NFL Nation: Marcus Easley

Locker Room Buzz: Buffalo Bills

September, 29, 2013
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens:

Manuel
Explaining late-game tension: With 57 seconds remaining, the Bills opted to take a knee three times to burn Baltimore's three timeouts. Ravens defenders, still playing with an edge, broke through the line and tried to disrupt the kneel-downs, resulting in a Courtney Upshaw penalty on the third play. Bills coach Doug Marrone said EJ Manuel was trying to take extra time off the clock by not kneeling right away, something that Ravens coach John Harbaugh said should have been done more quickly. Harbaugh said he was disappointed that Terrell Suggs didn't cause a fumble and that he "did the right thing." Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who was on the sideline for the series, said that Manuel was "clearly" taking a knee and that he should be treated as a defenseless player.

Spiller, Jackson hobbled: The status of both members of the Bills' two-headed rushing attack may be up in the air for Thursday in Cleveland. C.J. Spiller, who only ran twice after returning from an ankle injury, was limping around the locker room after the game. He said X-rays revealed no structural damage to his ankle and that he believes it is just a sprain. Meanwhile, Fred Jackson said he sprained his MCL, the same injury he had last season, but that it is "less significant" and he expects to play Thursday.

Easley limping: The Bills can't afford more injuries, but receiver Marcus Easley also was limping around the locker room after the game. Like the pair of running backs, Easley came back into the game after being hurt, but on a limited basis. The short week may put his status against the Browns in jeopardy. Easley has emerged as a special-teams presence and has filled in at kick returner in Marquise Goodwin's absence.

Buffalo Bills on the bubble: Offense

August, 22, 2013
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The third preseason game typically serves as the final tune-up for any NFL team's starters. The few dozen players who are locks to make the 53-man roster figure to see action into the third quarter, before taking it easy in the preseason finale.

For those players still battling for roster spots, the extended action for starters leaves them with their last, limited opportunity to make an impression.

The Buffalo Bills play their third preseason game on Saturday against the Washington Redskins. That will lead into a hectic final week of August, with the 75-man cutdown (Aug. 27), preseason finale (Aug. 29) and 53-man cut-down (Aug. 31) rapidly approaching.

Here's a look at three players on offense for the Bills who are squarely on the roster bubble and may need a strong performance Saturday to survive final cuts. On Friday, we'll take a look at three defensive players in the same situation:

Marcus Easley
The fourth-year receiver led all Bills receivers with 43 snaps in last Friday's preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings. The top four receivers for the Bills are set, but Easley could still earn a joint role on offense and special teams. He did his part on special teams on Friday night, playing 12 snaps in that phase of the game. However, the Bills could still choose to go with Brad Smith (who projects to have a larger role on special teams) or Chris Hogan (who has shown good route running and catching ability), leaving Easley off the roster.

Dorin Dickerson
Dickerson is a bit of an enigma, having spent parts of his career as a wide receiver, H-back/fullback and tight end. The Bills' new coaches tried him at wide receiver this offseason, but he approached the staff with concerns about shedding weight to play that position. He later returned to tight end and has been in the mix for a roster spot. Dickerson's best hope for making the squad, though, is his versatility. A strong showing on Saturday could put him in line for a role as a "utility player" on offense.

Kendall Gaskins
An undrafted rookie from Richmond, Gaskins is a "tweener." At 238 pounds, he played fullback in college but has taken snaps at running back this preseason. He showed some burst last Friday against Minnesota, gaining 16 yards on just three carries. Similarly, he'll have to make the most of the few carries he'll likely see on Saturday. Gaskins is battling Frank Summers, who is a true blocking fullback, and Zach Brown for the final spot in the Bills' backfield. Getting involved on special teams on Saturday would help Gaskins' case to make the roster.
After being flagged nine times in their preseason opener, penalties became an even bigger problem for the Buffalo Bills in last Friday's win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Called for 14 accepted penalties in that game, the Bills have been penalized 23 times through two preseason games, the most of any NFL team.

While it's not a distinction the Bills want, head coach Doug Marrone stressed after Friday's game that all penalties aren't created equally. In some cases, flags thrown for over-aggressive play can be tolerated, he said.

