Inconsequential preseason games aren't enough to reveal everything about Marcus Easley. Questions remain unanswered, but the play of the second-year wide receiver is coming together. Patterns are starting to materialize and Easley's body of work, although limited, should awaken optimism about his potential.
Easley's discovery course continued Saturday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Easley, who started at receiver along with Stevie Johnson and Brad Smith, showed he is definitely improving during the Bills' 35-32, overtime victory.
Easley finished with a team-high five receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown. The first-team offense, at least for one game, looked like a potentially productive unit.
"It's only been the third preseason game and I still have a long way to go," Easley said. "I made some mistakes out there and made a couple of good plays. But there is definitely a lot of room for improvement."
The third preseason game is the pivotal test for NFL teams. The starters usually play deep into the second half but the Bills' first team was done by halftime after taking a 17-10 lead.
Easley missed all of last season with a knee injury, then hyperextended his knee on the first day of training camp to delay his development even further.
"As he got more confidence in his knee, you could see confidence in him in practice," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "His route-running ability, the way he was catching the ball, so today was a good day for him to get out there and 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."
Now, he's earning the trust of Bills coach Chan Gailey.
"Marcus is slowly coming back," Gailey said. "We had high hopes for him going into camp last year. He got hurt early, he was on the IR, then he got hurt early again this year, and he just hasn't had that many opportunities. Finally he's working his way back into it and it's great for him to have that kind of night. I would expect more things from him in the future."
The Bills' first touchdown of the game Saturday was all about Easley. Fitzpatrick found Easley for a short pass to the Jacksonville 35 for 15 yards then as the Bills went no-huddle, Fitzpatrick hit Easley again for three yards. Five plays later Fitzpatrick located Easley in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown.
"I wasn't even really open but Fitz, he's a gunslinger and he likes to give us the shot," Easley said. "Because he has a lot of faith in us and I just happened to make a great play."
Easley wasn't supposed to mention about not being open. The gunslinger will have a few words with him.
"What you're supposed to say is, that's just how we designed it, beautiful throw and beautiful catch," Fitzpatrick said. "I'll talk to him about that, but yeah it was 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. So that was good to see, putting it up and letting him go up and get it."
Despite injuries to Roscoe Parrish and Donald Jones, it wouldn't be surprising if Easley starts sooner rather that later. Physically, he has impressed in his return from the hyperextended knee and has steadily grasped the scheme and the nuances at wideout.
"Hopefully there is continued success and I have one more opportunity to impress the coaches and hopefully have a roster spot come week one," Easley said.