When the Buffalo Bills traded up in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft to take wide receiver T.J. Graham, they believed they had added a significant weapon to the receiving corps.
Graham's 4.41 40-yard dash time, 4.18 shuttle time, 34 inch vertical, and 9' 10" broad jump at the 2012 NFL Combine are evidence of an elite athlete who could thrive in an up-tempo offense.
With the arrival of new head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, up-tempo is the perfect descriptor for an offense that was already operating at an expeditious pace in voluntary veteran minicamp.
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An offense seemingly tailor-made for his skillset, paired with the departures of Donald Jones and David Nelson, should equal a golden opportunity for the second-year receiver.
"Oh yeah, I love it," Graham said of the new coaching staff and fast pace. "Not that I didn't love the old staff. I just happened to be fortunate to get a really good staff in here that can teach me and other receivers [to be better]. It's a really good system and I like it. It's wide open."
Graham, who was one of the standouts in the team's first voluntary minicamp last week, admits the multitude of changes within the organization makes 2013 almost feel like a second rookie season, but he believes the changes should be beneficial.
"I like it. It's something new and exciting," explained Graham. "When something is new you're always excited. When you get something new you're all about it, and I like it. It's a good new thing."
Graham even sees the quarterback competition as a positive, and does not believe the lack of a definitive starter will influence his ability to establish a rapport.
"I think it's a good thing to have competition, because you never know what can happen in a game," said Graham. "The competition will help us get good chemistry with all of the quarterbacks, so if something does happen we've got another guy to step right in and never skip a beat."
Graham has successfully channeled his excitement into results on the practice field, and fellow wide receiver Stevie Johnson has taken notice. When asked about the state of the receiving corps, Johnson specifically singled out Graham.
"I feel really good about T.J. Graham," said Johnson. "I have been watching him since he got here, but these past couple days he looks like a kid with something on his mind. Like as if he is trying to take over the team or take over this receiving corps. It is going to be fun competing with him and the rest of the guys in the room."
Graham explained his new mindset and described the inspiration Johnson provides.
"Last year I was just trying figure out where to park my car at," said Graham. "This year I know more about the game and what to expect. I'm only chasing [Stevie Johnson]. I tell him every day, 'I'm coming for you.' Whether I catch him or not, the better he gets the better we all get. We all can strive to be as good or better than he is or was, and he's getting better, and it makes the team better."
Graham will look to improve on a season where he had 31 receptions for 322 yards with one touchdown. With Johnson's endorsement, the new offensive style, and Graham's skillset, Bills fans should look for big things from the young receiver.