"I think people tend to look at the number at the end of the game. I tend to cut them all out and evaluate them all," Marrone said. "Was this forced by us just being aggressive? Is it a penalty forced on us not being focused? I think you have to manage those as a coach because you can overmanage a situation and lose that aggressiveness in a player."

Several of the Bills' penalties through two games fall into that category. First-year defensive backs Nickell Robey (offside, defensive pass interference), Jumal Rolle (holding, twice), and Dominique Ellis (illegal block above the waist, twice) have all been flagged multiple times this preseason, and their infractions can be attributed to their inexperience.

But some flags, like a holding penalty by guard Colin Brown in the red zone, have come at critical times.

"When we work on those drills and we work on those situations we have to constantly remind ourselves of that and really up our focus because we don’t want any penalties down there [in the red zone], and they hurt," Marrone said.

Regardless of the situation, some other penalties have been inexcusable: Second-year cornerback Ron Brooks was called for taunting in the preseason opener, while fourth-year receiver Marcus Easley was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct against the Vikings.

"I get very upset; the players know I get very upset, with more of the unforced errors," Marrone said. "Meaning that, not trying to make a play through a ball, but jumping offside and things like that. Those are things you can truly control and I think that’s where I would use the word frustration."

Observation deck: Bills-Vikings

August, 16, 2013
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Observations from the Buffalo Bills' 20-16 preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night:

Kolb gets his chance, plays full half: In his first action of the preseason, Kevin Kolb played the entire first half, finishing 13-of-21 passing for 111 yards and an interception. The Bills always have said they would give both Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel a fair shot at the starting job, and tonight might have been Kolb's best chance to prove himself. The results weren't overly positive, although Kolb led the Bills offense on two scoring drives late in the first half, looking more comfortable than he did in the early stages of the game.

Buffalo BillsManuel again solid, but not spectacular: Manuel entered the game at the start of the second half and led the Bills on an 80-yard touchdown drive, completing all six of his passes for 44 yards. More importantly, Manuel did not throw an interception for a second consecutive game. However, the Bills (or Manuel) opted not to take any shots downfield, something they are expected to incorporate into their offense this season. Instead, many of Manuel's throws were in the short range, but he did complete a 27-yard pass to rookie receiver Brandon Kaufman in the third quarter. Manuel also had the benefit of playing against the Vikings' second-team defense.

Penalties becoming a major issue: The Bills were flagged 14 times for 106 yards in the contest, one week after being penalized nine times against the Indianapolis Colts. The flags have to be a growing concern for head coach Doug Marrone, especially considering nine of them came in the first half, when many of his starters were still in the game. Among the flags was a key holding call in the red zone against Colin Brown, who made his second consecutive start at left guard. In what remains an open battle, that won't help his case.

Defense generating pressure: The Bills' defense kept the pressure on Vikings quarterbacks throughout the game, finishing with four sacks for 38 yards. Outside linebacker Jerry Hughes had two sacks, including a sack and forced fumble of Matt Cassel in the second quarter.

Hogan, young receivers making strides: First-year receiver Chris Hogan continued to stand out for the Bills, playing nearly the entire game. Hogan was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 34 yards and was targeted a team-high seven times. Meanwhile, Kaufman and Marcus Easley continue to be second-half standouts, with five catches for 91 yards between them. Undrafted rookie Da'Rick Rogers had a quiet night, being targeted twice and making one catch for six yards. On special teams, second-round pick Robert Woods returned a punt 34 yards, one week after third-round pick Marquise Goodwin had two long kickoff returns.

Mario sits out: Defensive end Mario Williams (foot) dressed but was announced as an inactive for the game. He played in two series in the preseason opener, and the Bills continue to manage the health this preseason of their highest-paid player.

What's next: The Bills return to St. John Fisher College for their final four practices of training camp, beginning Sunday. They travel to face the Washington Redskins in the third preseason game next Saturday.

Buffalo Bills cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
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Click here for a complete list of Buffalo Bills' roster moves.

