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Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 4

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Three times already in training camp, the Buffalo Bills have expressed dissatisfaction with their tight end depth.

Before the first air horn, they cut Mickey Shuler. The Bills added Nick Provo on Aug. 4. They waived Mike Caussin on Wednesday.

Rookie tight end Chris Gragg knows he's not supposed to pay attention, but it's difficult when a player at his position isn't there one day or a new guy shows up.

"It just shows you that this NFL is a business," Gragg said after Wednesday night's practice at St. John Fisher College. "You try not to really think about it. You hear about it in the media and Coach tells us the business of the day, everyday. You just try to focus on your job."

That can be difficult when your father is keeping such close tabs on roster spots and makes it a point to keep score.

"He texts me every time somebody gets released and tells me he's glad it wasn't me," said Gragg, the seventh-round draft choice who has agreed to share his rookie journey with BuffaloNews.com throughout training camp.

"I try to block it out, just focus on your job at hand," Gragg said. "Coach Marrone told us [Tuesday] in the team meeting, when you think about stuff like that and you're always worried, it can affect your play, and I just don't want anything to affect my play.

"I think if I put everything good on film, I think I have a good chance to be on the team."

Gragg's NFL career began well Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He started along with Dorin Dickerson in a two-tight formation and saw more snaps than any other Bills tight end. Gragg called it "a great experience."

He took 57 offensive snaps. Provo was next at 32 plays, followed by Lee Smith with 16 and Dickerson with 15.

Gragg caught two of the four passes thrown his way. His catches went for 6 and 8 yards. He had one drop.

"I would probably give myself a B," Gragg said. "I never try to give myself an A. I mean, it was my first game.

"I know I had a pretty good day blocking. I know that's one of the things my coaches want to see from me, could I block at the NFL level? I think I did that."

With only four preparation days between games, Gragg is eager for Friday night's exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. It'll be his first game in Ralph Wilson Stadium and a chance to square off against a high school and college teammate, Vikings receiver Jarius Wright.

The quick turnaround between games provides a healthy whirlwind for Gragg, who doesn't have enough downtime to dwell on NFL realities.

"You just look at the schedule and know the cut days are coming close," Gragg said. "That's the only thing. When the cut days get closer, it might be a little harder. Right now, I'm just getting prepared for Minnesota."

As focused as Gragg is supposed to be on the here and now, he admitted he's already looking beyond next Wednesday, the last day of training camp at St. John Fisher.

"It's been hard, especially my rookie year," Gragg said. "It's been a long year. From January, I've been living out of suitcases, getting ready for the combine, getting ready for rookie minicamp and things like that. ... I'm ready for it all to be over and get settled."

Eric Wood on EJ Manuel's TD drive: 'What we needed to do'

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are all sorts of ways to rationalize EJ Manuel's performance today in Lucas Oil Stadium.

He looked pedestrian early. But he was nervous in his NFL debut.

He looked sharp on his final drive. But he operated from behind his starting offensive line and faced the Indianapolis Colts' third-string defense.

He drove the Bills 92 yards for a go-ahead touchdown before halftime. But it's merely the preseason.

So I asked veteran Bills center Eric Wood: What should we make of Manuel's performance in a 44-20 victory over the Colts?

Continue reading "Eric Wood on EJ Manuel's TD drive: 'What we needed to do'" »

Rookies account for all points but 6 in Bills' record-setting exhibition

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills set a club preseason record Sunday with 44 points against the Indianapolis Colts.

Rookies played a part in all but six of those points. They scored on offense, defense and special teams. A rookie quarterback took each snap.

"Man, I told the guys before leaving the field, as a unit we did really well," third-round pick Marquise Goodwin said. "We got a lot of things that we can work on.

"The rookie players came in and we did what we were supposed to. We did our job ... and made the Buffalo Bills organization look good out there."

Goodwin, a third-round pick, scored on a spectacular 107-yard kickoff return. Undrafted quarterback Jeff Tuel threw touchdown passes to undrafted receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Brandon Kaufman. Undrafted cornerback Jumal Rolle returned an interception for a touchdown.

The only veteran to score a touchdown, tight end Dorin Dickerson, caught a 17-yard strike from first-round pick EJ Manuel.

Sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins kicked two field goals and two extra points.

Second-round pick Robert Woods didn't get into the end zone, but he was an important part of Manuel's touchdown drive at the end of the first half. Manuel connected with Woods three times, twice for first downs, on the series.

"We're very proud," Manuel said. "We're all really good friends. Obviously, this is just the first preseason game. We have a long way to go. But I think we're starting to get ourselves some confidence."

Rookie quarterbacks took every Bills snap because Kevin Kolb didn't play. Manuel was 16 of 21 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Tuel completed his first nine passes and was 19 of 23 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Neither threw an interception.

Second-round linebacker Kiko Alonso had three tackles and a pass defensed.

Points after: Bills 44, Colts 20

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' entertaining preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium ...

What it means: EJ Manuel's development as an NFL quarterback continued with a solid afternoon. He had his ups and downs, but finished his two quarters of work by giving the Bills a halftime lead. It was a solid, confidence-building afternoon. ... The Bills set a club preseason scoring record with help from defensive and special-teams touchdowns.

Bills star of the game: Undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel completed his first nine passes and 14 of his first 16. Tuel finished 19 of 23 for 212 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Play of the day: Quicksilver rookie Marquise Goodwin left a vapor trail when he returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 13 in the second quarter.

Cameo of the day: Bills running back C.J. Spiller had four carries for 36 yards. He left the game early in the first quarter.

Mario engulfs Luck: Mario Williams' foot must be OK. On one of his two series, the Bills pass-rusher breezed past hapless left tackle Anthony Costanzo and enveloped Andrew Luck for a 10-yard loss.

Stat line of the day: Manuel completed all nine of his throws for 68 yards and a touchdown in guiding the Bills on a 10-play, 92-yard drive inside the final two minutes of the first half. The Colts' defense was comprised of third-stringers at the time, but the drive had to feel good for the rookie.

Rookie gets first kicks: Veterans usually have honors, but rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins took the first half and Rian Lindell the second. Hopkins made field goals from 24 and 23 yards, but had one kickoff go out of bounds. Lindell made a 30-yard field goal.

Preliminary injury report: The Colts' training staff seemed to run out onto the field every few minutes, but the only stoppage for a Bills player was offensive lineman Thomas Welch in the fourth quarter. No update on Welch yet.

Coming up: The Bills will play the Minnesota Vikings at 7 p.m. Friday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Analyst takes contrarian view, bullish on Bills receiving corps

By Tim Graham

When examining depth on the Buffalo Bills' roster, many analysts find receiver to be shallow.

NFL.com recently rated the worst position groups and listed Buffalo at wide receiver. On the Press Coverage blog last week, we discussed how troubled Buffalo would be if Stevie Johnson were unavailable.

Behind Johnson, the talent is mediocre or unproven.

All that said, ESPN and Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson loves what the Bills are doing at receiver. He sees a collection of talent that can enter a game in various situations and give defenses problems.

Continue reading "Analyst takes contrarian view, bullish on Bills receiving corps" »

Bills snag Arkansas TE Chris Gragg in the seventh round

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills rounded out their draft -- unless they trade other assets to get back into the seventh round -- by selecting Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg in the seventh round.

Gragg projects as an H-back in the NFL. He entered college as a receiver and was switched as a sophomore. He left as a 6-foot-3, 244-pound go-to target for quarterback Tyler Wilson.

Gragg caught 72 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns in 43 games. He sat out the 2009 season as a medical redshirt because of a knee injury and was hampered by a leg injury last year.

Continue reading "Bills snag Arkansas TE Chris Gragg in the seventh round" »

Kyle Moore signs with Bears; Revolving Bills roster updated

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills lost another free agent.

Kyle Moore, a surprise performer last year on a disappointing defensive front, signed a one-year contract Monday with the Chicago Bears.

