As per the Rumblers request, I shall look into the possibility of the strongside (SAM) linebacker position. CHIX made a statement in the 2011 draft by not bringing anyone new into the club. Chris Kelsay took most of the reps last year at OLB after playing at the 4-3 DE position. And while Kelsay did not play at a high caliber last season, he showed strong effort throughout. His supposed successor, Aaron Maybin meanwhile has not been able to get any playing time on the field for a myriad of reasons. Also in the mix are former three pro-bowler Shawne Merriman who is still on the mend from injuries and sixth rounders, Danny Batten and Arthur Moats. Rounding out the lists are undrafted personnel, Antonio Coleman and Jamie Kirlew.
The first player we will look at is the current pegged starter, Chris Kelsay [6-4, 261]. Kelsay has played all nine seasons of his career with the Bills after being drafted in the second round in 2003 from Nebraska. Statistically, Kelsay has never been truly impressive having recorded only 25.5 sacks in career and 385 tackles, but posted one of his better years at OLB in 2010 with 72 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Kelsay recently was re-signed to a four year multimillion dollar deal due to his efforts on the field and for his durability having missed only two games in his career.
Probably pegged in behind Kelsay right now at strongside is Danny Batten [6-3, 254]. Batten is a sixth round selection by the Bills in 2010 from South Dakota State. Having drafted a pair of inside linebackers this year, Batten’s move inside seems less likely. With a good build and 23 sacks in college, Batten still has a lot to prove after sitting out the 2010 season with an injury.
Behind Batten on the depth chart is undrafted 2010 player Antonio Coleman [6-1, 248] of Auburn. Coleman usurped Maybin on the depth chart last year posting 12 tackles in 8 games. At Auburn, Coleman did record 24 sacks at his time there, but will be fighting for a roster spot once the 2011 season resumes.
Also in competition is the pegged jack linebacker, Shawne Merriman [6-4, 265]. Merriman is a former 2005 first rounder (12th overall) from Maryland by the Chargers. Merriman had great initial success in first three years earning three pro bowl nods with 39.5 sacks (17 in one season), 188 tackles and 8 forced fumbles. Since then, injuries have limited Merriman to just 17 games in three years in which he posted 44 tackles and 4 sacks. If Merriman is able to regain any of his pre-injury flair, he will be a force to reckon with but that is a big question.
Behind Merriman at the Jack linebacker position is Arthur Moats [6-0, 246]. A small school sleeper from James Madison, the Bills picked Moats up in the sixth round of last year’s draft. In college Moats racked up 29 sacks. While he did not have a huge impact with the Bills until the end of the season, Moats recorded 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks and took out Brett Favre. Although he is a bit undersized for a 3-4 outside linebacker particularly on the strongside, Moats still is a solid producer defensively at the Jack slot and should make the roster in that capacity.
Holding a bottom position on the depth chart for a chance at the SAM linebacker position is Aaron Maybin [6-4, 250]. A 2009 sophomore first rounder by the Bills (11th overall) from Penn State, Maybin has yet to show his skills in the NFL and has many people pegging him as a bust. In two years of play, Maybin has only managed to record 24 tackles and has yet to get a sack. Maybin will need a huge preseason to justify a roster position let alone to start, but if he can finally find his stride, could be a big asset in the years to come and would be relegated to the Jack (weak) side until he can find his feet.
The last player on the list is Jamie Kirlew [6-3, 259] who served on the Bills practice squad last year having gone undrafted in 2010 from Indiana. Kirlew recorded 220 tackles, 9 forced fumbles and 23 sacks with the Hoosiers and like Maybin needs a big preseason for similar reasons.
Now all these players are not likely to start, particularly at the strongside linebacker position, but I wanted to make sure that all the names were out there (Reggie Torbor is more of an inside or Jack LB than Sam) for Bills fans to look at. With these bio blasts out there, I want you to vote for the player whom you think is most likely to start the 2011 season at the stronside (SAM) linebacker position. As always please feel free to voice your opinion for why a certain should start (or not). Go Bills!