New coach Sean McDermott said Tuesday that Ragland (knee) will be his starting middle linebacker, BuffaloBills.com reports. "What innately comes at that position is the leadership skills. His character really possesses those leadership skills and can be the antenna of that defense," McDermott said. "In this system, it has been guys like Luke Kuechly, Jeremiah Trotter. Guys that can check the defense, get us out of bad calls. That is an important part of that position. Reggie, from what I've observed and been told, has that DNA."
This is a bit of a surprise, as most would assume Preston Brown and his three seasons of 100-plus tackles would be manning the middle, whereas Ragland missed his entire rookie season due to ACL surgery. In fact, we'll need to dig into this a bit more in the coming weeks, as Brown wasn't even mentioned when McDermott was talking about his starting outside linebackers. Perhaps McDermott misspoke a bit, or he'll have enough looks with his defense that both Ragland and Brown can see the field, so we'll see how it plays out once the team starts practicing again. For now, just know that the new coach has big plans for the second-year player from Alabama.
Ragland, who had successful ACL surgery before his rookie season could even get off the ground, expects to be ready to play by August but still has some recovery time left, BuffaloBills.com reports. "I probably won't run for another month or so to make sure my quad is right and I'm back stronger," said Ragland. "I think we were thinking about me getting back on the field in August," he said. "I know in (June) minicamp I'll be working myself back and not rush myself into it."
Ragland made a great impression all summer following his second-round selection, but that went up in smoke with a devastating training camp injury. The Bills got surprisingly good play from their substitute linebackers -- Ragland had been tabbed as a starter -- as Zach Brown put up an eye-popping 149 tackles and arguably should have made the Pro Bowl. With a new coaching staff and likely a new defense in store for the Bills, we'll see how it all shakes out. To add further question marks, both Brown and Lorenzo Alexander are unrestricted free agents.
The shoulder is expected to be back to 100 percent well before Raglund's knee is fully healed. While the Bills have a number of players on injured reserve and a few are candidates to be the one player selected to return this season, Raglund will not be one of them. Long term, the Bills seem to love what the second-rounder brings to the table, so he could be a nice addition to an improving defense in 2017.
The 2016 second-rounder suffered a torn ACL at the beginning of training camp. To say the least, his loss won't go unnoticed in 2016; Ragland was a projected starter at linebacker before going down.
Ragland had an initial MRI that revealed what is believed to be a partial ACL tear and was slated to get a second opinion Monday. However, since his knee is still pretty swollen, head coach Rex Ryan could not give an update on Ragland's condition following practice. While Ragland's situation will continue to be monitored, Buffalo's signings of veteran linebackers Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne on Sunday seem to indicate Ragland could be slated for an extended sideline stint.