The Buffalo Bills are expected to have reinforcements in place by the time they hit the practice field on Monday.
The Bills have brought in former Dolphins and Redskins backup quarterback Pat White, along with former Steelers backup Dennis Dixon, for meetings and workouts, sources confirmed to The News.
Dixon spent four years as a backup for Pittsburgh and was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles this summer.
Quarterback EJ Manuel is out numerous weeks with a sprained knee, and the Bills also need a new punter after releasing Shawn Powell.
The pickings are a lot slimmer at quarterback than punter.
White was a second-round pick of Miami’s in 2009. He was cut before the 2010 season and was out of the NFL for three years.
Washington gave White another NFL shot, signing him in April. He was cut by the Redskins on Sept. 14.
White, 6-foot and 190 pounds, is a fine athlete who was a dual-threat quarterback for West Virginia University. He passed for 6,049 yards and 56 touchdowns while running for 4,480 and 47 touchdowns over a four-year career.
Considering his layoff from the NFL, White played reasonably well in preseason. He completed 56 percent of his passes for 330 yards and rushed 19 times for 103 yards. He did well against the Bills in the third exhibition game on Aug. 24. He completed 7 of 14 passes for 96 yards and ran for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Bills’ injury ravaged defensive backfield is expected to be closer to full health the next time the team takes the practice field.
The Bills’ players were off Saturday and today after Thursday night’s 37-24 loss in Cleveland.
Former Tampa Bay player Josh Freeman was by far the most prominent free-agent QB on the market but there was no word Saturday on whether he was a Bills target.
Freeman, 25, was released by Tampa on Wednesday. He’s a former first-round pick with 59 starts over five seasons. But his play declined the past two seasons and he fell out of favor with Bucs coach Greg Schiano.
Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett no doubt got a good scouting report on Freeman from his friend Alex Van Pelt, now an aide in Green Bay. Van Pelt was quarterbacks coach in Tampa in 2010 and 2011 and likes Freeman.
But there has been speculation Freeman might get a chance to reunite with former Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olsen, now the offensive coordinator in Oakland. Freeman’s best success came with Olsen.
None of the other free-agent QBs on the market have the passing credentials of Freeman.
Young prospects like White and Dixon are athletes who can enhance the read-option offense but who have minimal NFL game experience.
Older candidates with plenty of experience include Vince Young (30), Byron Leftwich (33), David Carr (34) and Charlie Batch (38). Younger guys with smarts but less athleticism and minimal experience include Graham Harrell.
Then there’s Tim Tebow, who doesn’t fit the precise passing needed for Hackett’s offense but who can run the ball.
The top punters on the free-agent market include: Chris Kluwe, 31, who spent eight years with the Vikings; Matt McBriar, 34, a nine-year NFL veteran and two-time Pro Bowler with Dallas; and Brian Moorman, 37, the former Bills great who has been unemployed since being released by Pittsburgh in preseason.
Meanwhile, Bills coach Doug Marrone said No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore would be back at practice Monday and there’s a chance he could be ready to face the Cincinnati Bengals in a week.
Gilmore has missed the first five games with a broken hand.
“I do think so,” Marrone said. “I think we’re going to take a good look this week. I know this, that he wants to play.”
Cornerback Ron Brooks, out with a broken foot, also is expected back to practice. And the Bills are hoping safety Jairus Byrd can participate in a full week of practice for the first time this season.
T.J. Graham was on target with his wide receiver option pass in the end zone for Stevie Johnson Thursday night. The pass drew a pass interference call that set up a Buffalo TD.
“I kinda read it,” Graham said. “It was a good ball. I threw it how the receiver would want it.”
Because there was a penalty it wasn’t an official pass attempt. Graham didn’t have any pass attempts in college at North Carolina State, either. When was the last time he threw a pass?
“We had one in the game plan for my 2010 season playing against Maryland in the ACC championship game but we didn’t pull it out because it started raining,” he said. “I threw one in my spring game of 2010, I believe.”
Graham played quarterback his junior year of high school. In his senior year of high school, he threw an option pass for a touchdown of about 60 yards. When did the Bills’ coaches get the idea to use his arm?
“They didn’t know I could throw until a preseason game in warm-ups I throwing the ball to some guys,” he said. “They noticed.”
Marrone explained what happened in the second quarter of Thursday’s game when he threw a challenge flag after an illegal contact penalty on safety Da’Norris Searcy in the end zone. Searcy was covering tight end Jordan Cameron in the end zone and a pass for Cameron went incomplete. Marrone saw Cameron go out of bounds and saw an official acknowledge it by tossing his hat to the spot. Marrone couldn’t get the attention of an official to question him. Marrone was hoping that the fact Cameron went out of bounds would negate the holding.
“I saw the receiver go out of bounds, I saw the hat go, then they called defensive holding,” Marrone said. “So I couldn’t get to anyone, and I knew he went out of bounds so I threw the flag. I was wrong because if the receiver touched the ball and it became an illegal touch, then I was OK to throw the challenge flag. But since the receiver didn’t touch the ball and it was a decision by the official whether he went out or not, I could not challenge that.”