Storm clouds blanketed Ralph Wilson Stadium Saturday night, but Bills tight end Chris Gragg was a shining light. With Jim Dray nursing an ankle injury, Gragg was in the mix from the start. After the Bills' defense forced a three-and-out on the Colts' second possession, Indianapolis lined up to punt from their own 17-yard line. Taking advantage of a matchup on the Indy line, Gragg beat his man and swatted the kick with his right hand. While Gragg looked up hoping to find the ball in the air, his block was so clean it went bouncing into the end zone and was slapped out of the back of the end zone by Colts punter Pat McAfee for a safety.
"I remembered on the first punt I kind of got through, and we weren't running any (punt) rushes really, we were just running some returns and I told the guys, 'Maybe I should try to get this one,'" Gragg said. "So I ran a different move than I ran on the first punt and I got back there."
For a guy with 24 career receptions, Gragg could have easily been satisfied with one highlight moment. However, on the ensuing drive, E.J. Manuel connected with Gragg on a 19-yard pass into the corner of the end zone. Gragg showed nice speed off the line and the ability to get separation on the play.
"It was a simple concept that we've been practicing probably since the first day of training camp. I know when me and EJ (Manuel) are in there together that he always looks for me when I go deep on a corner route or on deep crosses. So he gave me that look before we got out of the huddle, so I ran my route fast and the DB kind of came up and once he was coming up I knew I had him," said Gragg.
Gragg finished the night with two receptions for 26 yards. Despite Saturday's performance, it will be an uphill climb for Gragg to see significant playing time with veteran Charles Clay in the picture. However, depth at any position is a hot commodity, and knowing how much offensive coordinator Greg Roman likes to make use of his tight ends there figures to be a role for the fourth-year player. Gragg knows his play Saturday only helped his cause.
"It feels good," he said. "It's the first time we got out there going against other guys in a different colored jersey. It kind of felt like last year when I was playing for Charles (Clay) when he was hurt. I felt like I played pretty good and stepped in when he was injured and I just want to keep making plays. I did something in the kicking game and I made some plays on offense. That was my role. I think I did it pretty well so I'm just going to keep on doing what they ask me to do."
While preseason results obviously have to be taken with a grain of salt, Gragg wouldn't be the first player to parlay exhibition play into a regular season role. At least for now, the only thing Gragg has earned for sure, is some ribbing from his teammates after he had trouble finding his blocked punt in the end zone.
"I'm already hearing it in the locker room," said Gragg. "They were telling me, 'You could've had two (touchdowns) today.' I'll try to get better at that."