Earlier this offseaon, Buffalo Bills fans voted defensive end as the biggest need for the team this off-season. Elsewhere, most draftniks have been slotting a pass rusher in for the Bills at the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but general manager Buddy Nix hinted last week that Buffalo may take a different approach.
"There are a lot of good players that will be there in the third and fourth round, which normally is not the case," Nix told BuffaloBills.com. "I think there are defensive ends and guys that can do what we want. Maybe not big name guys that are going to excite a lot of people, but that’s beside the point anyway if they can play good."
Mock drafts have Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram slotted into the Bills' first round pick, almost without fail. In his conversation with the team's website, Nix sounds like he's leaning against that way of thinking.
"I think [the defensive end class] is deep," said Nix. "I saw where somebody said it wasn’t, but I think it is. I think maybe it’s deep in the middle rounds or from the second round on more so than maybe in the Top 10."
"There are pros and cons to both of those guys," continued Nix, "and you’ve got to find a way to weight them all and we’re still in the process."
That doesn't mean he doesn't like the top pass rushers. It could mean that he only likes one of them enough to draft in the Top 10. The word "deep" would be the key part of the phrase.
Chan Gailey also weighed in last week on the need at pass rusher. He wants guys that can get after the quarterback and help in the run game. Unlike in the 3-4, when the outside linebacker position is asked to play in coverage from time to time, he sees the player(s) they add filling different roles. This should limit the times we have to see Spencer Johnson or Chris Kelsay three steps behind a running back in the flat.
"[Dropping into coverage] would not be the priority," said Gailey. "The priority would be pass rush and set the edge in the run game. Dropping would be a once in a blue moon type deal. That wouldn’t be a lot."
The Bills could also choose to address the pass rush prior to the draft via free agency. When BuffaloBills.com writer Chris Brown was answering questions in his weekly Fan Friday segment, he noted the Bills could fill the need in March instead of April.
"With their No. 10 pick, I’m not convinced they’re going pass rusher there," answered Brown to a question on selecting Couples or Ingram, "which could mean pursuing a free agent pass rusher."
How would you address the pass rush this off-season, Bills fans? Is a supposedly healthy Shawne Merriman enough, or should the Bills add one or more players during free agency and the draft?