The Buffalo Bills were hit with some unfortunate news this week when both of their newly added players — wide receiver Jordan Matthews and cornerback E.J. Gaines — were injured within days of being traded to the Bills.
While Gaines returned to practice after his injury on Monday, Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum in Sunday's practice and is listed as week-to-week.
Matthews is the best receiver on the roster for the Bills, so they'll take it slow bringing him back, making sure he's fully healthy. That leaves things open for young Bills receivers to make an impact, and should pave the way for rookie Zay Jones to stand out as a likely starter come the regular season.
Jones — who was prolific during his collegiate career at East Carolina — was the 37th overall selection in the 2017 Draft, a second rounder for the Bills. He was the fourth receiver taken in the draft, behind only Western Michigan's Corey Davis, Clemson's Mike Williams, and Washington's John Ross.
Jones holds the FBS season and career records for receptions (158 and 399, respectively). He played just 8 snaps and didn't receive a target in the Bills first preseason game.
That's likely to change now that Matthews is out.
Here's a look at the wide receiver depth chart for the Buffalo Bills this fall, put together by HERO Sports' Jason A. Churchill when discussing how the trade opened the door for Jones:
It's realistic to assume that while Matthews works back from his injury, Jones will get plenty of work in practice and in preseason games with the No. 1 offense.
Even assuming he stays put as the No. 4 overall receiver on the depth chart, that leaves him No. 3 while Matthews is out. He'll get a lot of play as the Bills continue their offseason work.
Jones is expected to play a big role for the Bills moving forward — they wouldn't have drafted him so highly if they thought otherwise. He might take some time to get into form, but the injury to Matthews — while disappointing for him — will end up being good for Jones' progression.