Moore, despite being inactive the first four games, started seven straight games in November and December. Moore made 24 tackles, three for losses. He notched the first three sacks of his career.

Analytics website ProFootballFocus.com rated Moore 25th in pass-rushing among all 4-3 defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps. The site tallied 23 quarterback hurries for Moore, tying him for 30th in the NFL.

Moore had arthroscopic knee surgery in January, but a source informed The Buffalo News the Bills wanted to re-sign him. But last month's acquisition of linebacker Manny Lawson might have made Moore expendable.

Moore was a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fourth-round draft choice in 2009 and eventually landed on the Detroit Lions' practice squad, from where the Bills plucked him in November 2011.

An update accounting of the comings and goings on Buffalo's roster in free agency:

Players who have re-signed

  • • Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson
  • • Running back Tashard Choice
  • • Tight end Dorin Dickerson
  • • Colin Brown
  • • Linebacker Bryan Scott
  • • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin

Players whose rights have been retained

  • • Tight end Mike Caussin
  • • Safety Jairus Byrd

Players who have joined

  • • Quarterback Kevin Kolb
  • • Defensive tackle Alan Branch
  • • Linebacker Manny Lawson

Players who have departed

  • • Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tennessee Titans)
  • • Wide receiver Donald Jones (New England Patriots)
  • • Wide receiver David Nelson (Cleveland Browns)
  • • Guard Andy Levitre (Tennessee Titans)
  • • Guard Chad Rinehart (San Diego Chargers)
  • • Defensive end Chris Kelsay (retired)
  • • Defensive end Shawne Merriman (retired)
  • • Defensive end Kyle Moore (Chicago Bears)
  • • Linebacker Nick Barnett
  • • Cornerback Terrence McGee
  • • Safety George Wilson (Tennessee Titans)

Comings and goings: Buffalo Bills offseason moves so far

By Tim Graham

And on the seventh day of free agency, the Press Coverage blog reviewed the Buffalo Bills' offseason personnel moves to date ...

Players who have re-signed

  • • Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson
  • • Linebacker Bryan Scott
  • • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin

Players whose rights were retained

  • • Tight end Mike Caussin
  • • Tight end Dorin Dickerson
  • • Safety Jairus Byrd

Players who have joined

  • • Linebacker Manny Lawson

Players who have departed

  • • Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tennessee Titans)
  • • Wide receiver Donald Jones (New England Patriots)
  • • Wide receiver David Nelson
  • • Guard Andy Levitre (Tennessee Titans)
  • • Guard Chad Rinehart (San Diego Chargers)
  • • Defensive end Chris Kelsay (retired)
  • • Defensive end Shawne Merriman (retired)
  • • Linebacker Nick Barnett
  • • Cornerback Terrence McGee
  • • Safety George Wilson (Tennessee Titans)

Bills extend exclusive-rights offer to TE Dorin Dickerson

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills have exercised their exclusive-rights qualifying offer to tight end Dorin Dickerson.

As a player with less than three accrued NFL seasons, Dickerson must accept the offer or not play in the NFL this year.

Given that:

In 11 games for the Bills last season, Dickerson had nine catches for 117 yards and one end-around run for minus-8 yards. He lost one fumble on his 10 touches.

The Houston Texans drafted Dickerson in the seventh round in 2010. He played seven games that season as a wide receiver. He spent the 2011 season on the Pittsburgh Steelers' and New England Patriots' practice squads.

Dwayne Bowe? Mike Wallace? Maybe Bills should go 'all in' at TE

By Tim Graham

Buddy Nix has been up front about the Buffalo Bills' offensive needs.

Nix has stated publicly his desire to draft a quarterback, acquire receivers and get help at tight end. In other words, the Bills need to overhaul their passing game for new coach Doug Marrone.

Options at quarterback are limited in free agency, and the college prospects will be dissected ad nauseum.

But the Bills can improve their targets with an assortment of moves through free agency and the draft.

Continue reading "Dwayne Bowe? Mike Wallace? Maybe Bills should go 'all in' at TE" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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