New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall insists he isn’t taking the slightest bit of comfort in the fact the Buffalo Bills aren’t as healthy in their secondary as they were when the teams last met on Nov. 12.
He has lived the concept of backup players rising to the occasion, and sees that being entirely possible when the teams meet again in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It happened in 2007, when Marshall was with the Denver Broncos.
“Hey, Javon Walker went down my second year in the league and I end up going for 1,300 yards, a hundred catches, and I introduced myself to the league,” said Marshall, who ranks sixth in the NFL with 101 receptions for 1,376 yards and is tied for second with 13 touchdown catches, during a conference call with Western New York media.
“So it’s not just the New York Jets,” Marshall added. “It’s around the league, it’s universal, and that’s next man up. You don’t know who’s ready to fill in and take advantage of the opportunity, so you can never look down on any opponent who’s depleted.”
The Bills will be without one of their starting cornerbacks, Stephon Gilmore, who has been placed on the injured-reserve list. Gilmore played a key role in helping the Bills do a solid job of containing Marshall in their 22-17 victory at MetLife Stadium. Leodis McKelvin is expected to start in Gilmore’s place for the second week in a row.
The Bills’ other regular starting cornerback, Ronald Darby, is expected to return to action after missing last Sunday’s victory against Dallas with a groin injury. He’s listed as probable for the Jets’ game, and coach Rex Ryan fully expects him to play.
“Thank goodness,” Ryan said. “That’s one of those where, if he’s healthy enough, you’ve got to compete. He wants to compete; they have some great receivers. And that’s what your great competitors want to do. So he was doing whatever he could” to play, “and it looks like he’ll be a go.”
“I feel OK,” Darby said after Friday’s practice.
With Ron Brooks (hip) on injured reserve, Mario Butler and Nickell Robey should see a good deal of action. Brooks’ injury forced the desperate Bills to reach into their practice squad to pull up Bud Noel and Sammy Seamster.
Besides Marshall, the Jets have another difference-making receiver in Eric Decker, who has 75 receptions for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns. And Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey likes to challenge the opponent’s secondary depth by frequently going with four-man receiver sets to repeatedly draw one or more favorable matchups.
“Having Darby back is big, because it got a lot better for us having him back,” Ryan said. “Little Bud will be up there. We’re going to have some guys, but we’ll see what happens. If we’ve got to play a few more safeties or whatever, then we’ll do that also. But we’ll make it work.”
Running back LeSean McCoy (knee) and linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle) are out for Sunday.
In addition to Darby, quarterback Tyrod Taylor (right shoulder), defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (neck), safety Bacarri Rambo (knee/shoulder), defensive end Mario Williams (hand), guard John Miller (ankle), and wide receiver Chris Hogan (wrist) are also probable.
The Jets list running back Bilal Powell, right tackle Breno Giacomini and tight end Kellen Davis as questionable. Powell has missed three days of practice, making it unlikely that he will play.
Dareus was a late arrival for Friday’s practice. Ryan hinted, and it was later confirmed, that defensive end Jerry Hughes had to be dispatched to pick up Dareus from his downtown Buffalo residence and drive him through the heavy snow that hit Orchard Park on Friday morning.
“Initially, we had a little issue,” Ryan said with a wry smile. “I’m not going to get into it, but we’re calling one of our players ‘the UPS guy.’ He delivered the goods, we got the package here. We had to scramble a little bit this morning.”
Ryan wore a Clemson helmet to one of his news conferences before the Bills’ previous game against the Jets, but he surprisingly wasn’t all that demonstrative at Friday’s practice after the Tigers (for whom his son, Seth, is a reserve wide receiver) beat Oklahoma in Thursday night’s semifinal to advance to the national championship game against Alabama.
“If you would have seen me this morning, I was decked out in all orange, just like I was” Thursday “when I left the building,” Ryan said. “Very excited. It’s kind of cool. I don’t care how little he plays or whatever, the fact that he’s out there, playing for a national championship, is pretty awesome.”
Ryan acknowledged his enthusiasm was tempered a bit after watching Alabama pound Michigan State in Thursday night’s other semifinal. “Alabama looked pretty good … this just in,” Ryan said.
The Bills will be hire snow shovelers starting on Saturday at 8 a.m. Workers are needed to shovel throughout the day Saturday and, if needed, into Sunday. The rate of pay is $10 per hour. Proper ID and a shovel are needed to work. Those interested may enter off Abbott Road just north of the Team Store and proceed to the Jani-King office trailer to register to work.