Most significant move: The Bills kept four quarterbacks on their roster -- sort of. Buffalo retained backup Tyler Thigpen to be the emergency quarterback behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and No. 2 quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. This is surprising because the Bills worked the versatile Brad Smith extensively at quarterback this offseason. But it appears the Bills aren’t fully comfortable with Smith as the No. 3 quarterback at the moment. Another significant move decision was to release three productive wide receivers. Marcus Easley, Naaman Roosevelt and Derek Hagan were all competing for the No. 2 receiver role behind starter Steve Johnson. Different receivers made plays at different times, but no one in this trio really stepped up to claim a starting role. It turns out Buffalo parted ways with all three and will stick with Donald Jones as the starter opposite Johnson. But cutting Easley, Roosevelt and Hagan certainly affects Buffalo’s depth at wide receiver.

Onward and upward: Perhaps the player cut by the Bills who will be most sought after in free agency will be defensive tackle Dwan Edwards -- a solid player who could be a starter on some teams. But Buffalo has two stud defensive tackles in Marcell Dareus and a now-healthy Kyle Williams. The Bills would’ve liked to keep Edwards, but chances are his salary was too much for the role Buffalo had in mind for him in 2012. Edwards should have no problem finding a new team. Solid defensive tackles are hard to find.

What’s next: The Bills’ starters are set. This is a team that spent a lot of money and resources in free agency and the draft to put together a roster to try to compete with the New England Patriots in the AFC East. The only question now is depth. Does Buffalo have enough quality backups to sustain through injuries? That will be the focus as the team scans the waiver wires this weekend.

Observation deck: Bills-Lions

August, 31, 2012
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The Buffalo Bills (0-4) completed a winless preseason with a 38-32 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: The first-team offense handled its business. Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 5-for-5 for 39 yards and a touchdown pass to receiver Steve Johnson to start the game. Tailback C.J. Spiller also ran the ball well, gaining 28 yards on six carries. It was a short night for the starters but a way to end the preseason on a good note. Receiver Marcus Easley also showed up on special teams with an impressive 100-yard kickoff return. Easley added a 20-yard reception.

What we didn’t like: Buffalo’s depth on defense is not appealing. For the second week in a row, another team's backups scored points in bunches against Buffalo's backup defenders. This might not look like much now, but if the Bills have an injury or two to some key players on defense, I'm not sure the depth is there to keep the train moving. Buffalo has allowed 76 points in the past two weeks, and a majority have come once the starters are off the field.

A little "T. Jax": Newly acquired backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson did not play until late Thursday night. The Bills coaching staff determined he didn't have enough practice time to run the offense more. Still, Jackson got in for one series and threw one pass, which was intercepted. It's too early to grade Jackson with so little practice time. But it would've been nice for the Bills to see more what he brings before the real games count.

What’s next: The Bills will travel to play the New York Jets on Sept. 9 in a huge regular-season opener for both teams. The Jets swept the Bills in two games last season.
The reigning AFC champion New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills will host their preseason openers Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins, respectively.

Here are four things to watch for in these exhibition games:

No. 1: Patriots' defense

Analysis: New England’s defense, ranked 31st last season, will take the field for the first time in 2012. The last time we saw this group, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was carving up the Patriots in the Super Bowl. New England invested a lot of draft picks and free-agent dollars into this defense. Expect to see several new faces, such as first-round picks Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, and free-agent signings Steve Gregory and Bobby Carpenter. The Patriots’ starting defense will get a good test against Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who performed well against New England during joint practices this week.

No. 2: Who will emerge at running back?

Analysis: Expect the Patriots to give a lot of carries to their young running backs Thursday night. Second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are competing for the starting job vacated by former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ridley and Vereen bring different skills to the table. So far, Ridley has looked the best in training camp. But this battle will be won in the preseason games. Therefore, one of these young tailbacks must perform well to separate himself.

No. 3: Debut of Buffalo's revamped defensive line

Analysis: Buffalo’s starters may only play a few series. But it will be a good chance to see how the Bills’ new-look and dynamic defensive line is coming along. Stud defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus were joined by big free-agent signings Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. This group has the potential to be one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. Washington will provide a good test in the debut of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league. So if Buffalo’s defense can pressure Griffin and keep him at bay, it can corral just about any quarterback.

No. 4: Who will step up as Buffalo's No. 2 receiver?

