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The Great Defensive End Debate

Kelsay: part of the depth, or part of the problem? (

This has been a topic highly and heatedly debated this off-season. We've seen post after post (recent example) and comment after comment regarding the issue. That question is, of course, this: should the Buffalo Bills draft a defensive end in the first round of the 2008 Draft?

If you think conversation has been heated over the past couple of days, this should bring that simmer to a boil. There are a few sides to this debate; we'll cover each of those, I'll state my opinion on how defensive end should be addressed, and then y'all will have a chance to rip each other to shreds. We've had a lot of new users register at the site over the past couple of weeks, and I'd like to applaud all of the newbies for (in general) keeping things civil and non-personal during discussions. (I have, however, had to delete a few comments here and there - just keep the profanity in check and the personal insults out, and you'll be fine.) We strive to keep this community as courteous, passionate, fun and intelligent as possible; I'm sure everyone will fit right in.

So get your game faces on, and let's talk defensive ends.

The "Our Pass Rush Stinks" Camp
We all know who headlines this camp (hello, sireric and Kurupt). The Bills suffered a dramatic reduction in sack numbers, sliding from 40 in 2006 to 26 in 2007. The lack of a consistent pass rush forced the Bills into experimenting with exotic blitz packages to generate some pressure, and it often times left our back seven exposed on pass downs. To boot, Buffalo's top three ends - Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney - are all at or nearing the age of 30.

This camp drools over the potential of rookies such as Ohio State's Vernon Gholston and Florida's Derrick Harvey. If one of those two players (likely Harvey) is available when the Bills choose at pick 11, that player might represent the best value in terms of potential and impact. A rookie pass-rusher, according to this camp, would solidify an already deepened defensive line, increasing the effectiveness of the unit as a whole.

The "We're Already Going to be Better" Camp
This group believes that the additions of tackles Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson and even linebacker Kawika Mitchell will help boost our pass rush. Having tackles that can collapse the pocket makes the job of the defensive ends easier, and having a tougher front seven on run downs means that the ends will be a bit fresher for pass downs.

On top of that, both Kelsay and Denney are coming back 100% in 2008 from nagging injuries that severely hampered their effectiveness last season. Neither are elite pass rushers, but playing opposite Schobel, they get plenty of opportunity to get upfield on pass downs. Add in tough a tough linebacking corps of Mitchell, Angelo Crowell and Paul Posluszny - all of whom can get after the quarterback themselves - and the Bills have enough personnel to keep offenses guessing next season, and can use their top pick to address a different need.

The "We're So Very Close" Camp
Call me a reformist, but I'm about to start my very own party in this debate. It's called the "We're So Very Close" party, and it's essentially a happy medium between the two groups. (I'm a "happy medium" type of guy, if you're new to the site and haven't had a chance to read a bunch of my stuff yet.) I believe that the Bills are going to be better in the front seven of their defense, and just having a threat like Marcus Stroud - whether it's the Stroud of old or not - will help free things up for the Schobels of the world. I'm not content with leaving the position alone, however; the group has had injury problems, and depth behind the top three ends is alarmingly insufficient. We need a developmental player who can play on pass downs right away.

The Bills shouldn't, and very likely won't, draft an end in the first round. They have too many other holes and depth issues that they must attempt to fill first, most predominantly at receiver and cornerback. That doesn't mean the team can't address the position early, however - I believe the team could target a defensive end as early as the second round. A developmental player such as Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones (who has a ton of potential) could contribute in spot duty and on special teams early while he refines his technique. Eventually, he could become a dominant player; that's the ideal route for the Bills to take at this position, in my opinion.

So - what camp are you in?