The Buffalo Bills had planned to bring rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham along slowly, affording him time to hone his craft and adjust to the speed of the NFL from the sidelines. With slot receiver David Nelson set to miss the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL, Graham is now on the fast track to playing time, according to head coach Chan Gailey.
"We've got to get (Graham) going. We've got to get him on a faster track," Gailey told WGR 550 on Monday morning. "He wasn't quite ready; he's probably still not quite ready. But he's going to have to up his game, and we've got to help him."
Graham, the third-round pick for whom the Bills traded up this past April, was inactive in yesterday's 48-28 loss to the New York Jets. That was by design, according to Gailey.
"Kind of like (C.J. Spiller) two years ago - a lot of ability, but just not quite ready yet," Gailey said in response to a question regarding why Graham didn't play. "He doesn't understand the speed of our game and the way that the game is played here. He's got some things he's got to learn. If you have the ability not to have to play him right off the bat, then you let him learn. We don't have that choice now."
With Nelson sidelined until the 2013 season and Stevie Johnson not at 100 percent, the Bills will need Graham to assimilate to the pro game quickly if their passing attack is going to keep its head above water. Donald Jones will remain a starter, but he'll also become the primary slot receiver when the Bills spread things out, and there isn't an outside threat that was active yesterday to fill in. (Apologies to Brad Smith and Ruvell Martin, but it's the truth.)
With Nelson on the shelf, the Bills will also need to fill his roster spot, and they'll likely do so with a receiver that's familiar with the system. That might mean elevating either Marcus Easley or Kamar Aiken from the practice squad, or it might mean re-signing a player like Naaman Roosevelt. But Graham is the guy that's going to take reps with the offense with Nelson out, and that may not actually be a bad thing.