The Buffalo Bills could catch a significant break in New Orleans on Sunday if Saints tight end Jimmy Graham can’t play.
Graham suffered a foot injury during the Saints’ loss to New England 11 days ago and still was not able to practice on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-7 Graham leads all NFL tight ends in receiving yards with 593 on 37 catches. He has six touchdowns. He had 1,310 yards and 11 TDs in 2011 and 982 yards and nine TDs last season. His height and athleticism make him a matchup nightmare for every opponent.
“Each day we’ll just take a peek on how he’s progressing and be smart about it,” Payton said.
If Graham can’t play, his replacement is 10-year veteran Ben Watson, the former New England Patriot. Watson has only eight catches this year. He had three receptions for 61 yards against the Pats.
“We can’t replace Jimmy,” Watson told New Orleans reporters. “Jimmy does some things that only he can do, but we will be able to come in and do whatever is asked of us to make sure the offense runs smooth.”
Other Saints starters who did not practice Wednesday were defensive end Cameron Jordan (ankle), right tackle Zach Strief (ankle) and cornerback Jabari Greer (non-injury related). Strief did individual work.
Starting receiver Lance Moore, who missed the last three games with a hand injury, practiced fully.
Not practicing for the Bills were running backs C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (knee), linebacker Manny Lawson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles tendon). Spiller’s status is uncertain. Williams usually rests on Wednesday. He and Lawson are expected to play.
Jackson on his status: “I’m fine. I’ll be ready to go Sunday. It’s just one of those things they wanted to give me today off just to get some rest. It’s just going to be sore. It’s something I dealt with all of last year.”
Bills defensive end Mario Williams was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his two-sack performance against the Miami Dolphins.
Quarterback Thad Lewis said he is fully healthy after dealing with a sore ankle last week. Asked what he wants to improve upon this week, Lewis said: “Do better on first and second down. Not have to put ourselves in third-down situations where now you have to get a first down.”
On first down, the Bills ran 19 times for 62 yards, a 3.26-yard average. The Bills managed just 12 net yards on 21 second-down plays in Miami. Lewis was 6 of 14 for 20 yards with an interception and two sacks on second down.
New Orleans’ offense ranks sixth in yards and points. The Bills might want to run their offense at a slower pace in an attempt to keep the Saints off the field. Asked about it, Bills coach Doug Marrone said: “Strategically when you think about it, you want to be able to possess the ball more than they do.”