The Buffalo Bills lost one of their top defensive stars early in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Taron Johnson, who signed a three-year, $24 million contract extension with the Bills last month, left the game with a concussion during the Jaguars’ first drive.
Johnson, who’s been an integral part of Buffalo’s defense since he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, was officially downgraded from questionable to out during the second quarter of Sunday’s game.
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It’s a big loss considering he played 100% of the snaps during the Bills’ 26-11 victory over the Miami Dolphins last week.
A return timetable has not been revealed, but per the NFL’s concussion protocols, Johnson will not be able to return to action until he completes a five-step, return-to-participation protocol. Only when a player is symptom-free and cleared by an independent neurologist, can he return to physical activity.
Siran Neal & Others Will Step Up to Replace Johnson Vs. Jaguars
Following Johnson’s exit on Sunday, Siran Neal was the first player to step in for the concussed cornerback. Buffalo Rumblings Matt Warren expects linebacker A.J. Klein and cornerback Dane Jackson to also help out on Sunday.
“The Bills will likely go with a combination of DB Siran Neal and LB A.J. Klein, at least early in the game,” Warren wrote. “That’s what they did earlier this season when Johnson had a groin injury. Dane Jackson could slide into the spot, as well, especially if the Bills take a lead and the Jaguars start passing.”
While the Bills (5-2) went into Week 9 as 14-point favorites over the Jaguars (1-6), the score was tied 6-6 with two minutes left in the second quarter. Hopefully, the Manningcast curse is not real, and the Bills will step up their game in the second half.
Bills’ Defensive Coordinator Calls Johnson a ‘Joker’
The Bills have one of the top-ranked defenses in the league and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier says he couldn’t do without the team’s “joker” — Johnson, as he can also serve as a third linebacker if necessary.
“We’re fortunate to have a guy like him at the nickel spot, who’s really, in essence, he’s a starter because of how much he plays,” Frazier said.
“We’ve been doing this now with him for the last couple of seasons. Probably midway of last season, we really kind of got to this point where we have become more of a nickel team. And there are some [times] when we’ll have to get three linebackers on the field, but it’s rare in today’s league in the fact that Taron allows us to keep nickel on the field even when people have two backs on the field.”
Going into Week 9, Johnson has recorded 43 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and five passes defended.