The Buffalo Bills‘ stout defense just absorbed a mighty blow with the loss of standout safety Micah Hyde.
Hyde suffered a neck injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season as he’ll be placed on injured reserve, per his agent, Jack Bechta. Hyde has a history of neck problems.
“Unfortunately client Micah Hyde will be put on IR today due to his recent neck injury,” Bechta announced on social media. “Fortunately, we expect a healthy return for #23 in 2023.”
What are the Bills going to do next without Micah Hyde?
How the Bills proceed without Hyde will be pivotal for a team that has emerged as a powerhouse overall behind star quarterback Josh Allen, and a trendy Super Bowl selection.
The Bills are also facing a critical AFC East game Sunday against a resurgent Miami Dolphins team coached by highly respected first-year coach Mike McDaniel and an improved Tua Tagovailoa, who’s making the most from his talented wide receiver tandem of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Hyde, 31, is a smart, aggressive and instinctive playmaker. Fortunately, the Bills have another safety that firmly falls into that category in Jordan Poyer.
Unfortunately, Poyer isn’t healthy. He has a foot injury, is listed as questionable and was limited Friday. Poyer is regarded as likely to play at this point, according to a league source.
Hyde excels in run support, is a hard-hitting presence in the secondary, and has a knack for taking the football away with 22 career interceptions, including a career-high tying five interceptions last season.
But that isn’t the only injury the hard-luck Bills are dealing with as cornerback Dane Jackson avoided a worst-case scenario when he suffered a scary neck injury.
The next man up for the Bills is Jaquan Johnson, who has three tackles this season. A former University of Miami player, Johnson has one career interception and 29 tackles. He’s athletic and rangy, but he lacks Hyde’s experience.
Between Hyde and Poyer, the Bills’ secondary, coached by secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator John Butler, arguably had the best safety starting duo in the NFL.
It will test the Bills’ depth as they’re still playing without top cornerback Tre’Davious White.
And the Bills’ entire defense is missing some key personnel.
The Bills already ruled out Jackson and defensive tackles Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips due to ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively. Jackson was their top corner with White still working his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last season.
But Jackson caught some friendly fire on a hit from teammate Tremaine Edmunds on Monday night. The good news is that Jackson is expected to return at some point this season, but the Bills will obviously proceed with caution after he was taken off the field in an ambulance.
Youth movement coming
Besides installing Johnson at safety, the Bills are going with an all-rookie starting lineup at cornerback with Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford. Both have had their moments, especially Benford.
This will be Elam’s first start, and what a challenge awaits the Bills’ revamped secondary.
Hill leads the NFL with 284 receiving yards and is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL.
Waddle is extremely steady and has improved after the catch with 240 receiving yards, third-most in the league.
Adjusting on the fly
Bills veteran defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier told Buffalo reporters this week there will have to be a lot of adjustments.
“At the end of the day, you have to trust the guys that could potentially step into roles, if someone is not able to play, that they’ll be able to handle the game plan,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “And part of it is, when we start back in April, we’re installing the same things that we’re going to run in the fall, and I always tell our players that. Unlike some teams that may be installing just to take a look at some things in the offseason, we’re working on things we got to do during the season, which I think is one of the reasons we’ve been able to usually get off to a good start on defense.”
Bottom line: The Bills’ defense has been depleted. And the timing is horrendous against a red-hot Dolphins offense.
The Bills are known for being resourceful and well-coached, so it’s not out of the question that they will remain extremely competitive against Miami.
Of course, there’s always the fun possibility of a shootout between Allen and Tagovailoa.