In the four-plus weeks since the 2011 regular season ended, we've been conducting our annual State of the Buffalo Bills Roster series, in which we go over the Bills' personnel player by player and position by position.
We finished up reviewing the defense yesterday, so after the jump, we've reviewed the positional outlooks in each area. Give them a re-read, put on your thinking caps, and then cast a vote in our poll (also after the jump) as we try to determine what the Bills' biggest positional need on defense is.
DEFENSIVE LINE: In Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, the Bills have the true foundation of their defense, regardless of what scheme they're running. From there, the Bills have a clear delineation between heady veterans (Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson) and project-type youngsters (Alex Carrington, Torell Troup, Kellen Heard, Lionel Dotson, Jarron Gilbert and Jay Ross). That's solid depth no matter which way you cut it, and there's quite a bit of talent to be had from top to bottom. Everyone's under contract, so it's hard to envision much movement here.
PASS RUSHERS: Bleak. Obviously. Chris Kelsay has never been a cornerstone player, and 2011 all but confirmed that Shawne Merriman - even when healthy - is a shell of his former self as a pass rusher. Kyle Moore, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten and Robert 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.
LINEBACKER: In Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard, the Bills have stability, a diversity of skill, and some upside at the top of their linebacker depth chart. From there, things are incredibly hard to discern. There are four veteran unrestricted free agents (Bryan Scott, Kirk Morrison, Reggie Torbor and Andra Davis) and two scrappy youngsters that aren't ready to play (Chris White and Scott McKillop). Scott has a defined role, but may be replaceable, while Morrison has value as a depth player, but doesn't play much otherwise and may be looking for more playing time. The team seems interested in maintaining the veteran depth status quo at the position, and they're always on the lookout for young linebackers, particularly in the later rounds.
CORNERBACK: In Drayton Florence, Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin, the Bills have a trio of veterans that will make it difficult to determine the direction of this position until there's movement with one or more of them. Florence should be back, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if McGee or McKelvin is released to make room for guys like Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers to rise up the depth chart. In fact, it would only be mildly surprising if both were released, although McKelvin's contract is pretty reasonable to at least keep him around competing for a roster spot. Williams and Rogers have been fast-tracked for playing time, but both players are still green. The team has no true pecking order at this position, which works in their favor solely from a game-planning perspective. All of these players can be beaten, and there's no true No. 1 guy on the roster.
SAFETY: Jairus Byrd headlines a strong group of 2013 unrestricted free agents for the Bills, and aside from Frd Jackson may end up being the team's top priority in getting a deal done once this year's crop of free agents is handled. Ideally, he'll be the free safety for a long time. With George Wilson and Da'Norris Searcy, the team has a game plan at strong safety. The real issue here is depth; the team could really use one more body as a fourth safety, considering they're playing one more than half of the snaps at a different position.