Coming into this season only one other wide out has more than the 31 career catches second year speedster TJ Graham posses and that’s elder statesmen Stevie Johnson. Though he may not be a grizzled veteran yet, Graham provides a sounding board of what mistakes can mean. Graham was blamed for running an incorrect route on the final play against the New England Patriots that resulted in a clinching interception for the Pats. Graham will be counted on in this offense to help stretch the field and provide speed on those short crossing routes to help open up plays for the aforementioned Johnson and rookie Robert Woods.
If Graham is unable to become that threat then defenses will be able to single cover Johnson and Woods and put in an extra man in the box to stop running backs CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson from making any sort of impact. If teams start to respect his hands and speed then more opportunities open up, especially as Woods’ learning curve decreases as the season wears on.
If Graham is able to establish himself as a threat either in short routes and his run after the catch ability, or by capitalizing on some longer throws, he can then get the offense on a good track to respectability and overall rankings. Stars will get their yardage with their touches no matter the secondary players are, but the best offenses are those that maximizes all their players’ talent within their respected roles.
In New Orleans you know of Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, but hear little about Marquise Colston or Lance Moore. Without secondary role players performing their tasks offenses become more watered down and defenses can key on those stars and neutralize them better.
Woods will help within the Bills offense, but as a rookie wide out he should not be counted to contribute a lot, though many hope otherwise. The consensus top wide out last year, Justin Blackmon, only had 250 yards receiving up to his ninth game before finishing the season with 865 receiving yards and five touchdowns. If the Bills get anywhere near that type of production from Woods the team, coaches and fans would be ecstatic, but the reality for Woods is more in the 400-600 yard range with a couple touchdowns. And that’s ok, as long as Graham can step into his role and hold his own.
Graham is not designed to get 100 receptions like some, but can be a dynamic play maker within a Pierre Garcon like role. That is to say he is someone who can step up to be a solid second option, but excels as a third choice and safety blanket for the quarterback. That production level constitutes 50-70 catches for 750-950 yards. If the offense, and namely Kevin Kolb or EJ Manuel, get this from him from Graham you can see the Bills averaging more than their 21 points per game, which ranked them in the lower third in the league last year.
The second year is typically the year that players step up, the learning curve is over. At this point Graham needs to be full speed ahead, or the Bills on offense will be two steps behind.