Central to Mike Pettine's success as the Jets' defensive coordinator over the past four seasons was the fact that he could line up Darrelle Revis (and, with Revis out, Antonio Cromartie) and ask him to shut down one side of the field. Upon moving to Buffalo this offseason, Pettine began implementing a similar plan with second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
That's on hold now, with a report from USA Today's Mike Garafolo that Gilmore will miss "about eight weeks" with the wrist injury he apparently suffered against Washington on Saturday. Gilmore left that game, a 30-7 Redskins win, in the second quarter and did not return.
The Bills already had a competition on their hands for the other starting CB job, with Leodis McKelvin trying to overcome a groin injury so that he can hold off Crezdon Butler, Justin Rogers and others. One of the Butler-Rogers duo (likely Butler) now will have to take over for Gilmore, with McKelvin backing his way into his starting spot.
The start to Buffalo's regular-season schedule does the defense no favors, either: The Bills host Tom Brady's Patriots and Cam Newton's Panthers -- both possessing dangerous offenses -- in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. An eight-week absence for Gilmore would also keep him out for road games against the Jets and Browns, and home matchups with the Ravens and Bengals. Buffalo may be targeting Week 7 (at Miami) as Gilmore's return date.
Aided by Gilmore's steady improvement, the Bills finished 10th in pass defense last season. They were hoping that Pettine's arrival could bolster the unit even more, particularly by generating more of a pass rush and improving a putrid run defense. The absence of Gilmore, however, will force Pettine to shuffle his starting group around, with more pressure falling on McKelvin to match up with No. 1 receivers.
Buffalo's trip to Washington turned into a preseason nightmare. In addition to the Gilmore injury, the Bills also lost quarterback Kevin Kolb to what may be a career-ending concussion, while safety Da'Norris Searcy also exited early. Running back C.J. Spiller nearly joined the list of walking wounded, too, after knocking his knee on a touchdown run. Fortunately for the Bills, he returned to the game later. Still, the Bills are far more battered than any team would want to be with the regular season approaching. And Gilmore's injury may prove too much for a revamped defense to overcome.