offseason have to leave the game due to an injury.
Fourth-overall selection and rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins could not continue for the second time in the 2014 preseason, suffering an injury to his ribs just as he did August 17 in Pittsburgh. Led too far by quarterback EJ Manuel on a slant route, Watkins took a forearm to the ribs from Lions linebacker Ashlee Palmer after the defender read the quarterback’s eyes.
Watkins immediately clutched his midsection, but seemed determined to stay on the field for another play. A delay allowed a teammate to come check on him, and then Watkins left the field slowly, simultaneously ending his night for the Bills. The medical staff of the team examined Watkins on the sidelines before a group of four doctors and trainers escorted the wideout to locker room.
The team initially declared his return as questionable but then downgraded him to out shortly thereafter. For the time being, Watkins’ injury status is unknown, although Manuel said, “he’ll be fine” in response to the wideout’s current condition. The injury is to the same area as the one he suffered in Pittsburgh.
For the second straight week the Bills and their first-team offense could not get anything going in an exhibition contest, leading them to an unceremonious 23-0 defeat to the Lions. In three total drives, Manuel finished the game 3-of-7 for 56 yards and took two sacks. The Bills’ top unit managed just 55 total yards total.
“You just have to put it behind you and not lose your confidence,” Bills center Eric Wood said. “I have a lot of confidence in this offense, we’ve put in a ton of work and I’m not going to get down because of a couple of preseason games.”
Despite the lack of points and lack of statistics, Manuel was satisfied with his performance.
“I got a couple drops on third downs, but as far as going to the right place with the ball, I thought I did a pretty good job,” he said. “Coming off the field talking to Coach Hackett and Coach Downing, they told me I did a good job, so I was happy with that.”
Besides the desire for more snaps for the starters ahead of the regular season, Thursday also served as an audition for one recently acquired player. Quarterback Jordan Palmer, whom was just signed to the Bills after being released by Chicago, entered the game in the second quarter to attempt to win the backup job.
With only three days on the job, Palmer’s night couldn’t have gone much worse. In three quarters of play, the quarterback completed just 9-of-22 passes for 73 yards. He compounded the poor evening with three interceptions.
"There were different reasons as to why things didn't go right tonight but I own all of them," Palmer said. "I'm the quarterback, I'm the one back there pulling the trigger so I've got to make better decisions and move the team and score and I'm frustrated I couldn't do that tonight."
Palmer had merely one day of practice, one walkthrough and the preseason game to make an impression. He was brought in to challenge second-year quarterback Jeff Tuel for the backup position behind EJ Manuel. Through the entire evening, the Buffalo only managed to get in Detroit territory four times.
The Bills came into the game with ten players unavailable due to injury, which made cornerback Stephon Gilmore (groin), guard Chris Williams (back), cornerback Corey Graham (ankle), tight end Scott Chandler (knee), linebacker Randell Johnson (ankle), tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), cornerback Mario Butler (ankle), tight end Lee Smith (toe), safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) and cornerback Bobby Felder (groin) inactive for the contest.
Buffalo survived a scare in the first half with running back Bryce Brown. The runner caught a pass from Palmer and was hit by a pair of Detroit defenders and then immediately clutched his knee in pain. He was helped off the field but quickly regained full strength in his knee and returned before the half was over.
The Bills end their preseason with only one win and four losses, and like the rest of the NFL, will now shift into regular season mode at the start of next week. Before that the Bills will need to pare their roster down to the maximum of 53 players, and will need to release. Final cuts are due from each team on Saturday, August 30 at 4 pm.