Buffalo Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham is locked into a position battle for the starting gig opposite of Stevie Johnson, and he’ll have to compete with USC Trojans rookie Robert Woods and Brad Smith for the job. I don’t really view Smith as serious competition for either Graham or Woods, so it’s probably going to come down to a two-man race between a rookie and a second-year receiver. Graham caught 31 passes for 322 yards in 15 appearances last season, so the 23-year-old has experience on his side and has a slight edge on Woods for the starting job. My prediction is for the Bills to start Graham as the No. 2 receiver with Woods playing the slot.
Graham has been busy studying this offseason for this opportunity, and it looks like one AFC East receiver is learning from another. According to the Bills official site, Graham has been watching tape from former Pittsburgh Steelers and current Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, who is one of the game’s premier deep threats. The main thing Graham has been studying this offseason is route-running, and former New York Giants wideout and current Buffalo Bills wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard has been working closely with Graham to improve that important phase of the game. It’s been working, as the official site praises Graham’s spring workouts, and it sounds like watching Wallace has also helped.
“Just the transition, and the tenacity of his routes,” Graham said. “He runs them full speed, he’s got a lot of herky-jerky. He’s pressing vertical all the time. Last year, I don’t think I pressed vertical as well as I should have. I didn’t get that burst of speed coming out of breaks that I should have. This year, I feel like those are key points I need to improve on.”
The competition between Woods and Graham is going to be tight, but the N.C. State product will win the Bills No. 2 gig if he can perform as well in training camp as he did during OTAs and minicamp. Graham was one of the Bills best performers during OTAs, he’s bigger and faster, his route-running has now improved, and he fits the faster-paced offense that Doug Marrone is implementing. It sounds like T.J. Graham is a player to watch for closely this upcoming season, even as the rookies Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin garner plenty of attention.