When the Buffalo Bills signed defensive end Shawne Merriman on Monday, most thought it was an insurance policy. Against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday the Bills went with just three defensive ends as Mario Williams, Chris Kelsay, and Kyle Moore were it at defensive end. Head coach Chan Gailey said otherwise on Wednesday.
Will Merriman be active on Sunday, coach?
"Probably, but do not make me 100-percent on that."
The Bills have kept veteran insurance at the linebacker position with Kirk Morrison being inactive for each game this season. Adding to that, Merriman hasn't played football in six weeks and has the sunburn to prove it. (He was relaxing on the beach after a workout in South Florida last weekend.)
"As long as he is in playing shape and everything goes well this week and he gets back into the flow of things, he is probably going to be right there on Sunday afternoon giving us some help," said Gailey citing Merriman's experience.
Merriman told fans on Twitter last week that he didn't think he was a defensive end, having played linebacker his whole career. It's not surprising that he backtracked from those comments a few days after being signed to play defensive end.
"You can put your hand in the dirt, you can stand up, and obviously if these guys if they didn’t think I could play defensive end then they wouldn’t have brought me back," Merriman told reporters on Wednesday. "I am happy to not only contribute, but kind of just pick up where I left off and do what they need me to do."
"I went through it just about the whole training camp and got very comfortable especially towards the end of training camp with the scheme and how things work. It became a little bit more natural for me."
With Mark Anderson out indefinitely, this move shores up the defensive end depth. Kyle Moore was activated for the first time against the Cardinals and played a solid game as the Bills have run three defensive ends in each contest. If Merriman is active on Sunday, it's still likely that Moore would be active and four ends would be involved in the rotation.
Despite playing with a hampered wrist for much of the season, Mario Williams has seen 355 snaps in six games. That's 50 more than the next closest Bills defender - Kyle Williams - and 16th in the NFL among defensive linemen. This move could be an attempt to lighten his workload and make him more effective though he had arguably his best game in Buffalo last week, notching two sacks.
Merriman hasn't played more than five games in a single year since 2009. If the Bills can get that much out of him and bridge the gap until Anderson's return, signing Merriman will make plenty of sense.