The Buffalo Bills will need their top two cornerbacks at 100 percent Sunday for the season opener against the Chicago Bears.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery form the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at wide receiver, combining for 189 catches, 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.
“You’re talking about height, you’re talking about guys who can go get the ball, you’re talking about a quarterback that’s going to be able to throw it to them,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “So when you look at it overall, the two outside guys and the tight end – and don’t sleep on the running back coming out of the backfield – they’re probably, from a skills standpoint, one of the toughest, if not the toughest matchup that you can face.”
Buffalo’s top cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, was limited in practice Wednesday because of a groin injury, but he expects to be able to play Sunday.
“I feel pretty good,” he said after practice. “Getting my feet and just going out there and playing hard.”
The Bills’ other projected starter, Leodis McKelvin, has had his reps monitored throughout the summer following offseason hip surgery. The goal was to have him as close to 100 percent as possible Sunday afternoon.
Mission accomplished, McKelvin says.
“Most definitely. Coming off surgery, you’ve got to work your way back through it. You can’t throw yourself out there in the fire, or you might injure yourself again,” McKelvin said. “It’s been getting better and better as the weeks have gone on.”
McKelvin admitted to being frustrated at times during training camp watching from the sideline, as the competitor in him wanted to be on the field.
“You’ve got to stay confident that things will keep going the way you want them to go,” he said. “The trainers have done a great job staying on top of things, making sure I’m getting better.”
McKelvin, who said he expects to be returning punts Sunday, said the Marshall-Jeffery matchup provides a great test to start the season.
“You always look forward to playing those types of guys,” he said. “They’re tall, they’re physical and they can go get the ball. It’s going to be a real good test for us corners.”
Your daily Sammy Watkins update: The Bills’ rookie receiver participated in practice fully, but don’t expect any concrete information about his status until 1 p.m. Sunday.
“I think we’re just going to wait and see,” Marrone said. “It’s hard to judge right now.”
If the player’s opinion counts in this, Watkins will be out there.
“Yeah, I’m ready to play,” he said. “With the ribs, you don’t know whether you feel 100 percent, or 80, 90. Until I get that first hit, that will explain it all. Now I know how it feels to get hit, and what the outcome will be. A lot of pain, losing your breath, but it’s not going to take me out of the game. Just get a breather and come back in.”
Tight end Lee Smith (toe) was the only player not to practice Wednesday. Along with Gilmore, safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) and rookie linebacker Randell Johnson (ankle) were limited.
For the Bears, quarterback David Fales missed practice with a shoulder injury. Safety Chris Conte (concussion), center Brian De La Puente (knee) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) were limited.