Analysis: If Buffalo has a legit No. 2 receiver, it’s time for that player to come forward. The Bills need someone to be a threat opposite Steve Johnson, who will face plenty of double teams this year. There have been mixed results in training camp. Different players have flashed but no receiver has shown enough consistency. Receivers such as Marcus Easley, Donald Jones and rookie T.J. Graham need to step up. Performing in the preseason is the quickest way to impress Buffalo’s coaching staff.
The Buffalo Bills will be one of several teams attending former Baylor receiver Josh Gordon’s pro day on Thursday in Houston, a source tells the AFC East blog. Gordon is an intriguing and athletic prospect who is entering the NFL's supplemental draft.

Buffalo had a great offseason, but questions still linger at wide receiver. That could explain the Bills showing some interest in Gordon. Buffalo re-signed top receiver Steve Johnson, but a host of unproven players are competing for the No. 2 receiver role. That list includes Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and rookie third-round pick T.J. Graham.

The Bills might be one of the teams willing to add another receiver at the right price. Gordon, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, last played at Baylor in 2010, where he recorded 42 receptions for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. Early reports suggest he could go anywhere from the second-to-fourth round of the supplemental draft.

AFC East training camp battles

July, 3, 2012
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AFC camp battles: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

An early look at the biggest training camp position battles:

BUFFALO BILLS

Receiver: Donald Jones versus Marcus Easley versus T.J. Graham

The Buffalo Bills need at least one more receiver to step up if their offense wants to go to the next level. The Bills are hoping to find a gem from a group of unknowns in Jones, Easley and Graham. Jones was the starter last year and showed a few flashes and deep speed. A season-ending ankle injury cut his year short. He returns with two players gunning for the same job.

Easley is an intriguing player. He has some tools but also had a lot of bad luck with injuries. The Bills have stayed patient, but Easley may be down to his last chance. Graham, a rookie third-round pick, also is in the mix. The Bills hope Graham can develop fast and make his mark. The winner of this battle will complement 1,000-yard receiver Steve Johnson and slot receiver David Nelson in Buffalo's passing game.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Quarterback: Matt Moore versus David Garrard versus Ryan Tannehill

We have yet another three-way position battle in the AFC East. The Dolphins are leaving all of their options open at quarterback between Moore, Garrard and Tannehill. All three quarterbacks bring something different to the table. Miami coach Joe Philbin said he wants to make a decision after the third preseason game.

From my point of view, Garrard looked better in the practices I attended. He looks more comfortable than Moore, the incumbent, because Garrard has played in a West Coast offense. The Dolphins plan to run a precision passing game based on timing and progressions, and that's not Moore's game. Moore has a backyard style. Tannehill is the furthest behind and still needs to get used to the speed of the NFL game. He had only 19 career starts in college and has often looked that way in practices open to the media this offseason.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Running back: Stevan Ridley versus Shane Vereen

The reigning AFC champions are venturing into the unknown at running back. After losing dependable starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis to free agency, the Patriots are looking to second-year tailbacks Ridley and Vereen to carry the load. Both will get their share of carries this year. But the one who performs best in training camp and the preseason will be the starter.

Ridley averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie in 2011. He has a good burst between the tackles but needs to fix his fumbling woes. He had two late-season fumbles in the regular-season finale against Buffalo and the divisional playoff game against Denver. Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't go back to Ridley the rest of the postseason. Vereen is quick and looks to be more of a home run hitter. Injuries hampered Vereen last season, but the Patriots are pretty high on last year's second-round pick. Danny Woodhead and former Indianapolis Colts tailback Joseph Addai also are in the mix for depth. Woodhead and Addai are expected to contribute more on third-down situations.

NEW YORK JETS

Safety: LaRon Landry versus Eric Smith

The Jets didn't have many weaknesses on their fifth-rated defense last season. But the biggest weakness was definitely safety. The Jets were eaten alive oftentimes over the middle of the field in 2011. Various tight ends and slot receivers had a field day because New York lacked the size, athleticism and physicality necessary to own the middle of the field.

