With Robert Woods limited at the start of the voluntary practices, Chris Hogan has been able to take advantage of the extra looks the coaches were giving him, mostly lining up in the slot position of Nathaniel Hackett's offense.
"Any rep I can get is going to help me," Hogan said. "I have to just take advantage of those reps that I get, keep doing what I'm doing, and carry this over to minicamp and training camp."
But even now that Woods has returned, Hogan's presence has still been noticeable. During the final day of OTAs he caught a perfectly thrown pass from EJ Manuel over his shoulder after getting behind the defense, one of the better plays of the entire day.
Hogan attributes his improvement to the work he put in during the offseason. Although he was unable to meet up with Manuel and some of the other skill position players in California or Florida, the work he did on his own was enough to make a difference in his eyes. Aside from cutting a few excess pounds, Hogan says the biggest difference he has made is improving his first step off the snap.
"I really worked on my lower body strength and come out here looking like I gained an extra step or two," Hogan said. "That first step is something that I really try to focus on when I'm training because that first step is so big in whatever I'm doing out here whether it's special teams or in the offense."
The work he did throughout the offseason has paid off on the field. He has proven to be stronger and more sure-handed. But perhaps the most impressive improvement has been in his route running technique. A slot player sometimes has even more responsibility from play to play than the split ends lining up on the outside, and more plays are dependent on him making the right adjustments on the fly.
"There's a lot more involved in being a slot receiver. You've got to be able to read the coverage because your routes can change depending on what coverage they give you. There's a little more thinking involved. Stuff where you have to pay attention to detail and know the little things of our offense," Hogan said.
Every year we see players who shine during the pad-less portion of the preseason, then fail to live up to those raised expectations once it gets into August and beyond for one reason or another. Hogan doesn't see the more physical play of minicamp and training camp being a problem for the impact he intends to have on the Bills offense.
"Once the pads come on, I'm not going to change anything really," Hogan said. "I kind of like to think of myself as a physical receiver anyway so once the pads come on I can add little things to my game. Instead of being out here trying to run around people, I can really use my size and strength to my advantage."
Hogan is already at somewhat of a disadvantage. The additions of Mike Williams, and Sammy Watkins have made it crowded at the top of the wide receiver depth chart. Hogan is looking to fill a role that no one else on the team brings to the table. He is also not one to shy away from the competition.
"All the guys are competing and fighting for a job and a spot on the team," Hogan said. "They've all got a chance. The competition is high but that's the way you want it out here going into these practices and going into camp, you want guys competing and trying to fight for a spot."