ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Coach Rex Ryan and the Bills carried plenty of baggage upon flying out of Buffalo and touching down in London on Monday.
A sudden rash of injuries is a concern for the Bills (3-3), who left town early in preparation to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
And then there are questions regarding the efficiency of Buffalo’s prized defense which is playing well below its high-priced expectations after being picked apart in a 34-21 loss to Cincinnati.
Article continues below ...
”Any time you go on a trip like this, it’s all about circling the wagons,” offensive guard Richie Incognito said following the loss to the Bengals. ”This is where teams really forge their identity. We’re going over to face some adversity, and it’ll be good for us.”
The question is which Bills will be healthy enough to face that challenge.
Receiver Sammy Watkins (left ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (left knee), offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (concussion) and receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs) were hurt against Cincinnati, and their status is uncertain against Jacksonville.
Then there are the regulars who were already sidelined on Sunday, including starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (left knee), receiver Percy Harvin (hip), backup running back Karlos Williams (concussion) and receiver Marcus Easley (shoulder).
Ryan declined to provide updates on the status of his injured players following the game, and isn’t scheduled to address reporters until the Bills hold their first practice on Wednesday.
What complicates matters is how restricted the Bills will be if they intend to bring in reinforcements, who will require a valid passport to travel to England.
”No, it’s not easy logistically,” general manager Doug Whaley said. ”It’s going to put us in a bind.”
The Bills’ defense is another concern.
The pass rush has dried up. Buffalo has managed just nine sacks in six games, well off the pace of the past two years in which the Bills topped 50.
Against the Bengals, the Bills failed to register a sack or generate a turnover in the same game for the first time since a 44-7 loss at Dallas on Nov. 13, 2011. And they’ve not been shut out at home in both categories since a 38-14 loss to the New York Jets on Oct. 3, 2010.
The defense on third down was an issue, too, against the Bengals, who converted 7 of 12 opportunities. The 58 percent conversion rate matched the highest against Buffalo since New England went 7 of 12 on Nov. 11, 2012.
This is not what was expected from a unit that features two defensive lineman with $100 million contracts – Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus – and returned mostly intact after leading the league in sacks and allowing the fourth-fewest yards last season.
Ryan placed the blame on himself and finally began acknowledging that he might be holding back too much when it comes to pressuring the pocket.
”I went with some three-man rush stuff and never let my guys go as much as I should have,” Ryan said. ”We’ve got to take a long hard look at what we’re asking our guys to do.”
It doesn’t help that the Bills might be without one of their front-line anchors in Kyle Williams. And they’re already missing starting safety Aaron Williams, who was placed on short-term injured reserve last week because of a neck injury.
”We’re banged up. The only think that’s certain is we’ve got a game on Sunday,” receiver Robert Woods said. ”We’re going to London with what we have. I think it’s a must-win situation.”
NOTES: Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is set to rejoin the team after serving a six-game suspension after being arrested and charged with battery for punching a boy in the face in Florida. Though charges were dropped, the Bills suspended Kromer without pay. … CB Leodis McKelvin is eligible to be activated off the reserve-non-football injury list on Tuesday. He has been sidelined since aggravating an injury to his right foot in July.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL