It's looking like the Buffalo Bills will be scrambling a bit to fill core special teams roles when they take on the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
For a third straight day, two key special teams players missed practice: Marcus Easley, who has missed the past three weeks with a knee injury; and linebacker Ty Powell, who left last Sunday's loss to New England early with an ankle injury. When the Bills' injury report is released later today, it's likely that both players will officially be declared out for Week 7.
Easley, of course, was the Bills' best special teams player by a considerable margin in 2013, and was also one of only two Bills players last season to surpass 300 snaps played in that phase (the other being linebacker Nigel Bradham, who is now a full-time starter and doesn't play nearly as much teams as he used to). With Easley out of the lineup, the Bills have been using veteran cornerback Corey Graham more frequently on special teams; of his 71 special teams snaps played so far this season, 55 have come in the last three weeks.
Powell became a mainstay on the Bills' special teams units over the last month of the 2013 season, tallying 102 coverage reps in just five appearances last season. Up until his injury against New England, he had been leading the team in special teams reps played, coming in at just over 70 percent of snaps played. He, like Easley, is a vital member of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman's coverage units.
Right now, the Bills only have five players that have played more than 50 percent of special teams snaps in 2014 (though Easley would be a sixth were he healthy, and newcomer Larry Dean is very quickly approaching that threshold as well): running back Boobie Dixon, Powell, safety Duke Williams, cornerback Ron Brooks, and wide receiver Chris Hogan.
When the Bills take the field on Sunday, Graham will continue to fill Easley's role, in all likelihood, while the primary candidates to replace Powell on various coverage teams are rookie linebackers Preston Brown and Randell Johnson.
It's not all bad news for the Bills' banged up special teams, however: long snapper Garrison Sanborn, who was limited in practice on Wednesday, practiced in full on Thursday and will likely suit up on Sunday.