A common lament for Buffalo Bills fans is when the front office lets talent slip away. This becomes doubly aggravating when said talent appears on the roster of the New England Patriots.
Defensive end Eric Lee came into the league via the Houston Texans in 2016. Remaining with their practice squad for the regular season. Lee was waived in September of 2017 and added to Buffalo's practice squad. Lee was activated for one game following the injury to Shaq Lawson, put back on the practice squad then signed by the New England Patriots. Did Buffalo let one slip away?
For the sake of comparison, Eric Lee is around the same size as Jerry Hughes and is used in many of the same ways. Coincidentally perhaps, he also wears 55 in a patriotic color scheme. This is where the comparisons end.
Lee tends to rely on bull rush and power moves far more than Hughes. He's physically at a disadvantage nearly every snap and lacks the power to drive back most linemen. His lack of power was evident against Miami, when Kenyan Drake ran right into Lee's tackle then churned his legs right past him. Notably worse than that, he found himself matched up against the significantly smaller Jarvis Landry one-on-one and was pushed back by Landry.
Plenty of rushers do their work with speed and finesse when they lack power, but Lee doesn't instill confidence here either. He often lines up with poor stances and his first step is all too often short and choppy. Poor balance and technique make it hard for him to get around when rushing.
Lee isn't a complete wash and demonstrates good lateral quickness. He is also able to recognize gaps and shoot through. His solo sack on Tyrod Taylor came on such a move.
In his one game active with the Bills, Lee took zero snaps. He began in New England as a depth player, but entered the starting lineup thanks to an injury to Trey Flowers. Since then, he has been in the game for a minimum of 65% of defensive snaps and a sprinkling of special teams. Against Miami he didn't miss a single snap.
Only appearing in 4 games this year, Lee's stats look respectable. Lee currently has 9 tackles (5 assists), with an interception and 2.5 sacks. Some of these plays should be tempered for Lee, with an occasional tick on the stat box due to the opposing team seemingly forgetting he's there. The interception came at the hands of Tyrod Taylor and a pass that went softly right to Lee. It was either one of Taylor's worst passes in his career or he looked up, saw someone he recognized, and pulled the trigger.
The Bills are going to need to be creative to pull out a win in Foxboro. Taking advantage of any weak link should be a priority.
Eric Lee enters the Pats' lineup due to depth issues rather than merit. Lee represents a weak link for the Bills to target. With Lee lining up often and almost exclusively at end, this should be good news for LeSean McCoy and the running game. This week, the former Bill can help Buffalo best by playing for New England.