The Buffalo Bills are bruised and battered – and not just from a physical standpoint.
With injuries continuing to plague Rex Ryan’s team, the Bills look to bounce back from another ugly defeat Sunday when they face the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
Buffalo (3-3) arrived in England this week determined to leave the memory of last Sunday’s 34-21 home loss to Cincinnati on the other side of the Atlantic. After EJ Manuel opened with a 2-yard touchdown run, the Bengals scored 34 of the next 41 points to remain undefeated and send the Bills to a second double-digit defeat.
”We got to flush the toilet, so to speak, on one game," Ryan said. ”There’s no question about it. We got to get better."
That might not be easy with all the lingering injuries and personal problems surrounding the team.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor will miss a second consecutive contest with a sprained knee ligament. Taylor, who has completed 70.1 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and four interceptions in five games, had been preparing to play before being ruled out Thursday.
”He still has some soreness in that knee. That means basically when you touch it and it’s still sore, that it hasn’t healed all the way,” Ryan said. ”We’re not going force this young man out there, put him out there, when he’s really not 100 percent.”
Making his first start since Sept. 28 of last year, Manuel was 28 of 42 for 263 yards with a TD and an INT as he battled inconsistency last Sunday.
”For me yesterday it was a 50-50 thing,” Manuel said of his prospects of starting against the Jaguars. ”I wasn’t too surprised.”
Ryan said he was happy with the way Manuel has been progressing after last week’s loss.
”We threw the ball so much last week, some of that he reverted back a little bit, turning the ball instead of staying with his fundamentals,” Ryan said. ”I think his accuracy has really improved. He had a great day today throwing the football.”
LeSean McCoy appears healthy after rushing for 90 yards and a TD on 17 carries in his return from missing two games with a hamstring injury.
However, Percy Harvin remains absent after missing the last two contests with what Ryan called ”a personal issue," and fellow receiver Sammy Watkins (left ankle) is also out. Backup running back Karlos Williams will sit out a third straight game because of a concussion.
Defensively, the Bills are minus tackle Kyle Williams after he suffered a knee injury against the Bengals. They’re also missing safety Aaron Williams (neck) and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (ankle).
”We’ve had a ton of injuries, just a bunch of them, that’s kind of offset us a little bit,” Ryan said. ”Right now we got to make do with where we’re at.
”Did we want to have a better record? Absolutely we did. But we’ve earned the 3-3 record.”
Other issues have lingered around the team, with star end Mario Williams reportedly questioning the way he’s been used in the defense and tackle Marcell Dareus echoing those sentiments.
While Buffalo is making its first appearance in London, Jacksonville (1-5) lost to San Francisco there in 2013 and to Dallas last season. However, Jaguars owner Shad Khan has said he wouldn’t mind if his team played a game in London every season for the foreseeable future.
"For us, London and Jacksonville is almost a marriage made in heaven," he told the team’s official website in September. "It’s been probably the No. 1 element in stabilizing the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I think it’s a crucial part of our franchise, to be able to play games there, to get the recognition and get the fan base. We have invested here and we want to invest obviously in London, and we want to have a long-term horizon to be able to do that."
The short-term goal for Jacksonville is to avoid a fourth straight defeat.
Though Blake Bortles threw for 331 yards and three TDs, he was picked off three times while the Jaguars allowed at least 30 points for the third time in four games last Sunday, falling 31-20 to Houston.
”They’ve got to fight through that," coach Gus Bradley said. "You cannot press and try to make plays happen. You’ve just got to let them come to you. You’ve got to go through your reads. You’ve got to trust your teachings, your preparation and go about it that way.”
Jacksonville ranks 30th with 29.3 points per game allowed and has been outscored 93-47 after the first half.
With only 12 sacks through six games, Bradley plans to use more five- and six-man pressure looks this week. Buffalo quarterbacks have been sacked 16 times, tied for eighth-most in the league.
”Pressures can do a couple of things,” Bradley said. ”One, I think it can stimulate a defense. You can see it bring energy.
"The whole intent is to try to affect the quarterback and force him to make bad decisions, so I think that’s what you’re looking at.”
If Jacksonville rookie running back T.J. Yeldon (groin) misses a second straight game, Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson would again likely share the backfield workload, but they’ll need to improve on last week’s effort. The two players combined for 45 yards on 16 carries while Bortles gained a team-high 37 on four against the Texans.
Yeldon returned to practice Thursday, an indication he might be able to play.
Manuel threw two TDs and ran for another in Buffalo’s 27-20 victory over Jacksonville in 2013.