Bills: FA signing Graham pays early dividends
When the Buffalo Bills signed free agent cornerback Corey Graham. a 29-year-old Buffalo native, there were certain expectations; he would provide depth, play in the slot and contribute on special teams. Instead, Graham found himself starting as an outside corner in Week 1 and has barely moved from that role as he’s been on the field for 92.9% of the Bills defensive plays. Of Graham’s 144 snaps, just two have come in the slot (where Nickell Roby has featured on 71 snaps) and none at all on special teams.
The former Baltimore Raven joined a secondary which held two former first-round cornerbacks, Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore. McKelvin and Gilmore were established starters who had finished the 2013 season strong; with respective grades of +7.3 and +5.6 through the last six games.
A serious challenge for a starting spot wasn’t anticipated from Graham, a former fifth-round selection out of New Hampshire. However, injury forced Gilmore out of the Bills’ Week 1 match and Graham took full advantage, grabbing an interception on his way to a +3.3 coverage grade. Gilmore returned in Week 2, but Graham saw the majority of snaps, forcing McKelvin and Gilmore to rotate opposite him as both ease back to full fitness after offseason surgeries.
Through the opening two weeks, Graham has recorded one interception and five passes defensed. Despite being the Bills’ most-targeted corner, with 22 passes thrown into his coverage, Graham has allowed just eight receptions for 64 yards, and zero touchdowns. Graham has given up 0.66 Yards Per Coverage Snap, while opposing quarterbacks have an NFL QB Rating of just 25.9 while throwing into his coverage, second-best among qualifying cornerbacks. Bills head coach Doug Marrone has confirmed that the cornerback rotation will continue, and that’s unlikely to change so long as Graham continues to perform at such a high level.