Marcus Easley’s had a few fresh starts in his career with the Buffalo Bills.
But the fourth-year receiver has reason to believe this one is different.
“It’s a new everything. It’s a new mindset. You can just look around here — it’s a new environment now that whatever’s happened in the past, that’s all behind us,” Easley said of the atmosphere established by coach Doug Marrone and his staff. “So I had a new mindset going into this season, to try and create a new impression. I know I’m a hard worker and I still have a lot of football in me, so I tried to take advantage of the new offense that was in place. I tried to make plays when my number was called.”
Easley did that during training camp and the preseason, leading the Bills with 12 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown. In the final game of the preseason against Detroit, he streaked down the right sideline and hauled in a deep pass from quarterback Thad Lewis, racing 79 yards for a touchdown.
If he was on the roster bubble heading into camp, Easley played himself off of it in Marrone’s eyes.
“That one’s easy to say because I think we’ve all seen that. Marcus made a lot of plays in the preseason. Really did a nice job in receptions and made big plays and really played well on special teams,” the coach said. “His production was at a very, very high level. When you go in to the team and you say, ‘hey, we’re looking for guys who can produce,’ Marcus is one of those guys who produced enough to make this football team and we respect that.”
When Marrone took the job in January, he had a plan to learn about the history both of the franchise and the players he inherited on the roster. But in his view, past performance was no more than a learning tool.
“I’m a firm believer that how you act off the field, on the field, that’s what we’ll be evaluating,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, when change is made you can start off with a fresh slate and move forward from there.”
That was exactly what the 25-year-old needed to hear.
Easley’s first two seasons in the NFL were spent on injured reserve, first because of a knee injury, then because of illness.
Last year, he failed to make the 53-man roster out of training camp, but was added to the team’s practice squad — a move he said greatly aided his development.
“Of course, people outside of here, they can’t see that. They don’t really see what’s going on,” he said.
Easley was called up to the 53-man roster in November, and played three games. He’s still looking for his first reception in the regular season.
“I try not to focus on that, but I know there were a lot of people that counted me out. It’s understandable, I guess,” Easley said. “People say I’m injury prone — I’ve only really been hurt one or two times. One was an illness, so I wouldn’t really count that as an injury. If you want to write me off, that’s fine. I know what I’m capable of. I know my ability. I know I can still play. I’ve got a lot of football in me.”
With Brad Smith going on injured reserve, Easley has an immediate opportunity to make an impact on special teams. In four preseason games, he played 36 snaps on special teams — the most of any wide receiver.
“We like him as an outside receiver,” Marrone said, “and we love him on special teams.”
“Special teams will keep you around,” Easley said. “That’s another thing that’s a part of my game, outside of running routes and catching passes. I try to go all out on special teams and just try to make plays, with or without the ball.”
Easley said he never had a doubt, despite the numerous hardships he endured, that he could be an NFL receiver.
“The hardest part those years I was on IR was knowing that I couldn’t actually be playing football at that time regardless of whenever I was healthy during that season,” he said. “I don’t really think about what’s already happened anymore, I just try to come out here and play my game.
“It’s worked thus far. I’m just trying to stay healthy and stay on top of my play. Whatever my role is, I’m trying to help this team win.”
The Bills announced Tuesday they have signed kicker Dan Carpenter.
The 27-year-old is entering his sixth NFL season, after spending the first five with the Miami Dolphins. Carpenter was cut by Miami during training camp after getting beat out by rookie Caleb Sturgis. He also had four-day stints with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets before joining the Bills.
For his career, Carpenter is 127 of 155 (81.9 percent) on field-goal attempts, with a career long of 60 yards. He went 22 of 27 (81.5 percent) with a long of 53 yards last season for Miami.
Carpenter originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Montana. He joins rookie Dustin Hopkins on the Bills’ 53-man roster at kicker.
Hopkins reportedly suffered a groin injury during Monday’s practice, but the team has not commented on the severity of the injury.
Carpenter’s signing puts the Bills at the 53-man roster limit.