Buffalo Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay is entering his tenth season with the organization, and will turn 33 years old this Halloween. In his decade with Buffalo, he has never finished a season with more than 5.5 sacks, and is best known as a popular whipping boy of Bills fans. Yet is the veteran in line for a career year?
Despite two high-profile acquisitions (Mark Anderson and Shawne Merriman) threatening to steal his reps, Kelsay still looks as if he'll factor heavily into the defensive end rotation in 2012, if not start outright. Playing alongside three Pro Bowl candidates in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, Kelsay could easily set a career sack high this year, even with (or perhaps aided by) a reduced workload.
Kelsay has looked good through two days of Bills training camp.
"In his first day of 2012 training camp getting first team reps, Chris Kelsay provided a nice boost off the right side of the defensive line," wrote WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia on Friday. "He beat rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn for a sack, and consistently stayed within himself against the run. He may not be the flashiest player that will get a ton of sacks, but he can come in and help get stops from time to time."
Meanwhile on Friday, both Anderson and Merriman saw work on the left side of the line - where Kelsay is accustomed to playing, and where Mario Williams will line up predominantly this season. Kelsay took first-team reps at right end, as Buscaglia notes.
Anderson was the first-team right end when camp opened on Thursday, and with Merriman taking on a full workload for the first time in what feels like forever coming off of Achilles surgery, it seems likely that the converted 3-4 outside linebacker will take some first-team reps at end at some point, as well. With both of those players being counted on to provide a boost to the pass rush, particularly in specialized situations, Kelsay looks like he'll be in line for a lot of reps as a base end.
In a two-year experiment as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Kelsay amassed 8.5 sacks in 28 games - which actually improved his career per-game sack rate by about 50 percent, believe it or not. Now that he's returning to his more natural 4-3 end position, and aided by a lot of talented teammates, would it really surprise anyone if Kelsay flew so under the radar that he had a career year?