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Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods had 23 targets in first Jets game

By Tim Graham

The last time the Buffalo Bills played the New York Jets, quarterback EJ Manuel targeted Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods 23 times.

Johnson and Woods have been ruled out for Sunday's rematch in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said they would go with their four healthy receivers.

T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley will need to pick up the slack. Goodwin is the only one of that group with a touchdown this year. Easley made his first NFL catch last week.

Tight ends Scott Chandler and Chris Gragg will be even more important. Gragg also caught his first NFL passes last Sunday, but one of them was a touchdown.

Johnson leads the Bills with 41 catches, 471 yards and three touchdowns. Woods is second among wide receivers with 26 catches, 349 yards and two touchdowns.

Stevie Johnson's chances of playing Sunday not looking good

By Jay Skurski

Stevie Johnson missed his second straight practice Thursday, putting his availability for Sunday's game against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium in serious doubt.

"I don't feel as good about him being able to play, but I can't officially rule him out yet," coach Doug Marrone said after practice.

Johnson injured his right groin in a Week 10 loss at Pittsburgh.

Marrone said the team will not call up a receiver from the practice squad, meaning the options for EJ Manuel at the position will be T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley. Rookie Robert Woods has been ruled out because of an ankle injury.

Safety Da'Norris Searcy returned to practice on a limited basis today after sitting out Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.

"I have no issues there. Unless he has a setback during the week, he should be in great shape," Marrone said.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles) was also back as a full participant at practice today after taking his usual rest day Wednesday.

Points after: Steelers 23, Bills 10

19968 McCoy Sports Bills #8


By Tim Graham

PITTSBURGH -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers here at Heinz Field ...

What it means: The Bills went into the week insisting they still were in the playoff hunt. We can stop humoring them. They are 3-7 and in last place in the AFC East.

No Manuel transmission: EJ Manuel returned after a four-game injury absence and looked raggedy. Buffalo's first-round draft pick was 22 of 39 for 155 yards and one touchdown with one interception. His completion percentage (and eventually the 2-yard TD toss to Chris Gragg with three seconds left) was aided by the Steelers' prevent defense late in the fourth quarter.

Player of the game: Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell didn't post a boffo stat line, but he was the most important player in the Steelers' impressive ball-control game plan. He ran 22 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Bills player of the game: Defensive end Jerry Hughes recorded a pair of sacks. Each came on third down to force a punt.

Symbolic play of the game: The Bills were down only a touchdown when the Steelers lined up for a field goal in the third quarter. Marcell Dareus jumped and was flagged for encroachment, giving the Steelers first and goal at the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Bell scored his touchdown.

Preliminary injury report: Bills receiver Stevie Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury. ... Receiver Chris Hogan was shaken up after making a catch late in the fourth quarter and went straight to the locker room. ... The Steelers had several injuries, including cornerback Shamarko Thomas, left guard Ramon Foster and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

Coming up: The Bills will host the New York Jets next Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium and then go on their by week.

Bills getting healthy; C.J. Spiller off injury report first time in 7 weeks

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' injury report is notable for names that don't appear on it.

Only three players didn't practice today, and all of them could play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
  • Wide receiver Robert Woods (ankle)
  • Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles)

Everybody else was a full participant. Nobody was listed as limited.

That means quarterback EJ Manuel, running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, receiver Stevie Johnson and defensive end Mario Williams are healthy.

Manuel has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Spiller (ankle), Jackson (knee), Johnson (hip) and Mario Williams (hip) all were listed on last week's injury report.

Today was the first time Spiller hadn't been on the injury report since before the Week Four game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"That's exciting," Marrone said. "The more we can get his hands on the ball, there's an opportunity for him to make a big play. That's something we're always striving to do."

Kyle Williams regularly sits out Wednesday's practice to cool his heels.

Goodwin and Woods are recovering from injuries suffered in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Their availability is less certain.

Marrone said "I don't feel as good about Robert Woods being able to play," but said Goodwin is expected to practice some Thursday.

Woods is a versatile receiver who can play inside and outside. If Woods doesn't dress, then Chris Hogan would pick up some inside duties, and Marcus Easley could help on the outside.

Mario Williams on injury report; C.J. Spiller's return probable

By Tim Graham

Amid today's quarterback talk, Buffalo Bills pass-rusher Mario Williams slipped onto the injury report.

Williams is considered probable for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a hip injury.

Bills coach Doug Marrone also announced today running back C.J. Spiller is probable after being held out of last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints with an ankle injury.