Enter new safeties Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Both are solid veterans who are sure tacklers and physical hitters. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is excited over the prospect of having two enforcers over the middle waiting to blow up receivers. Bell is already making plays in organized team activities and minicamp. He will get one starting position. Landry is the favorite over Smith, last year's starter. However, Landry is still ailing from an Achilles injury and has yet to show the coaching staff how he fits in the defense. Once Landry returns, he must beat out Smith for a starting role.
The Buffalo Bills, who I think are ready to make a big jump in 2012, are making their first head-scratching decision of the offseason. The coaching staff is working the versatile Brad Smith exclusively at quarterback, according to the team's website.

Buffalo has made virtually all the right moves this offseason. But this is the first decision I disagree with.

Smith
Smith is a player with many traits but a master of none. It's been proven over his six-year career that his biggest strength is his versatility. If Buffalo goes away from that, it reduces his effectiveness.

Smith is currently a fourth-string quarterback in Buffalo behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and backups Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen. Barring a rash of injuries, the Bills are wasting their time if they think Smith will be anything more than third on this year's quarterback depth chart. Smith is 28, which is too late in the game to suddenly learn how to effectively play the position full time in the NFL.

In fact, the Bills do not have a need for Smith at quarterback this year. Young was signed as a free agent and is a better, more-refined version of Smith. Young has 31 career wins as a starter and can run the Wildcat, while Smith has thrown just eight passes in six seasons. Virtually anything Smith can do at quarterback, Young can do better.

If anything, the Bills should be getting Smith as much work as possible at wide receiver. That is where he is most needed. Buffalo has no one who is proven at the position besides Steve Johnson. Smith should join receivers Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and rookie third-rounder T.J. Graham to add depth and competition at the position.

Smith had 23 receptions for the Bills last year. With more reps and coaching, perhaps those numbers could improve. The Bills need all the production they can get at wide receiver.

The Bills signed Smith to a four-year, $15 million contract last season but always seem lost with how to use him. Smith should be more of a receiver than quarterback in Buffalo in 2012, not the other way around.

Don't go changing: Bills show faith in O

May, 18, 2011
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At some point, the unlikely collection of NFL teammates struck somebody as unusual, and they began to sort out who the highest draft pick was.

Together last month for a mini passing camp near quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's home in Arizona, eight Buffalo Bills players laughed about their long-shot backgrounds.

Sophomore receiver Marcus Easley was the closest thing to a bonus baby, and he was a fourth-round draft choice with zero NFL games. So who was next in line? Backup quarterback Levi Brown was the answer, a seventh-round pick last year, 209th overall, and unable to make the roster out of training camp.

Bills practice
Courtesy of David NelsonBills players (L to R) Naaman Roosevelt, Levi Brown, Steve Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, David Nelson, Donald Jones and Marcus Easley pose for a picture following a workout last month.
Wide receiver Steve Johnson went 224th, Fitzpatrick 250th. Running back Fred Jackson and receivers David Nelson, Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt weren't drafted at all.

"This is testament of who we are as a group," Nelson said Tuesday night from his home in Dallas. "We all believe in each other. We all push each other. We all compete with each other. We know we're against the odds. We're a bunch of guys nobody gave a chance to."

The Bills have a couple first-rounders in their offense who didn't attend the workouts. Running back C.J. Spiller and receiver Lee Evans are important components, but it's impressive to consider such a big contingent of overlooked players making up a team's offensive core.

Nelson and the rest of that gang can speak with a little more conviction about their futures in Buffalo now. When they gathered for some casual workouts, there was plenty of doubt about the direction of the offense.

The drafted hadn't taken place yet and the Bills owned the third and 34th selections. There was considerable talk about a quarterback being a serious option. If Auburn star Cam Newton still were on the board, then could the Bills pass him up? Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert might've been a possibility, and it was anybody's guess who would still be on the board in the second round.

"I'm sure Fitz was bracing for something," Jackson said Tuesday of the pre-draft mood. "Everybody had to be."

One thing was for sure among the Bills' players: They were rooting for the front office to stand pat at quarterback.

"We've been talking about it as a receiver group for a while," Nelson said. "We were hoping that they would stay away from quarterbacks in the draft because we have all the confidence in the world in Fitz and what he can do. We like the direction we're headed in with him."

