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Bills secondary notably stronger for Jets rematch

By Tim Graham

The last time he played the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith had a pleasant afternoon.

Although Smith threw a pair of interceptions, he passed for 331 yards (merely 39 yards short of the series record despite just 16 completions) and two touchdowns. Smith ran for a touchdown, too. The Bills couldn't sack him.

The Bills should look different to Smith on Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills were missing two vital members of their secondary in Week Three. They'll have cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd for the rematch.

"Byrd is a ball-hawking safety, Pro Bowl-type safety," Smith said Wednesday. "They play a ton of man. So having Gilmore back, their starting corner, obviously makes them a better defense.

"And they've been pretty stout up front. So just having a chance to have those guys back gives them, I think, better guys in that secondary, which really helps their defense out because that's the style that they play."

Buffalo starting cornerbacks at the Meadowlands were Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers. McKelvin hurt his hamstring on the opening drive. That forced starting safety Aaron Williams to switch to cornerback.

"So they've got three guys that are different than what we faced the last game," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.

Byrd grabbed his first interception of the season -- and the Bills' first takeaway in three games -- Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gilmore has been extraordinarily busy the past two weeks.

ProFootballFocus.com data shows the Kansas City Chiefs targeted him 12 times and the Steelers targeted him 11 times. They completed 65.1 percent of their passes for 167 yards (59 after the catch) and a touchdown and a 101.2 passer rating.

Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley is expected to be out with a bum elbow, but Santonio Holmes (five catches for 154 yards and a touchdown in Week Three) practiced fully Wednesday and should play after missing five games with a hamstring injury.

Tight end Kellen Winslow (no catches in Week Three) is returning from a four-game performance-enhancing-drug suspension. Tight end Zach Sudfeld has been added since the last meeting and has four catches for 56 yards the past two weeks.

"They're getting guys back on their defense with Byrd and Gilmore," Smith said. "So it's definitely going to be another challenge for us, but we can create matchups with having Kellen and Jeff [Cumberland] and even Zach and then Tone, Stephen [Hill], all the guys that we are accustomed to having.

"They can make plays for us and it just gives us a better chance, I think."

tagged

Aaron Williams | Geno Smith | Jairus Byrd | Leodis McKelvin | Stephon Gilmore
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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 | tgraham@buffnews.com


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 | mgaughan@buffnews.com


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 | jskurski@buffnews.com

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