June 19, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Derek Hagan (80) looks for a during the Bills minicamp at the Ralph Wilson Stadium practice field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
A few days ago, Brian Galliford handicapped the wide receiver race, placing Derek Hagan a precarious sixth on the depth chart. Considering the idea that the Buffalo Bills might keep just five wide receivers heading into the season, that possibility would put Hagan firmly on the roster bubble.
Hagan responded in practice yesterday with highlight-reel plays in an attempt to secure his spot, and the Bills' head coach has noticed.
"He is taking advantage of his opportunity," said Chan Gailey. "Derek Hagan is working his rear end off out there. It is a great thing to see. He wants to make this football team and wants to be a big part of our offense. He has done a good job. He made some big plays out there today. He is making a real bid to be in there a lot."
This is big praise coming from Gailey. It should also put players like Marcus Easley and several other young weapons on notice. With the top four spots likely locked up already, Easley and the others will either have to out-perform Hagan coming down the stretch, or play well enough to justify the Bills keeping six receivers on top of slash player and third quarterback Brad Smith.
Hagan beat Buffalo for five catches for 61 yards in Week 2 of 2011; after later being cut by the Oakland Raiders, he joined the Bills later in the season, catching 15 passes, including seven in the season finale.
"I do not know anything about previous, all I know is the last half of last year he did some good things," said Gailey about Hagan bouncing between teams. "This year he has come in and worked hard. I do not worry about what a guy has done before he got here. What he does when he gets here is what is important to me."
Hagan knows his chemistry with Ryan Fitzpatrick could ultimately determine if he stays or goes. He likes that his hard work is starting to pay some dividends.
"It is feeling really good," said Hagan after practice on Thursday. "We have been working hard, just dating back to last year. Coming in to OTAs, the summertime and all that stuff - just putting in that work... It all starts in training camp and we will go from there."
When asked specifically about Gailey's comments, Hagan didn't gush. He plans to keep up the effort for a roster spot.
"[Working hard] is where it all starts. It all starts at practice," said Hagan. "Just trying to come out one day at a time and not worry about the next day. Obviously today is Thursday and with today’s practice pretty much over with, I will go in and take a look at film. Come back tomorrow. It is another day and time to get better."