Bills aim to solidify receiver slot

Bryan Sullivan
Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin

There are plenty of new faces on the Buffalo Bills roster as they kick off the 2013 season. Perhaps this is no more evident than in the wide receiving corps.

One third of the players playing receiver in training camp are rookies. Only two players in the group of 12 have at least five years of experience.

Stevie Johnson’s spot as starter and top option for whoever wins the quarterback competition is safe. Who else will be EJ Manuel or Kevin Kolb be throwing to come opening day? Fans will most likely have to wait until the end of the preseason to solve this mystery.

“I think basically what we are looking for is that type of consistency at that position,” said Doug Marrone, Bills head coach. “I’ve seen the progress. We’ve got a lot of young guys out there that are really progressing well and now it’s a matter of being consistent.”

Buffalo addressed wide receiver depth in last April’s NFL Draft selecting Robert Woods in the second round and Marquise Goodwin in the third. Woods is a former All-American at USC, while Goodwin qualified for the Olympics in the long jump and was a talented receiver and kick returner at Texas.

Da’Rick Rogers is one of the more intriguing players in training camp. Rogers, who the team signed as undrafted free agent after this year’s draft, started his college career at Tennessee before transferring to Tennessee Tech where he caught 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“We have a great group of guys, not just the rookies but the (veterans) as well,” Goodwin said. “We push each other every day, and we are trying to get better. I’m excited to see what we can bring to this team.”

TJ Graham was in the same spot as all three players last year, trying to impress coaches and teammates in his rookie season. Graham is hoping to be more of a playmaker in year two after catching 31 passes for 322 yards and one touchdown last season.

“All the things I made mistakes on last year, they might seem small (in training camp) but you don’t want do to those things in the season,” Graham said. “I had little bumps in the road last year so this year I don’t have to go through that and I can help the team get better.”

Eighth-year pro Brad Smith is hoping to overtake the younger players to earn the starting spot. Smith, who came to Buffalo as a wildcat quarterback in 2011 but has been used primarily as a wide receiver recording 37 receptions the last two years.

Former fourth-round draft pick Marcus Easley is also trying to get into the Bills fold after three disappointing seasons.

“I really like our receiving corps, I really do,” Kolb said. “I like the way that they’re receptive. I like that they come to me with things. There’s just a very good communication level, not just with me, but I’m very impressed with the way these young guys are coming along as well.”