The Buffalo Bills are not off to an ideal start.
After losing 48-28 to an explosive New York Jets offence led by Mark Sanchez at MetLife Stadium last Sunday, the Bills not only have to regroup from that loss, but they’ll have to do it without two of their key players.
Running back Fred Jackson, who rushed for 934 yards in 10 games last season, and wide receiver David Nelson, who finished 2011 with 61 catches for 658 yards and two touchdowns, both left Sunday’s contest with knee injuries.
Jackson’s sprained ligament will force him from action for at least four weeks while Nelson is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Despite losing two fundamental fixtures of his offence, however, Bills’ head coach Chan Gailey is looking on the bright side.
“Every time you lose somebody, somebody else gets an opportunity,” he said in a press conference Wednesday. “That’s the way you have to approach it. You can sit around, gripe, moan and complain about what you do not have or you can get excited about what you do have.
“I choose to get excited about the guys who are going to get another opportunity right now.”
Stepping into Nelson’s role this Sunday at home versus the Kansas City Chiefs will be 24-year-old wide receiver Donald Jones, who racked up 231 yards and one touchdown through eight games last season with the Bills.
“He can go inside and play inside,” Gailey said of the benefits of playing Jones. “I do not have any problems with that. I think he proved to us in the off-season and preseason that he can go do that if need be.”
With Nelson and Jackson out, Buffalo’s other star wide receiver, Stevie Johnson, has acknowledged the increased expectations now sitting on his own shoulders.
“It’s tough because you have a guy in David [Nelson] who has played well. He goes down. Then you have your stud back in [Fred Jackson], and he goes down, so it’s like ‘come on, Stevie, let’s do something,’” the 26-year-old told the press on Wednesday.
“’Let’s put up some points and turn things around. Let’s get back to the old you.’”
Though the San Francisco native has been battling a groin injury of his own, he’s confident he’ll be playing, regardless of how he feels on Sunday.
“I am not even thinking about my groin anymore,” Johnson said. “It is what it is. Whether it’s hurting or not, I do not even care anymore.
“Right now, the way I feel I really do not care if it lingers or if it goes away today or tomorrow. I am going to be ready to play.
If losing two offensive threats wasn’t motivation enough to step up his game, the memories of last week’s crushing defeat are still fresh in Johnson’s mind.
“It was tough,” Johnson said of the loss to the Jets. “It was tough first and foremost to lose those guys because those are our brothers, [but] to lose the game was also tough … We just have to shake back and play better.”
Though the Bills have begun the season on the wrong foot, the receiver believes his teammates can easily turn things around.
“I am always confident in our guys,” he said. “If we were to lose two, three, or four straight, I would still feel confident in this group.”
Gailey is also optimistic despite the early struggles.
“I think everybody understands exactly where we are and what we need to get accomplished before this season is done,” he said. “I still believe our football team is going to be a good football team.”