The Buffalo Bills were bad at the defensive end position in 2008. Aaron Schobel was lost for most of the season with a foot injury, and reserves such as Chris Ellis (who saw very limited action) and the now-departed Copeland Bryan were not able to keep starters Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay fresh. With that in mind, Buffalo used its first-round selection in this past April's NFL Draft on Penn State end Aaron Maybin. With Schobel's return to health, the Bills would once again have depth at the position.
Through two games, that depth has been apparent - Bills ends are staying fresh into the fourth quarter, and though their production has not yet hit a point where they're revered league-wide (by any means), they are a far more active group than they were in 2008. That's a start - but clearly, it's not enough for a Bills defense that, based on the type of scheme they play, need as much pass rush from their front four as they can muster.
The "start" of the season is over. In case you hadn't heard, Drew Brees and his high-scoring New Orleans Saints are coming to town, and if the Bills are to pick up a win, they'll need to show at least a small degree of competency in slowing that offense down. These Bills defensive ends have a tall task ahead of them on Sunday, as Buffalo's No. 28-ranked defense tries to slow down a team putting up 46 points per game.
Bills ends through two games
Health and energy only get you so far in this league. Through two games, Buffalo's ends have picked up two sacks (one each to Schobel and Denney) and an interception return for a touchdown (from Schobel). The top four ends - Schobel, Kelsay, Denney and Maybin - have combined for 11 tackles in two games.
The low statistical output, particularly in the tackling department, isn't overly surprising - opposing teams have thrown over 100 passes in those two games, and while you'd like to see more sacks, certainly, the lack of tackles is hardly alarming. If you're picking a word to describe the ends collectively rushing the passer, however, it's "inconsistent." On the occasions when they're able to generate significant heat on the passer - and it's more often than most of us realize, by the way - the ball is generally out before the end has an opportunity to make an impact play.
Impact plays are needed from this defense. They have come in the team's first two games despite any flashes of dominance from these defensive ends. They'll be harder to come by with Brees on the field.
A quick glance at New Orleans
Over the past two seasons, Brees has been one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, he's thrown more interceptions (35) in those two seasons than he's been sacked (29 times). Thus far this season, he's thrown two interceptions and been sacked twice.
New Orleans is currently playing without stud left tackle Jammal Brown, who is nursing a hip injury. His backup, Jermon Bushrod, has performed admirably in his stead, however - just last week, he did a nice job against Eagles DE Trent Cole, although Cole did pick up his second sack of the season in the loss. Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb is as solid as they come. Getting to Brees is going to be difficult, most particularly because Brees is super-efficient reading defenses and getting rid of the football.
Sacks aren't likely on Sunday. But Bushrod isn't proven to the point where it's impossible for the Bills to, at a minimum, fluster Brees and force him to make a mistake or two. Considering Brees' strengths, a heavy dose of blitzing, such as we saw the Bills employ against Tampa Bay, is not likely. But we can't get away without getting some pressure on Brees. It'll be on this healthy, fresh defensive end group to pick up their game. Without steady play from this group, it could wind up being a totrurously long day in Orchard Park this Sunday.