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Doug Marrone imagines Corey Graham as possible Jairus Byrd replacement


ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Buffalo Bills signed Corey Graham for his versatility.

We didn't know how much versatility they saw.

Graham has been a Pro Bowl special-teams player, a respected slot cornerback and good enough to start at regular cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.

We were aware of all that.

This morning, Bills coach Doug Marrone revealed the Turner-Carroll grad is a possible replacement for Jairus Byrd at free safety.

"What's interesting about him is that he can play an outside corner and play it well," Marrone said at the annual NFL owners meetings. "We have two good corners coming back. He can play nickel and start at nickel, and that would be a good competition in there.

"He's also a physical player who had about 70 tackles and four [interceptions]. ... He may be in the mix back there at the safety spot."

Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin are the cornerback incumbents. Gilmore, coming off a season hampered by a broken wrist, is Buffalo's best. McKelvin had the most effective year of his career. Undrafted rookie Nickell Robey was a revelation in the slot.

Marrone said he didn't know if Graham ever has played safety, but the coach can imagine him in that role.

"There are a lot of things that we've been talking about with Corey and with ourselves as far as the defensive staff," Marrone said.

"We'll go out there in the OTAs, and it'll be the same thing. I like to -- and I always have -- move some guys around a little bit. That's the time where you do it. As you get closer to the season, you don't want to be doing that stuff."

Marrone noted the Bills will need two slot cornerbacks because dime defenses are becoming more necessary in today's pass-happy NFL.

"You need six guys that can cover man-to-man," Marrone said. "And then the other factor is injuries occur in this league. Very rarely are you going to get by.

"You saw what happened to us last year with Stephon being out for so many games. It's a physical game.

"You can never have enough good players, and Corey Graham is a heck of a player."

  • Buffalo Bill Nelson

    I called that switch to S the day they signed Corey. Safeties need to man cover more often now so CBs are being converted to S. plus, in Corey's case, you want a playmaker like him on the field for all 3 downs. They now have decent, perhaps even good, flexibility and depth at DL and the secondary. Still need more depth at LB. love what Marrone is doing...

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

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.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.