The Bills gave their offensive players a major vote of confidence last month. Of their nine draft choices, only two play offense. They drafted Clemson tackle Chris Hairston in the fourth round and North Carolina running back Johnny White in the fifth round.

The Bills will acquire more offensive players whenever free agency dawns. General manager Buddy Nix has said they will sign another quarterback, but the club sent a strong message about Fitzpatrick's standing when they didn't draft one.

"They showed they have a lot of faith in Fitz," Jackson said. "Me and my teammates all have a lot of faith in him, too. We're excited about that. I'm looking forward to working with him and trying to build on what we did last year and making that playoff push."

Fitzpatrick and Jackson will enter the 2011 season with substantially more juice than they had last summer. Both of them were considered backups.

"You have to say that it had some kind of affect on us," Jackson said. "We weren't on the same page when we got in the lineup, but that's part of the game, and we have to adjust.

"It does hurt to not get the reps, but as long as you mentally prepare like you are the No. 1 guy, you can hit the ground running. Hopefully, now we can get those reps and go into this season as the No. 1 guys and put this team on our shoulders and make some plays."

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesThe Bills are confident in Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to lead the team.
Fitzpatrick won over the Bills' locker room and much of their fan base last year. Trent Edwards' presence had worn thin everywhere. The man known as Captain Checkdown was uninspiring at best. He was frequently injured and rarely showed a hint of nerve.

New head coach Chan Gailey backed him in the beginning. Edwards took most of the offseason reps and was named the No. 1 quarterback when training camp opened. Edwards started all four preseason games.

Fitzpatrick, Brown and Brian Brohm fought over the scraps. Fitzpatrick attempted 23 passes before the season.

Asked at the NFL scouting combine in February if he regretted those decisions, Gailey replied, "Shoot, yeah. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have done that."

At 0-2, the Bills made an abrupt change. They waived Edwards.

Fitzpatrick was a jolt to the huddle, to the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd, to the community. He grew a bird's-nest beard and called himself the Amish Rifle. He wore his wedding ring during games. He actually threw the ball downfield.

He made the games entertaining again, even the defeats. Fans forgave him for occasional reckless interceptions.

Jackson was in a similar situation despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards the previous season.

He was in a crowded backfield with Marshawn Lynch and hotshot rookie Spiller and didn't start the first four games, carrying the ball 20 times for 87 yards through the first quarter of the season.

When the Bills traded Lynch for a 2011 fourth-round draft choice and a conditional 2012 sixth-round pick, the door opened for Jackson again.

"Right now, I feel like I'm the No. 1 guy and C.J. will come in and get a lot of plays," Jackson said. "I feel like I'm going to be the guy that's carrying the load and has got to make that running game go.

"I'm sure C.J.'s working hard and will [have] the opportunities as well, but I just got to shoulder the load and take the pressure of Fitz and make us a balanced offense. I want to be that guy."

Spiller generated preseason buzz for rookie of the year honors, but he had a disappointing campaign (283 rushing yards and no touchdowns, 157 receiving yards and one touchdown) and still has much to prove.

Jackson rushed for 614 yards in the second half of the season, tying with Ray Rice for sixth in the NFL in that span. The running backs ahead of them were Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Nice company.

The Bills ranked 25th in total offense, 18th in run offense and 24th in pass offense. Not too swift compared to the rest of the NFL.

But all of their best offensive superlatives in 15 categories (points, first downs, yards, etc.) happened Oct. 24 or later. The same can be said about individual player superlatives aside from Fitzpatrick's 71.4 completion percentage in Week 3 against the New England Patriots.

The Bills obviously found enough there to make a commitment, and the players aren't crying for help. They're thrilled the group will stay together.

"We did some good things on offense last year," Jackson said. "We feel like if we could get back on the field healthy and get another crack at this thing, we'll continue to have some success."

Bad news Bills lose another big player

August, 18, 2010
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Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey revealed Wednesday safety Jairus Byrd had groin surgery for a third time in the past 13 months and will be out indefinitely.

Byrd
Byrd
The problem is related to the sports-hernia surgery Byrd underwent before the end of last season. Still, Byrd managed to intercept nine passes in just 14 games (11 starts) and tied for the NFL lead. He was selected for the Pro Bowl but couldn't play.

