He was the first to announce it on his Instagram account, but Taron Johnson underwent shoulder surgery Wednesday morning. Head coach Sean McDermott said he would be out “indefinitely.” With four games to play it’s likely his 2018 season is over.
Johnson could’ve chosen to shut his rookie season down after initially suffering the shoulder injury that led to it chronically dislocating after making tackles. He chose to play through the injury.
“He’s been working through it, which we definitely appreciate,” said McDermott. “He got a number of reps. He did play well in there and had a good first season. We just felt it was important for him to get that taken care of, so he could have a productive offseason as well.”
Buffalo now must fill that important nickel corner role, presumably for the remainder of the season. In anticipation of Johnson’s impending surgery, the defensive staff has worked players in that role the last few weeks in practice.
“A couple of different people,” said McDermott in terms of potential replacements at nickel. “We’ve worked Rafael Bush there and we’ve trained some guys over the last couple of weeks in particular who could move in there,” said McDermott. “We’ll continue to monitor that and develop the players that need to play in there.”
Other candidates would appear to be Ryan Lewis and recent practice squad call-up Denzel Rice, who has experience at nickel corner and 15 NFL regular season games under his belt over the last couple of seasons.
McDermott comments on Benjamin release
On Tuesday, the Bills released veteran WRs Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes. On Wednesday, McDermott shed some light on the roster decisions.
“I appreciate what they did,” said McDermott of Benjamin and Holmes. “It obviously didn’t work. Those are hard decisions to make because those are human decisions. The important thing for us is that we continue to take swings. That’s what we did. You step up to the plate and you take a swing. Some of those are going to work and some aren’t. The only way you get a hit is if you take a swing.
“Just as important for us is when things are no longer right for our football team and where we are and the vision that we’re trying to chase, that we move forward. That’s what we did, and we’re going to continue to make every decision that we feel is right and best for this football team.”
Much like the Johnson surgery left a void, so too will the release of Benjamin. McDermott and his offensive staff intend to fill that void in the passing game by handing more playing time to their young receivers to get a better handle on what they can be for Buffalo’s passing attack going forward.
“That’s a part of it as well,” McDermott admitted. “We’ve got young receivers who have stepped up over the last couple of weeks and have shown some signs of their potential and flashed. Our commitment to them is to give them more opportunities and to see them build a relationship with Josh (Allen) and see them continue to develop.
“It’s important for us to understand who our young players are, can they develop, and can they be important pieces for us as we go forward.”
With starting center Russell Bodine now on injured reserve, Ryan Groy will be the starting center this week and presumably for the last four games of the regular season. As for depth behind him, coach McDermott provided some new information there.
“Ryan is the guy and then Jeremiah Sirles would be the backup at this point,” said McDermott.
Sirles stepped into the starting lineup this past week at right guard, but John Miller is practicing on a limited basis today after missing last week’s game due to an abdominal strain. He’s still day-to-day, but appears to be trending in the right direction to return to the starting lineup.
Buffalo also has an open roster spot to make use of with Bodine now on I-R. Whether the team chooses to fill it before the end of the week remains to be seen.