Ever since the start of Buffalo Bills training camp, there's been legitimate buzz that the crux of the team's pass rush, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, looked like he was back to his Pro Bowl-worthy ways. That buzz reached a fever pitch during last night's pre-season opener against the Chicago Bears, in which Merriman recorded two sacks and generally did whatever he wanted to do against Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb.
Obviously, watching Merriman play as well as he did was nothing but good news. However, before we get carried away about him, we need to remember that he was playing the Bears.
If you recall, earlier this off-season we did a Bills re-watch of most of the team's games from last season. In a Week 9 loss to the Bears in Toronto, Buffalo's beleaguered run defense and pass rush had field days against Webb and a horrific Bears offensive line. Chris Kelsay ran by Webb like the latter was a tackling dummy all day. The Bears ran for 105 yards (a remarkably low total by last year's standards), and though Jay Cutler was sacked just once, he was forced to scramble five times for 39 yards.
Yes, it's great to see the Bills rack up nine sacks in a game any time, against any opponent, pre-season or not. But let's not get carried away. Until Merriman can be productive against NFL-caliber left tackles, there's still plenty of room for skepticism.