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Graham takes long range look at safety


He's seen other accomplished NFL cornerbacks take this road before. In fact Corey Graham's favorite player has made a very successful position switch from cornerback to safety, and is still playing in the league. In this the first week of Bills OTA practices Graham is embracing the safety position in the hopes of making a transition that will allow him to lengthen his NFL career.

"Charles Woodson is my favorite player," said Graham of the 18-year veteran, who moved from cornerback to safety. "I've watched him my whole career. Obviously the move to safety now I have an opportunity to do some of the things he's done. When I was in Chicago he was in Green Bay so I watched him a lot. He played nickel, I played nickel. I studied his game a lot and focused on him, so it means a lot to me seeing what he was able to accomplish. I feel I'm a smart person so I should be able to pick it up."

There are other players who have made the transition a fruitful one including Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.  The Bills' plan for Graham is to have him focus solely on the safety position during the team's 10 OTA practices and likely mandatory minicamp as well in mid-June so he's capably prepared to line up there or at cornerback come training camp.

"We've worked him a lot at corner, we're confident he can jump right back in there," said Rex Ryan. "He's going to need a lot of reps at safety. That's where he's going to be getting the majority of his work. I'm not saying he won't go to corner, I'm sure he'll play some there. We really want him to focus on safety right now." 

Ryan also indicated that Graham could see time at nickel corner, but it's clear the focus is safety for now. Buffalo's head coach sees the exposure to safety now as a lead in to Graham's future with the club.

Graham, who will turn 30 just before training camp, is still a very effective cornerback and provided valuable play at the position to a defense that needed it last season when Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin each missed starts in 2014.

With the investment made in the draft in second-round pick Ronald Darby and the presence of Ron Brooks, Ross Cockrell and Nickell Robey on the roster the Bills have healthy depth at the cornerback position to allow for Graham's transition.

And that transition brings a lot of change to not only how Graham will view the opposing offense pre-snap, but his level of responsibility in the defense as well.

"It's totally different. It's nothing like corner," he said. "To me corner is totally different. You're in press (man) a lot of times. You're on an island. Safety you've got to take better angles. You're in the run fits a lot. You've got to help out and stay in the middle of the field. You've got to be disciplined. You've got to be smart and get everybody aligned. So it's a lot more thinking at safety, but corner is a lot harder to actually play."

If Graham takes to the position well he could quickly move to the top of the depth chart at a position that was thought to be up for grabs heading into training camp following the free agent departure of Da'Norris Searcy.

Duke Williams, who played almost half the snaps at strong safety last season, was widely seen as the odds on favorite to land the role, but Graham's insertion into the mix changes the competition considerably.

"You want to get your best 11 on the field," said Ryan. "This provides him an opportunity. He's got that unique ability where he can do both things.  So let's see what we have out there. This is no slam on Duke (Williams), or (Bacarri) Rambo, or (Jonathan) Meeks or any of those guys. This is us doing what's best for the team. If that means Corey, we feel good about him playing safety, that's where he will be."

For Graham the pressure to succeed at safety is far from overwhelming. He knows he will have a role on this team. The only question that exists for him is where that role will be.

"I figure no matter what I'm going to play regardless," said Graham. "Whether it's corner or safety I don't think too much about it. It could be a great opportunity. We've got guys who can play here. Duke, Rambo, Meeks all these guys can play ball. It really doesn't matter to me. I just want to learn the position and see where it takes me. See how great I can be at it. So I'm looking forward to it."

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