Another setback for Luke Bevridge's tall defensive stocks is likely to give first-round pick Jedd Busslinger his strongest chance for an AFL debut next week.

Busslinger joined the Dogs as the 13th overall selection in last November's National Draft out of Western Australia as 2022's leading prospect among key defenders. The teenager was touted as a potential top five pick through the early stages of the year before shoulder surgery brought his draft campaign to an abrupt end.

Prior to the setback, Busslinger had managed a trio of appearances at senior level in the WAFL for East Perth to hold his own against bigger bodies, while a season so far in the VFL has only given the 198cm backman more time to develop.

Busslinger has played in a dozen games for Footscray and his latest performance was arguably his best yet, with a timely 19-disposal, eight-mark game coming on Friday in a 20-point win over Collingwood.

The win saw Busslinger's averages rise to 14.42 disposals and 5.92 marks per game in his first year in the blue, white and red as he looks to help lead an undermanned Dogs defence at the state league level.

A plagued run with injuries to Beveridge's backline saw the premiership coach call on April recruit James O'Donnell to make his debut after a month at Whitten Oval, with Liam Jones, Josh Bruce, Tim O'Brien, Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner all missing games due to respective setbacks at differing periods of this season.

Playing in the absence of Jones, O'Brien and Bruce on Friday at Marvel Stadium, Gardner will likely join the senior trio with a return to the club's casualty ward after suffering a number of concerns in the 12-point defeat to the Magpies.

A rolled ankle wasn't enough to keep the key defender off the field for the end of the game, with Gardner playing through pain to help see out a result. Beveridge did confirm post-game that Gardner will be in doubt for his side's Round 19 clash with Sydney however.

"Yeah there is (concern). He's a bit banged up," Beverdige said of the former Geelong defender.

"He got a knock or two in other areas, so we'll have to look after him this week. He'd have to be in some doubt for the Sydney game."

Gardner's injury could be the domino that opens the door for Busslinger's debut, with Jones and O'Brien still sidelined for close to six weeks due to arm and hamstring injuries respectively. Bruce has played the past two matches in the VFL after falling out of favour at selection.

Sydney's quartet of talls in Lance Franklin, Logan McDondal, Hayden McLean and Joel Amartey could force Beveridge's hand to call on two key defenders for their trip to the SCG, with Busslinger and Bruce in the frame regardless of whether Gardner is deemed unavailable.

O'Donnell looms as no certainty to hold his place in the AFL side, having been subbed out of the loss to the Magpies despite Gardner's ongoing injury concerns. The Category B Rookie has struggled to cement a role and find a consistent run of form in his first year as a Bulldog after being thrown into the deep end.

Father-son prodigy Sam Darcy was a match-winner against the Magpies in his second VFL game back from injury, booting the last three goals of the game to secure Footscray's seventh win of the season.

Utilised in attack and unable to have an impact throughout large periods of the game, Darcy isn't likely to be recalled according to Beveridge, who noted the club could be forced into weighing up the young tall, along with Busslinger and Bruce, to fill a defensive void next week.

"It's only his second (game) back, he's missed a fair bit of footy and some on-legs training," Beveridge added.

"I saw the game and his first and last quarters were pretty strong, he looked good. The middle part of the game he [probably didn't have much of an impact, but it's encouraging to see the way he went today.

"He just hasn't had a lot of match practice yet, so whether he's ready for an AFL game, we'll need to continue to weigh that up."

The Bulldogs could fall to seventh on the ladder by the end of this weekend and potentially have three clubs in reaching distance for their position come the start of Round 18, when they travel to the SCG to to face the Swans on Thursday night.