He hasn't been in a Bills uniform very long, but free agent signee Corey Graham is certainly making his presence felt in Buffalo's secondary. The veteran corner has been around the ball an awful lot through the first two weeks of OTAs and on Thursday he closed out the final practice of the week with a bang.
Graham logged a pair of interceptions during the second team segment of practice. The first came on an under thrown pass by EJ Manuel as he tried to hit Marquise Goodwin on a streak down the right sideline. Goodwin tried to come back to the ball, but Graham had position on him in a trail technique and jumped to take the ball for an INT.
About 10 plays later Graham got his second interception when a Manuel pass for Sammy Watkins glanced off of the receiver's hands. Graham immediately tracked the ball and pulled it in for his second takeaway and headed in the other direction with the ball.
"I feel things are going well. I understand the defense. It's coming better and better every day," he said. "I'm getting acclimated with being back out on the field and realizing where my teammates are going to be and just getting camaraderie with the guys and just playing with the guys."
Graham has seen a lot of snaps with the first unit with Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore still limited coming off of offseason surgeries. He's also played in the slot in nickel packages as he's expected to compete with Nickell Robey for that role. Going back and forth is a lot to manage, but the veteran cover man is capably handling it.
"It's a lot. When you can be at corner one play and nickel the next it's totally different schemes and positions and responsibilities," Graham told Buffalobills.com. "But I've been doing it for a while. I've played both positions for a while. It's nothing new to me. I actually enjoy moving around rather than being in one spot. So there's nothing wrong with it. It's something I've been doing and something I'm used to and I'm just rolling with it as it goes."
Hairston moves up, Glenn moves inside
With Chris Williams missing a second straight day of practice the offensive staff again had to do some juggling with the starting unit on the left side. On Wednesday they moved Mark Asper up from his third string center spot to starting left guard. On Thursday, Chris Hairston, who had been playing second team left tackle, was moved up to starting left tackle and Cordy Glenn was moved inside to guard for the first couple of series in team work.
Later in practice the pair flip-flopped with Glenn back out at tackle and Hairston playing guard for the first time in his entire football career.
"It was cool. It was a little awkward," Hairston told Buffalobills.com. "I've never played guard before and that was probably my first snaps playing guard I think ever so it was a little different. The game happens a little faster in there and you've got a lot more reads. You've got to get your eyes in different places, but as long as that's what they're asking me to do that's what I've got to do."
Glenn, who played at left guard last summer in a couple of training camp practices, didn't sweat the position switch either.
"It's new and it's an adjustment, but I just try to do my best," said Glenn. "Just go out there and just do what I've been able to do when I've been at guard in previous situations."
Hairston, who was the team's swing tackle in 2012, is used to going in to spell Glenn, and did so two seasons ago starting three games at left tackle and then another four on the right side. Playing next to Glenn was a bit different.
"No matter where I'm at I still have to get back into a situation where I can help this team," said Hairston. "As long as I was out just getting back to playing football and playing against a high level of competition sort of helps that process along."
The pair held their own in pass protection Thursday, but Hairston after an eight month layoff due to a non-football illness and a back injury admits he's still quite rusty.
Thursday's practice marked the first time the Bills offense ran the two-minute drill and the execution did not live up expectations. Starting at their own 30 on the first series EJ Manuel completed his first two passes, but they did not add up to a first down to move the chains.
On third down Corey Graham broke up a pass intended for Chris Hogan inside, which led to fourth down. Manuel had an open target in Hogan along the left sideline for first down yardage, but Hogan lost his footing and fell down just before the ball arrived. The pass went incomplete and the defense sent the offense off the field four-and-out as they did not get into field goal range.
Not happy with the outcome, head coach Doug Marrone kept the first team offense on the field for the second series. With 1:42 left Robert Woods caught a pass that was tipped at the line for a short gain. He then pulled in a pass from Manuel on a crossing route that went for first down yardage.
Following an overthrow on a deep pass to Marquise Goodwin, Manuel hit Anthony Dixon out of the backfield to set up a 3rd-and-3 situation at the defense's 45-yard line. Manuel's pass was batted at the line, but Manuel ran up and caught the ball on the way down and carried it for a first down.
However, Manuel was ruled to have only gained a yard before being tapped for a tackle. It brought up 4th-and-2 at the 44. Unfortunately Manuel who rolled out on the play couldn't find anyone downfield and ended up trying to run for a first down to the right. He didn't get it to move the chains, but Buffalo still set up for a "game-winning" field goal.
Dan Carpenter came on to put a 46-yard field goal through from the right hash mark.
Thad Lewis got the day off at quarterback Thursday, which thrust Jeff Tuel into the backup quarterback spot at practice. Tuel's best play was a deep ball down the left sideline to Caleb Holley, who adjusted well to the ball to make the catch for a 35-yard gain.
With Chris Hairston moving up to first team left tackle rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson manned Hairston's left tackle spot with the second unit.
Mark Asper lined up as second team center with Doug Legursky not in attendance Thursday. Antoine McClain has spent the past couple of practices at right guard after previously playing at right tackle with the third unit.
Preston Brown has been rotated in now and then with the first unit base defense when Brandon Spikes has been held out of team work. On Thursday Brown got first team nickel reps and was calling the pre-snap checks. With experience at 'mike' linebacker from his college days at Louisville he's made a relatively smooth transition.
"It's been going good. Just learning the calls and speaking the lingo," Brown told Buffalobills.com. "That's the biggest thing, just understanding the language that you've got to talk for the Bills. It's a lot different from Louisville, but now I'm getting the hang of it and starting to fly around out there."
Brown admits the pre-snap checks are more frequent in the nickel package than in base defense.
"Yes there are because there are different formations and bunch sets," he said. "So you have to make different checks based on what they come out so it's a lot more checks for the pass than it is the run, but it's all the same to me for the most part."
The Bills begin their third and final week of voluntary OTAs on Monday with practice scheduled to begin at 10:30.