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Bills' ends are getting on well without Maybin

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Disclaimer: Many of you will read this piece and believe that I have reached some sort of happy place in my mind in which I've come to believe the delusion that the Buffalo Bills' defense will improve without holdout DE Aaron Maybin.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Put that notion out of your mind.  We need the rookie.  Rather than beat the Maybin holdout story to a pulp, however, let's talk about the ends that are currently with the team - and, in case you haven't noticed, been playing pretty well.

Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney - all ends that have been with the team since 2003 or earlier - have been the focus of a lot of consternation from the fan base, and not without reason.  Buffalo's pass rush has been terrible in recent seasons.  You don't need me to tell you that.  But with some help from a couple of talented youngsters in Chris Ellis and Copeland Bryan, Buffalo's defensive ends have played rather well through two pre-season games.  It's certainly not enough to make anyone forget about Maybin - clearly, that hasn't come close to happening - but the ends currently under contract in Buffalo deserve some (very) early praise from us.  Yes, even you, Kurupt.

Chris Ellis is the big story
We heard early on in camp that Ellis, the second-year player out of Virginia Tech, might have a tough go of it making the roster, particularly when Maybin signs.  As that signing has yet to happen, Ellis has benefitted.  He's also benefitted in that he's taken almost exclusively second-team reps throughout training camp with Copeland Bryan injured as well.  Two pre-season games in, Ellis has been so productive on the field that he's now virtually untouchable, even factoring in an eventual Maybin signing.

No end has come close to matching Ellis' nine tackles, sack and fumble recovery through two pre-season games.  He has been Buffalo's most productive player at the position by leaps and bounds.  The sack and fumble recovery came on back-to-back plays in the Bills' victory over the Chicago Bears this past Saturday.  Ellis' play has been full of hustle and a surprising knack to get in on plays; if he keeps this up, he might be poised to make a much-needed impact for a defense that could use it from this particular position.

Veterans steady
The much-maligned trio of Schobel, Kelsay and Denney have combined for three tackles through two games; then again, Schobel and Kelsay have only played four drives each.  Kelsay, on a counter-move, was responsible for a hurry that led to an early Jay Cutler throw that was intercepted by CB Leodis McKelvin.  Though he is the only end other than Maybin to not record a single statistic this pre-season, Kelsay's play looks improved.

Schobel is still Schobel.  He's playing fast and strong this pre-season, and he'll turn it up a notch or two when the games count.  Denney hasn't spent a lot of time in backfields to this point after leading the team in sacks with four last season, but he has been very stout against the run - and in case you hadn't noticed, Buffalo's run defense has been outstanding through two games.

Even Bryan, who missed plenty of practice time with a hamstring injury, quickly re-asserted himself into the race with a sack and forced fumble against Chicago.  He was borderline unblockable on Saturday; Ellis has turned some heads, but Bryan's play - though there hasn't been as much of it - has been almost as impressive.

Still need Maybin
Again, I caution you not to read anything into this beyond the fact that Buffalo's ends are playing well right now.  I'm not in the same galaxy as "Hey, we might be OK without Maybin!" Right now, with Maybin still playing the waiting game, the Bills have five players that can legitimately contribute in spurts on game days.  There's something to say for having numbers at this most critical of positions.  Maybin will add an element of explosion once he gets here.  When that happens, the Bills will be six-deep, with players that can do a little bit of everything.  Right now, the situation is good, however - these five ends are performing.