By Jay Skurski
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has not looked T.J. Graham's way much through the first three games of the season.
Graham has been targeted just nine times on Manuel's 108 pass attempts, just 8.3 percent of the time. When the quarterback has looked the second-year receiver's way, they've connected just twice -- for 13 yards. Those two completions are just 3.1 percent of Manuel's 64 completions.
Sunday against the Jets, Manuel targeted Graham a season-high five times, but on those plays, Graham caught just one pass for 5 yards.
"I was running by the guy all day. They tried to use the sideline to squeeze us, but if you can run by them, then you have the whole field in front of you," Graham said. "We're a very young team. I'm not trying to make excuses, but there's times when we're learning from that. Maybe next week. It's early in the season now. We've got plenty of games to make up for it."
On the four passes targeted for Graham on Sunday that fell incomplete, blame can be shared equally between quarterback and receiver.
• The first play came in the first quarter, with the Bills facing a third and 15 from their 39-yard line. Manuel drifted right to escape a collapsing pocket, and had Graham open along the right sideline after cornerback Antonio Cromartie approached the line of scrimmage to prevent against a Manuel run. Manuel's lob pass was caught by Graham, but he couldn't get both feet inbounds. A better pass -- and/or better awareness from the receiver -- likely results in a first down.
• On a second-and-7 play from the Jets' 25-yard line, Manuel threw low and behind Graham on a slant pattern at the Jets' 20. On the next play, the quarterback threw the ball so far out of bounds it hit an official. The pass was intended for Graham, who had no chance. The receiver was covered well by Jets cornerback Dee Milliner on the play, anyway.
• On a first-and-10 play from the Buffalo 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Manuel went deep down the left sideline for Graham, who had slight separation from Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson on the play. The throw was again hugging the sideline, and Graham couldn't get himself turned around in time to complete what would have been a tough catch -- but one that the Bills need him to make.
Graham was the intended recipient of two passes from Manuel on which Cromartie and Wilson were called for pass interference.
Graham said today the receivers needed to have more of an understanding of what was going on around Manuel.
"There's a lot of stuff coming at him, flying in his face. We have to understand that. We've run friendlier routes, we're there for him," he said. "It's kind of hard when 300-pound guys are running at you. I'll never come on the sideline, and say, 'come on man, what are you looking at?' because I don't know what's going on back there. Looking at it on tape, we'll figure out what's going on and adjust to it."
taggedEJ Manuel | T.J. Graham