The Buffalo Bills have lost their best defensive playmaker for the rest of the season.
Second-year linebacker Matt Milano had surgery Monday after suffering a broken fibula in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets.
“I thought he really grew this year,” coach Sean McDermott said of Milano, who has six takeaways this year (three interceptions, three fumble recoveries). “We’ll miss him. I look forward to getting him back in the offseason.”
It hasn’t been sorted out exactly how the Bills will replace Milano. McDermott mentioned the possibility of a committee that would include some combination of Lorenzo Alexander, Deon Lacey, Corey Thompson and Julian Stanford.
“We’re still working through that,” the coach said.
Milano finishes the season with 78 tackles and seven passes defensed. He was injured making a tackle against Jets quarterback Sam Darnold at the Buffalo 1-yard line with 1:22 remaining. That forced a fourth and goal, which New York was able to convert for the go-ahead points with Milano out of the game.
“Matt’s been playing extremely well this season – having a Pro Bowl caliber season, so you hate to see him injured and being out for the rest of the season,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “Would’ve really liked to see how he finished the year. He was putting up some really good numbers, and hopefully he’ll be back in the offseason and be able to go through a full offseason program along with training camp, but we have some young guys who will get an opportunity to play now and we look forward to getting a chance to watch them and see how they develop over the next three weeks.”
2. The injury news was better for running backs LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Both of them are listed as day to day after McCoy suffered a hamstring injury early against New York and Ivory went out with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
“We’ll see how LeSean does when he comes back tomorrow and where Chris is,” McDermott said. “We always have Keith (Ford) that we can use who has done a nice job on practice squad, as well.”
McCoy gained just 1 yard on two carries before getting hurt, and Ivory gained 42 yards on 12 carries against the Jets in what was another tough day for rushers not named Josh Allen.
“It starts up front. We have to do a better job of creating a new line of scrimmage,” McDermott said. “There’s times when our backs have holes that we’re not hitting and being on the right track, being disciplined with our track. And then there’s times when our receivers have to do a better job in blocking. So it’s never just one guy or one unit, but the run game always starts up front.”
Tight end Jason Croom, who missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury, is day to day. Quarterback Derek Anderson remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He’s joined by cornerback Ryan Lewis, who was hurt against the Jets.
Lewis initially went out for evaluation of a head injury, but was able to return to the game. McDermott said Lewis was re-evaluated Monday morning, and then placed in the protocol.
3. Kicker Stephen Hauschka is day to day with a hip injury, McDermott said. Hauschka was injured on a dirty hit by Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson, who had blocked a field-goal attempt earlier on the play. Hauschka was tracking the ball when Anderson blindsided him.
“There’s no place in football for it,” McDermott said of the hit. “Any player that gets hit in the back, (it) should be a foul, and then he’s a kicker. To me, he’s afforded the (same) protection” a quarterback would get.
4. The struggling special teams units have drawn the ire of Bills fans. McDermott reiterated Monday that he feels those frustrations.
“It’s hard to win games when you play that way, field position wise, let’s just start there with special teams,” he said. “We need to come out and establish a tone on special teams, and that starts with our coverage units, our kickoff coverage unit in particular. Sometimes that just comes down to guys flying around and feeling a part of something bigger, just buying into something and going down there and buckling it up and going to hit someone. That’s something that we need to get done.”
Asked whether the problem was schematic or technical, McDermott said “it’s a little bit of everything. It’s never just one thing. We’ve got some players there that maybe haven’t been there before. You know, and we also have guys that have played that I expect to do a better job.”
Story topics: Chris Ivory/ Corey Thompson/ Deon Lacey/ Derek Anderson/ Jason Croom/ Julian Stanford/ Keith Ford/ LeSean McCoy/ Leslie Frazier/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Matt Milano/ Ryan Lewis/ Sean McDermott/ Stephen Hauschka