"It looks like he's going to be out for a while," Gailey said. "We're hoping first game, but it may be not."

Buffalo's prospects for 2010 were dim enough without their roster being ravaged by injuries.

For context on how rough training camp has been, here's a loosely comprised list of their top few players, not counting punter Brian Moorman or kicker Rian Lindell.
  • Wide receiver Lee Evans: healthy.
  • Running back Fred Jackson: out four to six weeks with a broken hand.
  • Running back Marshawn Lynch: out three to four weeks with a sprained ankle.
  • Inside linebacker Paul Posluszny: missed first two weeks and preseason opener after groin surgery ... expected to play Thursday night against Indianapolis Colts.
  • Cornerback Terrence McGee: healthy.
  • Safety Jairus Byrd: out indefinitely after groin surgery.
  • Running back C.J. Spiller: healthy ... not sure yet where the rookie should rank on this list, but he belongs.

Did I forget anybody? Maybe you can put defensive lineman Marcus Stroud in there somewhere. He's also healthy.

Also hurt for the Bills: receivers David Nelson (leg), James Hardy (foot) and Marcus Easley (knee) and linebacker Chris Kelsay (shoulder).

Left tackle Demetrius Bell (knee) and right guard Eric Wood (leg) have been moved along cautiously as they recover from injuries suffered last year. Both are expected to play Thursday night.

Pats draft bust seeks redemption with Bills

June, 28, 2010
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There's an assumption when an elite organization such as the New England Patriots misfires on a high draft choice that it must be the player's fault.

Chad Jackson carries that stigma, a 36th overall selection the Patriots dumped after two seasons and 14 games.

[+] EnlargeChad Jackson
AP Photo/David DupreyKnowing he is running out of chances, Chad Jackson is trying to make up for lost time.
Jackson knows he's running out of chances and appears to be an underdog to make the Buffalo Bills' roster. Head coach Chan Gailey said he intends to keep five receivers. Jackson, who didn't play a down anywhere last year, might need somebody else to get hurt.

"I got a lot to prove around the league," Jackson told me after a Bills minicamp practice last week. "I was a high draft pick, and coming out I had a lot of disappointments. Right now, I'm just trying to make up for it."

Jackson left the University of Florida after a sparkling junior season. He led the SEC and tied a Gators record with 88 receptions for 900 yards and nine touchdowns.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick carries an aura of infallibility, and with inside information from Gators coach and close pal Urban Meyer, Patriots fans figured Jackson would be a star when they traded up 16 spots to draft him in 2006.

Jackson battled hamstring and groin problems through his rookie season. He was limited to 12 games and only one start. He caught 13 passes for 152 yards, but he did score three touchdowns. In the AFC Championship Game, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He played in only two games in 2007.

When the Patriots cut him in August 2008, there was a belief Jackson wasn't willing to put in the time necessary to be great -- whether it was through rehab, learning the playbook or film study.

"There's two sides to every story," Jackson said. "I won't get into all that. But I had my opportunity and I didn't take full advantage of it."

I asked him if he could do anything differently, what would it be.

"Not get hurt," he said with a laugh. "When I got hurt, I fell back. I tore my ACL. I hurt my hamstring. Then they brought Randy Moss and Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth and all those guys in. I was put on the backburner. I'm just trying to make up for lost time now."

Jackson spent four games with the Denver Broncos in 2008 but couldn't find work at all last year. He turned 25 in March.

You would think there's room at receiver on Buffalo's roster. Terrell Owens and Josh Reed weren't re-signed. But the Bills had a pretty deep group last year and have youngsters worth looking at.

If Gailey sticks with his plan of keeping five receivers, then Jackson could be in trouble.

Lee Evans is the No. 1 receiver. The Bills also have James Hardy (a 2008 second-round pick), Steve Johnson (a 2008 seventh-round pick the organization has been intrigued by), Roscoe Parrish (a dangerous punt returner) and Marcus Easley (a fourth-round pick this spring).

"The wide receiver position is open," Jackson said. "I can come in here and get a starting spot, No. 2 or No. 3 spot. I got a lot of opportunity here ahead of me.

"I think I've made a good impression. I'm not gone right now, so I must be doing something good."

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