State of the Bills Roster: Middle Linebackers


Where will Posluszny play in '09? (buffalobills.com)

The "State of the Bills Roster" series trucks on! If you're new around these parts within the past nine months or so, this series is an off-season progression of posts in which we'll break down Buffalo's roster in-depth. From these discussions, we'll put together a "Community Needs List" in priority order, then begin researching potential free agent and draft acquisitions that will satisfy all of the Bills' needs as we perceive them.

We continue our foray into heavy-duty off-season work at Buffalo Rumblings right now. It's our "State of the Roster" series, off-season mode, and we'll continue the discussions by breaking down the Bills' situation at inside linebacker.
   Previous installments: QB :: RB :: TE :: WR :: OT :: G/C :: DE :: DT
  New: Prioritized Offensive Needs List

 

Opening statement
If there was one area on the Bills' team that was more negatively effected by Buffalo's well-publicized lack of a pass rush last season, their linebacking corps was it. In zone coverage, linebackers are the weakest links, and these players can only be playmakers when they don't have to move around in a zone waiting to be burned by receivers and tight ends. That happened far too often in 2008. The jury is still out on whether Buffalo's linebacking corps can make big plays routinely; regardless of that fact, change seems likely at this position. We'll start inside.

#51 Paul Posluszny (starter)
  6'1", 238 pounds
  Age: 25 in October 2009
  Contract status: 2 years remaining (UFA after 2010); owed $1.265M in base salaries.
- There is a growing contingent of Bills fans who believe that Posluszny would be better off playing on the outside, a position he excelled at while in college at Penn State. There are whispers that Buffalo's coaching staff might agree with that, although in all honesty, it was difficult to complain about Posluszny's performance in 2008. Unsurprisingly the team leader in tackles, Poz was better than advertised in pass coverage, but like the rest of his fellow linebackers, lacked finish to his game. Could Poz perform better on the outside? We won't know unless it's tried, but for the time being, Poz remains this team's starting inside linebacker - and that's not the worst proposition I've ever heard by a long shot.

#52 John DiGiorgio
  6'2", 229 pounds
  Age: 26 in June 2009
  Contract status: Restricted Free Agent.
- As a former undrafted free agent, DiGiorgio has vastly exceeded expectations simply by contributing something at some point in the early portions of his career. He proved adequate as a reserve in 2007 when he lined up at two linebacker positions, and he's a favorite of special teams coordinator Bobby April. The chances that DiGiorgio gets a tender offer to come back as a reserve linebacker and special teams player for the Bills in 2009 are very good, but make no mistake: DiGiorgio is a reserve through and through.

#58 Teddy Lehman
  6'1", 238 pounds
  Age: 28 in November 2009
  Contract status: Undisclosed.
- Lehman was signed during the '08 season as a street free agent while the Bills were going through linebackers like underpants (Buffalo eventually had four linebackers on injured reserve). He likely got a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, and the chances that he's retained as a serious part of the team's future plans are minimal.

The Breakdown
Keepers: Posluszny, DiGiorgio. Regardless of where Posluszny lines up in '09, he's a good young player that has the ability to get a lot better as he gains more experience. DiGiorgio should be back because of his versatility and good favor with April.

Extendables: None.

Expendables: Lehman. Linebackers like him are a dime a dozen.

Questionables: None.

What we need: It might be just me, but I'm pretty content with Posluszny playing on the inside. He plays with good leverage, hits lanes hard, and while he finds himself out of position from time to time, he'll iron those issues out with more experience. But if the Bills want to maximize a player's potential (for once), they'd be better off moving Posluszny to the strong side, where his lane-clogging ability will be emphasized further and his coverage skills not so readily exposed. We'll see if that happens. If it does, the Bills should target an inside linebacker with a bit more size to shed, clog and explode through the line. If Poz stays inside - which I'm believing a little less every day - then the Bills will likely focus their attentions on the outside spots.

That's it. I'm done with the easy stuff. Now it's on you, folks. Make sure to vote in the poll on whether or not you think Poz should play inside or outside next season - it'll help us determine whether or not MLB is an actual need next season. Also, if you're Buffalo, is getting DiGiorgio back in town a priority? Have fun with this, and let's get brainstorming.
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