It took a bunch of injuries at the receiver position for it to happen, but thrust into the number two receiving role, Marcus Easley is beginning to show just what he can provide to Buffalo's passing attack after a five-catch performance for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Bills comeback overtime win over Jacksonville over the weekend.
"Everyone could see that we had a lot of guys go down in the last game so guys had to step up," said Easley. "We were lacking at wide receiver, we only had five or six going into the game. So I tried to take full advantage of the opportunity and Fitz he gave me shots today. When the ball is in the air I just tried to make a play."
Lining up opposite Stevie Johnson outside, Easley was involved early as Ryan Fitzpatrick was looking for him giving the second-year receiver a handful of opportunities to make plays.
"Marcus the big thing with him is confidence," Fitzpatrick said. "He tweaked his knee at the beginning of camp and lost some of the confidence he had gained in the offseason. As he got more confidence in his knee you could see his confidence in practice, his route running ability, the way he was catching the ball. So it was a good day for him to show everybody what he's been doing. To have a game like this where we targeted him several times and for him to come down with them it was good for him."
After being unable to hold onto the first pass he was thrown on the team's first possession, Easley bounced back in the next series. He converted a 2nd-and-8 play for a first down with a 13-yard reception. Three plays later he converted a 2nd-and-7 for another first down on a gain of 15 to move the Bills into Jacksonville territory. On the very next play he caught a short three-yard pass, before finishing off the drive when he leaped up high to snare a bullet pass from Fitzpatrick for an 11-yard touchdown reception.
"With the more repetitions and the more balls that you get thrown your way you get in a comfort zone and I got in a little bit of a groove and just happened to finish off the drive with the touchdown," said Easley. "It was a post and believe it or not I really wasn't even open, but Fitz is a gunslinger so he likes to give us a shot because he has a lot of faith in us and I just happened to make a great play."
"It's about giving him a chance to make a play and when you give guys chances to make plays and they make them you tend to go back to them," said Fitzpatrick. "So that was good to see, putting it out there and letting him go up and get it."
Easley finished the day with 51 yards receiving, but more importantly it showed his teammates that with more time on the job he can make a difference in Buffalo's passing game.
"Marcus played big," said Stevie Johnson, who had a 52-yard touchdown catch in the game as well. "He stepped up with Donald (Jones) going down. It just goes to show that once you go in, you need to be ready. You can make things happen. He came out and dominated that who touchdown scoring drive when he scored on that post. He just showed that he can play in this league."
"Another playmaker, another weapon for us," said Fred Jackson. "We're excited about what he can do for us. I had the privilege of working with him all offseason, so I got to see him work hard and how much work he was putting in and it's showing up on the field for him. I'm happy for him."
Easley figures to be Jones' stiffest competition for the number two receiver role opposite Johnson come the regular season, and with Jones unlikely to play in the preseason finale, Thursday's game against Detroit will be another chance for Easley to progress further.
"It's only been the third preseason so I still have a long way to go," he said. "I made some mistakes out there, made a couple of good plays. There's definitely room for improvement, but I just want to build upon it."
If he does it's going to force Buffalo's offensive staff to work him into the receiver rotation all the more come the regular season even when the team's roster of wideouts is back to full health.
"He's showing the team that we can depend on him if he has to step up as a number two receiver," said Johnson.
"All he can do is keep progressing," said Jackson. "If he does that he'll be another huge playmaker for us."
"I would expect more things from him in the future," said head coach Chan Gailey. "He's good for our football team."