One of the big advantages the Bills had in this truncated preseason is returning all five starters on the offensive line.
A chunk of that advantage went out the window on Friday, at least for a while.
The team announced that starting guard Jon Feliciano underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Officially, he will be out “indefinitely”.
Feliciano posted an Instagram message thanking Bills fans for all the DM’s and well wishes. He says the injury happened on a “fluke accident” while working out. He’s thankful he got hurt this early so he “won’t miss too many games”.
The entry accompanying the Instagram video ends with “see y’all in Vegas”. It seems to indicate Feliciano is targeting Buffalo’s week four game against the Raiders for his return. That would be a pretty aggressive rehab timeline.
Both J.J. Watt and Kwon Alexander sustained torn pectoral muscles last year in late October and both returned after 10 weeks to play in the playoffs. However, both players were reportedly accelerating their rehab to make the postseason.
Ten weeks for Feliciano would make him healthy the Friday before the Bills’ week 5 game. It’s logical to believe a smarter play would be let Feliciano rehab a bit longer before returning.
The Bills do have plenty of viable options to replace Feliciano at right guard. The first choice would likely be to kick second year lineman Cody Ford inside. It’s a move that was rumored heavily during the offseason after Ford struggled at right tackle his rookie season. Ty Nsekhe could then take over the right tackle position full time.
When Quinton Spain signed a three-year contract to stay with the Bills, it seemed neither guard spot would be available to Ford this season. He did work at guard a bit during training camp last year and many experts think he is better suited to play guard in the NFL. He made all seven of his starts at guard during his first two seasons in college at Oklahoma before becoming the starting right tackle for all 14 games in 2018.
Spencer Long was the primary interior replacement last season for the Bills. He played only 174 snaps in 2019 and a third of those were in the meaningless season finale. He was primarily a center before coming to Buffalo, but was solid in his replacement spurts last year and could be the temporary option at guard.
Daryl Williams was signed as a free agent this offseason from Carolina. He’s played most at tackle during his career and that was likely where Brandon Beane intended to use Williams in Buffalo. He did play over 600 snaps at guard last year for the Panthers, including 218 at right guard.
It was a down season for Williams in 2019, but it was also his first year back after sustaining a serious knee injury to open 2018. If his health continues to rebound, the Bills could consider Williams one of their best five lineman over Ford and use him at guard even if it’s not his best spot.
The Bills had one of the healthiest offensive lines in the league last year. Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, Spain and Feliciano started all 16 games. Either Ford or Nsekhe started every game at right tackle.
This year could still open with five starters from that group, but it will be a big change on the right side from last year and a problem the Bills were expecting to avoid.