Buffalo Bills superstar Josh Allen got hit in the elbow on the second to last play of the game versus the Jets in Week 9 and suffered a UCL injury. While the extent of the tear is unknown to those outside the organization, at the very least, it is expected that he will at least miss some time.
The MVP candidate had a similar injury in his rookie year that kept him out of action for four games. It is unknown if this is any better or worse than that injury, as the team will only refer to his status as “day to day”.
With the Bills’ eyes on the Super Bowl, and the possibility of injuring the UCL worse without proper healing, it should be expected that the team proceeds with caution. If the Bills’ medical and coaching staff do tie him to the bench for any lengthy period of time, here’s a look at the players the Buffalo Bills will be looking at to step up in his absence.
Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs must unite in a payback game versus former team
Obviously, the player taking on the brunt of the Allen injury weight will be journeyman Case Keenum — who will be starting a game for his 7th NFL franchise. His first game would be against one of those former teams, the Minnesota Vikings, this Sunday in Orchard Park.
Keenum’s last win as a Viking was shared with now teammate Stefon Diggs when they connected on a hail mary against the favorite New Orleans Saints in the 2017 Divisional playoff game. Now five years and four teams later, Keenum may have his last chance at success as an NFL starter.
As far as backups go, Keenum is thought of as one of the better ones in the league. He has played big games, as mentioned before, and bringing in his kind of experience was a major strategy of the team this off-season, in a year they walked in as Super Bowl favorites. While Keenum looked to struggle in the preseason, he can be forgiven for playing with 3rd stringers under a new system.
Hopefully, the practice reps throughout the year have gotten him prepared for this moment. With the Jets and Dolphins on the Buffalo Bills’ back for the division lead, Keenum will have to keep the Bills afloat for any period of time Allen may be out. Keenum’s skill set will require offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to get creative with play calling and change a lot of what has worked with Allen under center.
Allen has almost as many rushing yards this season (392) as Case Keenum has had in his whole career (450). He’ll be asked to be more of a game manager than game “breaker” that Allen is known to be. This may lead to the Buffalo Bills finally committing to a running attack, which leads us to the second guy on this list:
Nyheim Hines shines for Buffalo Bills
While Nyheim Hines may rank 3rd on the team’s running back depth chart, it will be his skill set that helps Keenum and the Bills’ offense for any games they are without their all-pro QB. While Devin Singletary and rookie James Cook should be the ones relied upon running the ball, Keenum is known to dump off to the running backs much more than Allen ever has. Enter the newly acquired pass-catching back Hines.
With the Bills suffering to find secondary options to Diggs, Keenum should look to gain yardage by getting his play makers the ball on screens and dump-offs. This plan should include a lot of Isaiah McKenzie, Cook, Hines, and rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir.
Hines has averaged over 7 yards per reception in his career and has over 300 career receptions, now in his fifth year. Keenum has always been known to get his backfield involved in the passing game, being one of the lowest average “air yards per throw” quarterbacks in the league.
This injury could be a blessing in disguise for Hines, who can play himself into some more playing time down the stretch if Keenum helps extenuate his pass game skills.
Ken Dorsey faces his biggest test as Bills offensive coordinator
Not too much has changed with the Bills’ offense under coordinator Dorsey, who took over for now Giants head coach Brian Daboll, this season. But that is mostly due to Allen running the offense with both his arms and legs and not messing around with the success from the past too much. But now, Dorsey has to endure something Daboll never did; games without Allen at the helm.
As mentioned earlier, Dorsey will have to get creative with play calling, as Keenum brings a completely different skill set to the position. Gone will be designed QB runs and plays that take longer to develop, and inserted will be short screens, intermediate passing, and a more concentrated effort in running the ball.
It will take Dorsey finding the right mix of contributions from everyone on offense and possibly even some misdirection or surprises, to keep the offense anywhere near it’s hefty standards. Ball control will become more important as scoring at high rates won’t be common.
There are many teams that choose a backup QB that could run their offense very similar to the way of their starter, but the Bills opted for experience over that this year with Keenum. Dorsey will have a great opportunity to pull himself away from the Daboll comparison by implementing a winning game plan without their MVP quarterback.