Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. With Year 3 under head coach Chan Gailey and veteran player report day at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 24th and Sept. 9th.
One of the Bills main offseason priorities was to add a capable playmaking wide receiver to the roster. In an attempt to do so, they drafted T.J. Graham, a speedy receiver from North Carolina State, in the third round of the NFL draft. Whether it was his 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine or his playmaking potential, the Bills did not want to let Graham get away from them. That kind of speed is undeniable and should get him on the field, but will he be more than just a deep threat decoy during his rookie season?
Graham has gotten off to a slow start this offseason while he continues to adjust to the NFL game, but that is something that hasn't surprised head coach Chan Gailey.
"Everybody else has been here and knows the system. So he's been struggling to catch on because we're at an advanced stage and we're trying to catch him up," said Gailey. "He's got a load of talent. We've just got to get him caught up."
Transitioning from college to professional football is no easy task. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick understands why Graham struggled early on and believes that he has only improved ever since.
"It's tough for a rookie to come in here. Our offense you need to know all four (receiver) positions," said Fitzpatrick. "It's a lot more difficult than going somewhere and playing one position all the time. That being said he's made big time strides in the OTAs and we're throwing everything at him."
Fitzpatrick envisions Graham being a contributor to this offense once he adjusts to the initial learning curve.
"He's still learning it and he's still out there thinking and not just playing 100 percent of the time, but he definitely can add a different dimension to our offense," Fitzpatrick said. "It's going to be a matter of him getting up to speed and learning things and then making the plays when he needs to."
Bills number one wide receiver Stevie Johnson understands the potential that the young receiver has and is hoping to help in any way possible.
"As much as I can with little things like he's been thrown into the fire and all that, but he looks good to me," said Johnson. "One thing that I want to help him out with specifically is just off the line, things off the line. He has the burst. He can run routes. He's been catching the ball. It's just off the line that's where he can get better."
Heading into training camp, Graham feels a lot better mentally than he did at the beginning of rookie mini-camp and OTAs. He thinks he has learned from his early mental mistakes and can finally just concentrate on improving his game.
"I got past all that and I can kind of just go out there where it's natural now," said Graham. "Defenses are the focus now (adjusting to them). So I'm pretty advanced now. I feel like I've made pretty big strides since I started."
He will undoubtedly factor into the mix for the number two wide receiver position, but at this point in time he is just focusing on contributing in any way that he can. His goal is to impact the offense whenever he gets his chance.
"I think I'll fit into a spot. I have to figure out where that is," Graham said. "Right now I'm just competing with the guys around me. I don't know exactly what role I'll play or where I'll fit in, but I do know they need me to run fast and I can do that."
His playmaking potential stems directly from his great speed and athleticism. This offense utilizes a lot of four and five receiver sets that Graham should be able to fit into. While he is a raw route runner, his ability to pull away from defenders in the open field should translate to the next level and give him a legitimate opportunity to make an offensive impact in year one.