ORCHARD PARK - If being dealt a humiliating 48-28 loss by the New York Jets on Opening Day wasn't bad enough for the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, losing running back Fred Jackson for a month or more and wide receiver David Nelson for the entire year was the rotten cherry on top of their melted sundae.
With expectations high heading into their game at the new Meadowlands, in New Jersey, the Bills looked nothing like the team everyone - players, coaches, fans the media and myself included - thought they were going to be. Losing Jackson and Nelson isn't going to help matters, neither will another dreadful performance by the Bills' defense.
With injuries however, comes the chance for new players to step up and fill in for the injured. If he were still alive, Wally Pip could tell you all about it.
One of those players looking to step up at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the Bills today will be rookie third-round wide receiver T.J. Graham, who will get plenty of looks lining up on the opposite side of Stevie Johnson as Donald Jones will move to the slot to take Nelson's spot in the lineup.
After being left off the Opening Day roster by head coach Chan Gailey last week, due to what Gailey felt was a lack of familiarity with the playbook and in general just not believing his rookie wideout was ready, the third-year head coach of the Bills had little choice but to put Graham in the lineup against the Kansas City Chiefs.
But with another week of practice behind him, Graham feels he is ready to contribute to the Bills' offense.
"I have to be," Graham said. "Coming into the first game last week I was unprepared, because I've never been in this position before. So this week, I feel like I'm a lot more prepared and it's going to be a lot more fun to get out there and play."
For someone who was not used to sitting out a game without being injured, Graham understood why Gailey left him off last week's roster and he understands the role he is expected to fill this week.
"It was explained to me as soon as I was drafted," Graham said of his role with the Bills' offense. "It was to run fast and stretch the defense."
What has helped Graham get into the lineup, besides the season-ending knee injury to Nelson, has been the work he has put in this past week and his teammates have taken notice.
"I think he's ready," Johnson said. "He's and even-keeled kind of a kid, so that's good, because he's not too excited about anything and when something goes wrong, he doesn't get down on himself, he just gets right back up and goes to the next play. And I like that about him."
Johnson has no doubt that Graham can contribute and help stretch the field for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"It helps out a lot," Johnson said of the threat of Graham's speed. "It helps me out, it helps our backs out, it's just something that the defense can't really ignore. You can't ignore speed, because once you do, we've got one over the top on you and that's six points. It adds a great element to our offense and hopefully we can display it this week."
Without having played too much with Graham, who saw more time with the second and third-teamers during the preseason, Fitzpatrick is still confident Graham has the ability to help the Bills have success this afternoon.
"He is a guy that we think highly of," Fitzpatrick said. "A lot of it is getting him out there and putting him in those game-like situations. As a young guy, you tend to go crazy sometimes just thinking about everything and getting caught up in the moment. Getting him out there, getting him comfortable and getting his feet wet a little bit I think he is going to do a good job. You saw the playmaking ability he has throughout the preseason with some nice catch and runs that he had."
Even though Graham is still green, Fitzpatrick noted that he would not treat him any differently because he's young, still getting a grasp of the playbook and what his role with the team will be.
"We have receivers out there who are expected to be in the right spots at the right time," Fitzpatrick said. "You do not shy away from throwing to them."