Out

  • Quarterback EJ Manuel (knee)

Doubtful

  • Quarterback Thad Lewis (ribs)

Questionable

  • Wide receiver Chris Hogan (back)

Probable

  • Running back Fred Jackson (knee)
  • Running back C.J. Spiller (ankle)
  • Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hip)
  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (elbow)
  • Right guard Kraig Urbik (knee)
  • Defensive end Mario Williams (hip)
  • Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles)
  • Linebacker Manny Lawson (hamstring)

C.J. Spiller likely to play Sunday; QB starter still uncertain

By Jay Skurski

Barring a setback in the next couple days, running back C.J. Spiller will return to the Buffalo Bills' lineup Sunday against Kansas City.

"I feel good about C.J. playing," coach Doug Marrone said. "In talking with him, without any setbacks, we feel he'll be ready to go."

Marrone said the decision to rest Spiller last week accomplished what the team hoped it would in healing the high-ankle sprain he's dealing with.

As for the quarterbacks, Thad Lewis missed a second straight practice and remains "50-50" to play Sunday.

Continue reading "C.J. Spiller likely to play Sunday; QB starter still uncertain" »

Two Right Smack: Anatomy of a game-winning play

By Tim Graham

The play took a heartbeat to say and 3.3 seconds from snap to completion.

It felt like an eternity.

With six seconds left in Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Buffalo Bills were 2 yards away from a touchdown they had to have. The Carolina Panthers were up by six points.

EJ Manuel, his eyes darting about after 9-yard scramble, called the play:

Two Right Smack.

Continue reading "Two Right Smack: Anatomy of a game-winning play" »

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.

Continue reading "For Bills' bubble receivers, preseason finale an unfair catch" »

Points after: Lions 35, Bills 13

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' exhibition loss to Detroit Lions tonight in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: On one hand, nothing. It's the preseason. But getting outscored 65-13 over a seven-quarter span could mean a little something. The Bills are trying to change a culture of losing, and with several depth players in the spotlight and fighting for jobs, few showed any life.

Matt Leinart does little: The Heisman Trophy winner looked like a quarterback who didn't know the offense. Because he didn't. He signed with the Bills four days ago. But I'm certain he hoped for better than three completions on 10 attempts for 11 yards and two interceptions that each led to a Lions touchdown one play later. He also was sacked once. His career could be over.

Down on the corners: Buffalo's cornerbacks were atrocious, leading to some gaudy stats for Detroit backups Shaun Hill and Kellen Moore. Matthew Stafford was plagued by overthrows and dropped passes, or else the score would have been more lopsided. T.J. Heath and Crezdon Butler had particularly rough performances, allowing big plays and committing penalties.

Bills star of the game: Thad Lewis didn't look too shabby for someone who just showed up. With limited knowledge of the playbook, he scrambled on just about every play. He completed seven of 16 passes for 132 yards and a long touchdown with no interceptions. He ran seven times for 51 yards.

Play of the game: Midway through the fourth quarter, wide receiver Marcus Easley got a step on a defender up the right sideline. Lewis hit Easley in stride for a 79-yard touchdown.

Unfair night for receivers: One of the most interesting battles was at wide receiver. Easley, Brad Smith, Chris Hogan and Brandon Kaufman needed opportunities, but with a pair of backup quarterbacks, there weren't many quality throws to go around. With eight minutes left in the game, Bills wide receivers had three catches for 12 yards.

Injury report: Rookie receiver Marquise Godwin left at the end of the first quarter and didn't return after getting poked in the eye. ... Hogan was hurt on the second-half kickoff. He remained down before walking off with a limp but returned to the game. ... Smith was in the locker room having his ribs checked out in the third quarter. ... Left guard Doug Legursky was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent left knee injury.

Penalty rundown: The Bills had trouble with penalties throughout the preseason. They had nine for 74 yards against the Indianapolis Colts, 14 for 106 yards against the Minnesota Vkings, seven for 38 yards against Washington and nine for 60 yards tonight.

Coming up: The Bills open their regular-season schedule Sept. 8 against the New England Patriots in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Matt Leinart gets start for Bills; almost every regular resting

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills are resting all of their starters aside from linebacker Nigel Bradham and cornerback Crezdon Butler -- if, in fact, they're starters.

The Bills will protect undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel.

Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart will start despite being signed four days ago. Tashard Choice is the running back, with Marquise Goodwin and Chris Hogan at receiver.

Butler and T.J. Heath will start at cornerback.

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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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