Buffalo Bills Players Climbing the Depth Chart This Offseason
Buffalo Bills organized team activities are in full swing, and they are providing a good early look at what kind of talent the Bills have.
From Doug Marrone's bucket hat to his eclectic practice playlist, the Bills head coach is putting his personality on display early and often during OTAs. Marrone even cancelled Wednesday's practice in favor of a team-building activity involving a trip to an airsoft gun course.
But it's not all fun and games at One Bills Drive. Plenty of players are working hard to try and make a positive impression on coaches, whether it be to grab a starting job or a spot on the roster.
With training camp just around the corner, let's take a look at a few Bills players making the most of OTAs. Here are five players that are moving up the depth chart as the offseason continues.
Corey Graham has been one of the most impressive players so far during Bills OTAs.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR said Graham has been a consistently solid performer during team workouts, and he had two interceptions during the team's sixth practice. Buscaglia said Graham had been making the most of his opportunity to get reps while Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore rehabbed their injuries.
Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com also detailed Graham's big day during the sixth OTA. Brown talked about how Graham has been getting reps at corner and nickel throughout OTAs, which is something Graham is comfortable with. Graham discussed his experience with Brown.
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.
If Graham continues to make the most of his practice reps and shows his versatility, his role on the team should increase. Graham is competing with Nickell Robey for the first-team nickel job, and it seems like Graham is the front-runner right now.
Preston Brown is another defensive player who is turning some heads during offseason workouts.
The third-round pick out of Louisville was expected to be just a depth selection, but his performance so far in OTAs has proved he can be more than that.
Brown picked off EJ Manuel during one practice, and Chris Brown over at BuffaloBills.com said Preston has "been showing up more and more with each passing week." Brown also appears to have impressed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who had Brown on the first-team nickel unit next to Kiko Alonso.
Brown has also been given some play-calling duties throughout OTAs. Chris Brown said Preston was working with the No. 1 defensive unit when Brandon Spikes was out.
With Brown showing a solid early grasp of the defense, he could end up with more playing time than originally expected. The third linebacker spot alongside Alonso and Spikes is anything but locked up, so look for Brown to challenge for playing time there as well.
For Chris Hogan, "moving up the depth chart" means "moving up to the end of the depth chart."
Hogan probably won't be more than Buffalo's fifth or sixth receiver, but he is showing early that he is a threat to beat out players like T.J. Graham for a roster spot.
Again reporting for BuffaloBills.com, Brown laid out how impressive Hogan has been throughout OTAs. Brown said Hogan has "made plays every day," and he played well as the primary slot receiver when Robert Woods was out.
Brown also said Hogan seems faster on the field and more comfortable with the offense.
The man they call "7-11" isn't going to vault to the top of the depth chart ahead of the stud receivers the Bills have. But if he continues to make plays throughout the offseason, he can absolutely snag one of the last roster spots at receiver.
Anthony Dixon may be toward the bottom of the depth chart now, but that could change as the offseason progresses.
To start with, Dixon gives the Bills a dimension they didn't have before. Per Bills writer Chris Brown, the Bills were 29th in the league in goal-to-go touchdown efficiency. So the Bills brought in the 6'1", 233-pound Dixon during free agency to help move the pile in short-yardage situations.
In addition, Dixon will provide some relief for Fred Jackson, who is ancient as far as NFL running backs are concerned, and C.J. Spiller, who is coming off an ankle injury. Keeping the top two backs fresher can help them to produce later in the season.
Finally, Dixon provides another option at fullback along with Frank Summers and Evan Rodriguez. Dixon told Brown he could play fullback, so if that is the case, the Bills could use Dixon there, which would open up a roster spot somewhere else. There would be little need to keep Summers or Rodriguez if Dixon can fill both roles.
If Dixon continues to show the ability to punch it in from up close, he will see the field much more often once real football rolls around.
After missing all of the 2013 season with an injury, Chris Hairston is back trying to make a move up the depth chart in 2014.
Based on early returns, Hairston could be well on his way. On a day when Chris Williams was out, Doug Marrone moved left tackle Cordy Glenn to left guard and inserted Hairston at left tackle, per Joe Buscaglia of WGR. Chris Brown also had a report that the two linemen switched and Hairston got some work at guard.
Brown also said Hairston got some time at right guard during practices. Showing the versatility to play multiple positions along the offensive line can only help Hairston's case.
It's basically a foregone conclusion that Glenn will be the left tackle. But Hairston is a former starter, and if he returns to form he could give another player a run for his money. Using Hairston across the offensive line also gives a glimpse at who could be up next should an injury occur. Hairston appears to be on his way up the depth chart in that respect.