Buffalo Bills Defense Ahead of Offense, WR T.J. Graham Steps Up in Training Camp

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJuly 30, 2012

May 29, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) during organized team activities at Ralph Wilson Field House. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

A lot of things have changed since the Bills ended the season 6-10, with new additions through the draft and free agency.

But one major aspect that has changed is their health. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Bills are almost back at full health after injuries ravaged their roster and sent them stumbling to the finish line. Only a few players are still being eased back into things: defensive tackle Torell Troup, center Eric Wood and cornerback Terrence McGee.

Troup could be fighting for a roster spot, so he needs to get back as soon as possible. The Bills offensive line, however, could be fighting for their lives once again without Wood.

By most accounts, including the account of head coach Chan Gailey, the defense is far ahead of the offense at this point in training camp.

"We have a lot of work to do on offense to be at (the defense's) level of play right now," Gailey told the media Saturday, according to BuffaloBills.com. "It is a little bit different than it has been and it is good for our football team. They have some good players (on defense)."

Early evidence from camp indicates the big investments made by the Bills on the defensive side of the ball are paying off.

One underrated name to watch on the defensive side of the ball is Kyle Moore. The defensive end enters his fourth year in the NFL, his second with the Bills, and Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 SportsRadio writes that he may be one to keep an eye on through training camp.

He displays some nice moves to get to the passer in 1-on-1 drills. At 6-foot-6 and 263-pounds, Moore has the prototypical size Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey are always looking for at the defensive end position. With [Bills defensive end Shawne] Merriman being such a big question mark, I would not put it past the Bills to keep Moore on the 53-man roster as a fifth defensive end.

I have written in the past that Merriman would be a key to the Bills' defensive success as a rotational pass-rusher. That may have been misphrased; the Bills simply need someone to step up as a rotational pass-rusher to alleviate some of the burden on defensive end Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.

But depth at defensive end is only one of the question marks on the Bills roster. One big question around the Bills' offseason was their lack of a No. 2 wide receiver, a guy who could stretch the field vertically.

By most accounts, though, several Bills wide receivers are taking it upon themselves to fill that void. One in particular, though, that should have Bills fans incredibly excited is T.J. Graham.

Bleacher Report Bills featured columnist Chris Trapasso says Graham was the MVP of practice on Sunday night.

Because he's a smaller and skinnier receiver, some believed he'd have trouble getting off the line. Not on Sunday. [Bills cornerback Stephon] Gilmore frequently played press man, and using some Johnson-esque jukes, Graham didn't have trouble handling bump-and-run coverage.  

Fitzpatrick found him on a few intermediate comeback routes, but his downfield prowess was the most notable aspect of the evening. He made a fine 30-yard leaping grab on a back shoulder thrown down the sideline with coverage draped all over him. ...The reports about Graham's acceleration aren't exaggerated. It's clear he has a track background. 

If Graham continues on this trajectory, the Bills may have their answer at wide receiver, but he's not the only one stepping his game up. 

Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com echoes Trapasso's sentiments on Graham and adds wide receiver Marcus Easley to the list of younger receivers that impressed him.

After pulling in a pass deep down the right sideline from Tyler Thigpen, who hit him in stride for a 35-yard gain, Easley also made a catch in double coverage from Fitzpatrick again on the far side of the field for a 20-yard pickup. His best reception of the night however, showed expert concentration. Cornerback Aaron Williams reached high to tip the pass intended for Easley high into the air. Easley had timed his jump to make the catch, so by the time the ball began falling after the tip Easley was falling to the ground, but he still made the catch drawing the biggest reaction from the crowd on the night.

It's not just the ability to provide a deep threat for the offense; it's the ability to win one-on-one matchups outside the numbers that the Bills need in their receiving corps. Both Graham and Easley have shown the ability to do both early on in training camp.

Let's not crown either the capstone piece to the offense just yet; it's only the first week of training camp, after all. But early indications are promising at wide receiver for a team that has high hopes for the first time in recent memory.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates.