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For Bills' bubble receivers, preseason finale an unfair catch

By Tim Graham

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 develop 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. Hogan, 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 reevaluated today.

Safe on the roster are Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, second-round pick Robert Woods, 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."

Easley, meanwhile, will wait along with the other to learn his fate.

"All the work up to this point is done," Easley said. "The past is the past. Everything is in the coach's hands now. It's just a matter of playing the waiting game."


Brad Smith | Brandon Kaufman | Chris Hogan | Jeff Tuel | Kevin Kolb | Marcus Easley | Marquise Goodwin | Matt Leinart | Robert Woods | Stevie Johnson | T.J. Graham | Thad Lewis
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |