It’s no coincidence that Corey Graham’s favorite NFL player is Charles Woodson, whose career has been the very definition of versatility because of his success as both a cornerback and a safety.
Graham, who played cornerback after joining the Bills as a free agent last year, sees himself following the same path now that he has been moved to safety.
“Obviously, I’ve been watching him my whole career, so with the move to safety, now I have the opportunity to do some of the things he’s done,” Graham said of Woodson Wednesday after the Bills’ second organized team activity (OTA) practice on the field next to the ADPRO Sports Training Center. “I was in Chicago when he was in Green Bay, so I watched him a lot. He played nickel, I played nickel. I focused on him, studied his game, so it means a lot to me, seeing what he was able to accomplish.
“I feel like I’m a smart person, so I should be able to pick it up.”
Entering his ninth season in the league, the soon-to-be-30-year-old Buffalo native is at a stage of his career when being a corner might not be as practical physically as playing inside.
That is part of the reason for the coaches’ decision to move Graham to safety, where he will spend the bulk of his time in OTA and mandatory minicamp practices through the rest of this month and next month to prepare him to play there during training camp and the preseason.
The other part, as coach Rex Ryan explained after Wednesday’s OTA session, is that the Bills want to be certain they have their “best 11 on the field” in searching for a replacement for Da’Norris Searcy, who left for Tennessee in free agency.
Three third-year players – Duke Williams, Bacarri Rambo and Jonathan Meeks – are also vying to fill that spot, but Graham’s experience could very well give him an edge.
Graham said that he and the Bills’ coaches had been discussing the possibility of his move the whole offseason and decided on Tuesday, when the team held the first of its nine OTA workouts, to give it a try.
“He’s got that unique ability where he can do both things,” Ryan said. “So let’s see what we have out there. And this is no slam on Duke or on Rambo or on Meeks or any of those guys, but this is us doing what’s best for the team. And if that means we feel good about” Graham “playing safety, then that’s where he’ll be.”
Graham is enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming a full-time safety.
“I want to try to really learn it and see where it goes, see how much my grasp is, see how I’m playing at it, see where it can take me,” he said. “I look forward to it. It’s a challenge for me, but I’m actually very excited about it.”
Although Graham will still reside in the Bills’ secondary, his role is “totally different” than it was as a cornerback, which he considers a more difficult position to play. No longer will he be spending most of his time in “press coverage,” lining up close to a receiver at the line of scrimmage, or operating “on an island” in man-to-man coverage.
“Safety, you’ve got to take better angles,” Graham explained. “You’re in run fits a lot. You’ve got to help out” in coverage. “You’ve got to stay in the middle of the field. You’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to get everybody aligned.
“It’s a lot more thinking, it’s a lot more studying, it’s a lot more preparing, a lot more anticipating. But you’ll make a lot more plays if you know what you’re doing.”