A few Buffalo Bills wide receivers went into Thursday night’s preseason finale fighting for their livelihoods. They needed opportunities, as many plays as possible, quality passes to catch.
With less than eight minutes left in a 35-13 loss to the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium, Bills wide receivers had three catches for 12 yards.
Roster aspirants Brad Smith, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Brandon Kaufman haven’t had it easy. They spent the summer catching passes from two rookies and a veteran journeyman who has missed much of camp with injuries and a family funeral.
Then, with their jobs on the line Thursday night and 53-man roster cuts due at 6 p.m. Saturday, the Bills used a pair of quarterbacks who weren’t on the team four days earlier.
Matt Leinart and Thad Lewis were signed after Kevin Kolb joined EJ Manuel on the injury report. The Bills avoided further trouble by resting undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel.
“You’ve got to deal with whatever circumstances get thrown your way,” Easley said. “Obviously, we wish we had a quarterback we’ve been getting reps with and developed some kind of chemistry with over the past couple weeks.
“But the situation we had, two new guys who had to step in and see what they can do. No matter who the quarterback is, it’s the same for us. We’ve got to catch and run. We’ve got to block for the running backs. You have to make a play any way possible.”
Easley found a way to do that in the fourth quarter. He ran a slant-and-go route and got a step on his defender. Lewis lofted a pass that landed in Easley’s hands and went for a 79-yard touchdown.
“He threw a beautiful pass,” Easley said of Lewis. “I ran right under it. It was just a footrace after that.”
Leinart and Lewis combined to complete 38.4 percent of their passes. Of their 26 attempts, only eight targeted wide receivers. Four were caught. Easley had two. Kaufman and Smith had one apiece.
Injuries could factor into the Bills’ decisions at receiver. Although rookie Marquise Goodwin left at the end of the first quarter with an eye injury, coach Doug Marrone said it was minor. But Smith was knocked out of the game with a rib injury that must be evaluated today.
Safe on the roster are Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, second-round pick Robert Woods, and third-round pick Goodwin. Marrone indicated after the game he has one or two more spots settled in his mind.
“I feel very comfortable with five or six of those players right now,” Marrone said. “I think there’s a body of work for people. It’s been tough for them. I do agree with that.”
Marrone further suggested Thursday night’s fiasco likely won’t matter when making the final receiver cuts when he said, “I feel good about that position. If we put the right guy out there, I think those guys can make things happen.”
“All the work up to this point is done,” Easley said. “The past is the past. Everything is in the coach’s hands now.”
Marrone revealed after the game that safety Jairus Byrd left the team to have an injured foot examined by the same doctor who gave defensive end Mario Williams a second opinion at the start of camp.
Byrd went to see Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. Byrd’s status is uncertain, but he is on the team’s roster exemption list since signing his franchise-tag tender last week.
“His foot was sore,” Marrone said. “So we wanted to make sure we sent him down to Dr. Anderson.
“It’s not a concern until Dr. Anderson says something.”
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel made an appearance for the first time since last week’s left knee procedure. Manuel was on the field before the game, a sleeve covering the knee. He didn’t do any running, but gingerly dropped back and threw several passes.
Manuel watched the game from with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in the coaches’ box.
Running back C.J. Spiller remained in Florida with his family. His step-grandfather allegedly killed two people, wounded two others and then committed suicide last Saturday in Spiller’s hometown of Lake Butler, Fla.