clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

State Of The Buffalo Bills Roster: Pass Rushers

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Shawne Merriman #56 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a sack against the Chicago Bears during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Shawne Merriman #56 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a sack against the Chicago Bears during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Buffalo Rumblings is in the process of breaking down the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position. Installments you may have missed: QB, RB, WR, TE, OT, G/C, LB, CB, S, ST.

During the 2011 regular season, 14 teams - that's nearly half of the NFL, dear friends - recorded 40 or more sacks as a team. The Buffalo Bills have not accomplished that feat since 2004 - their most recent near-miss at a playoff berth.

Also during the 2011 regular season, two teams - the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots - had two players each record double-digit sack totals. (Three teams did it in 2010: the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.) The Bills have not accomplished that feat since 1995, when the trio of Bryce Paup, Bruce Smith and Phil Hansen all had 10 or more sacks.

It has been a very long time, indeed, since the Bills have competently rushed the passer - let alone struck fear into its opponents from that particular on-field angle. With even a meager sense of stability at football's other important positions (quarterback and the offensive line), it's time that the Bills recognize that finding pass-rushers should be their top organizational goal.

27 (28 in May 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. There are so many differing reports on what he'll make in his final year that it's ridiculous, but it's obviously considerable.

The once-feared Merriman had a disappointing 2011 season, recording just one sack (in which he forced a scrambling quarterback out of bounds, no less) before landing on IR with a flared-up Achilles injury. He is purportedly healthy (again), and will be back (again) to try to revive his career (again) and pump some life into the Bills' sorry pass rush (again). Assuming he's healthy, he'll likely be on the field - for better or worse - because the team simply doesn't have better options. A true stand-up, pass-rushing outside linebacker, Merriman is a one-trick pony at this point in his career, and may be best-suited for a situational role so that he can stay healthy.

32 (33 in October 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015.

Inflated by an out-of-nowhere three-sack performance in a meaningless late-season game against Denver, Kelsay recorded five sacks in a season for the second time in three years. He did that only once in his first six professional seasons. Though he appears to be "getting better," it's only negligibly, and Kelsay has never been even an average pass rusher. He hustles and he's smart, and those are valuable things, but at some point, he needs to be replaced.

25 (26 in October 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Will reportedly make $615K in base salary in 2012.

A mid-season acquisition after injuries forced the Bills to go get players, Moore appeared in the team's final four games of the season as a situational pass rusher. Ideally, Moore would play defensive end, as he's not athletic enough to stand up and rush from an outside linebacker position. He could also theoretically play some three-technique in passing situations, but given their current defensive line personnel, it's unlikely he'd be asked to do that in Buffalo.

23 (24 in March 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Will make $1.065M in base salary over the final two years of his rookie deal.

We very nearly included Moats in yesterday's evaluation of the linebackers, because in his first two professional seasons, Moats has only been asked to rush the passer after the Bills reached desperation mode. After flashing some potential in this area as a rookie, Moats was more easily handled in his second season, struggling to generate much pressure at all. We won't be shocked this time around when Moats is playing a more traditional linebacker role at the start of training camp.

24 (25 in December 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Will make $1.065M in base salary over the final two years of his rookie deal.

In what was essentially his rookie season (he landed on IR with a shoulder injury in his actual rookie season), Batten was thrust into a much larger role than he was prepared for early in the season when Merriman went down. Unsurprisingly, Batten was ineffective as a pass rusher (or a run defender, for that matter) whether standing or with a hand in the dirt, and the Bills eventually phased Batten back out of the defense. He is an excellent special teams player and still has some pass-rushing upside, but he does not appear to be an answer to the team's pass-rushing woes.

23 (24 in October 2012)
Contract: Under contract for 2012 after signing a reserve/future deal on January 3.

Eddins actually made the team outright in September as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Ball State, doing so on the heels of impressive training camp and pre-season performances. He quickly landed on IR, reached an injury settlement, and eventually landed back on Buffalo's practice squad to end the season. Buffalo gave him a reserve/future contract, and he'll have another opportunity to make the team next summer.

POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: Bleak. Obviously. Kelsay has never been a cornerstone player, and 2011 all but confirmed that Merriman - even when healthy - is a shell of his former self as a pass rusher. Moore, Moats, Batten and Eddins are all project-type pass rushers that got more intense looks from the team than they should have because of how poor this position is. The saddest reality here, however, is that all of these guys have an extremely legitimate chance at making the team next year. That's the bleakest statement one could make about Buffalo's pass rushing situation.

FREE AGENCY: Bills fans are dreaming big about the team potentially chasing big-name free agent pass rushers (namely Mario Williams), but those fans seem to be forgetting two rules: the Bills don't want to spend huge money unless they have to, and pass rushers - if they even make it to the open market - don't last long and get gobs of cash. It would be heartening to some, we're sure, to see the team court those big names, but counting on them actually landing a big fish is another matter entirely.

2012 NFL DRAFT: Study every incoming pass rushing prospect hard, Bills fans. Clearly, it's the team's top need - GM Buddy Nix even acknowledged it, unafraid of admitting the obvious - and it's very much in play for not just the No. 10 overall pick, but perhaps even two or three of the team's picks. Seriously: learn all you can about every one of these guys.