Niagara Gazette

Bills

August 28, 2011

Easley looks the part in start

ORCHARD PARK — With a slew of receivers missing in action, including Donald Jones, Roscoe Parrish and University at Buffalo product Naaman Roosevelt, second-year wideout Marcus Easley made his case for a starting gig in Saturday’s 35-32 overtime win over Jacksonville.

Easley reeled in five passes for 51 yards and a score, and very much looked the part of a steady No. 2 receiver.

“Marcus played big. He stepped up with Donald going down,” said Steve Johnson, who completed the Bills’ first long touchdown score of the preseason on a 52-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. “It just goes to show that once you go in, you need to be ready.”

Fitzpatrick had his eyes set on Easley for most of opening half. He found the 6-2, 225-pounder on an 11-yard strike for the first-team offense’s first touchdown of the year. Easley made a savvy play in the first quarter, straddling the first-down yard mark before eventually making a 13-yard reception to move the chains.

“He came out and (dominated) that whole touchdown-scoring drive when he scored on that post,” Johnson added. “He just showed that he can play in this league.”

•••

While the first-team offense made huge strides in the first half from its previous two weeks, the Bills were stout on the defensive side of the ball. Jacksonville starter David Garrard was under consistent duress by the Bills’ front seven, while the starting secondary helped hold him to just 8 of 17 passing in the first half.

Kyle Williams came through with a sack a day removed from signing a new six-year contract extension. With Chris Kelsay sidelined for the night, second-year defensive end Alex Carrington got the nod at jack linebacker and turned out a nice performance for George Edwards’ unit as well.

•••

The Jags’ run game suffered without Maurice Jones-Drew in the lineup. The Bills limited the Jacksonville run game to a mere 30 yards in the first half. However, 4 of those came on a late touchdown run by Garrard. Garrard eluded three would-be tacklers, including Dwan Edwards, before lunging straight ahead for six.

All in all, it was an impressive showing for the Buffalo defense, even without a few key starters.

“I think we were able to shut down the run, and then in turn we put them in passing situations and we were able to get after (Garrard) a little bit,” Williams said. “There at the end of the half, giving up 10 points the way that we did is inexcusable.”

Rookie safety Da’Norris Searcy picked off an errand throw from fellow rookie Blaine Gabbert with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The turnover nearly led to a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Thigpen to Paul Hubbard, but it was ruled out of bounds. Thigpen subsequently turned the ball over on the same drive.

Searcy made another nice play late in the fourth, forcing a fumble that rookie DT Michael Jasper scooped up for the turnover.

•••

Linebacker Paul Posluszny left for greener pastures this offseason, and the Bills’ offense made sure the former second-round pick got an unfriendly welcome back to One Bills Drive from the get-go.

On its opening drive, Buffalo lined up in a five-wide set, taking advantage of Posluszny in man-to-man coverage with Fred Jackson. Jackson breezed past Posluszny and hooked up with Fitzpatrick for a 30-yard pass play to keep the drive alive.

“It was one-on-one with the linebacker,” Jackson said. “We feel like we can win every time. Fitzpatrick has all the confidence in the world. He saw it and I saw it and we were able to complete it.”

Later in the drive, however, it was Poz who came up big, stuffing Jackson for a loss on third-and-goal on the 1. Posluszny finished the game with five total tackles, and heard boos from the crowd every time his name was called over the PA system.

•••

The more than 50,000 in attendance — less than 15,000 at the end of regulation — got their money worth with a circus ending. The final five minutes of play were marred by turnovers, penalties and booth reviews.

Thigpen finally took advantage of a Jacksonville turnover with a 4-yard pass to Hubbard. The two teamed up on the next play for the two-point conversion. It clinched the Bills’ first OT preseason game since 1985 when they tied Detroit 10-10.

Contact Tonawanda News sports editor Brandon Koch at 693-1000, ext. 117.

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