A few very well-known names rushed the passer for the Buffalo Bills during the decade. By far the biggest success came during two years, when the Bills terrorized the league with 111 sacks from 2013-2014. The pass rush was mainly led by a trio of players, and the talent quickly dropped off beyond that point. Did you remember that Chris Kelsay played three seasons for the Bills during this decade? Remember when Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman was going to revitalize the team’s 3-4 defense?
Here are the four best edge rushers to play for the Bills during the decade. We’ll pick at least two of them for the roster, so start with the best one today!
After a (terrible, in hindsight) two-year experiment with the 3-4, the Bills went all-in on free agency. They signed Williams to a $100 million contract as the new centerpiece of their defense. From the start he was exactly as advertised, with 10.5 sacks despite playing in Dave Wannstedt’s bland system. When the Bills added competent coaching, Williams was one of the best players in the league. Over the next two seasons, he had 27.5 sacks, two Pro Bowl selections, and a first-team All-Pro selection.
Like most players to sign massive contracts, Williams eventually became too expensive for his. Rex Ryan’s system didn’t work well with Williams, who only had five sacks in that first season. With stress and bad feelings building up, the Bills released Williams with two years remaining on his deal. The Miami Dolphins signed him to a two-year contract, but he only played the 2016 season before they cut him. That would be his final season in the league.
Though he only played four seasons with the team, Williams ranks seventh in sacks for all Buffalo Bills, one slot below... the next guy on this list.
Overall stats: 63 games started, 145 tackles, 53 TFLs, 43.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, nine passes defended.
Hughes is the longest-tenured member of the Buffalo Bills, the only one left who remembers what Rex Ryan AND Doug Marrone were both like. He joined the Bills in a shrewd trade that came late in Buddy Nix’s tenure (or arguably at the start of Doug Whaley’s), and immediately fit like a glove into Mike Pettine’s and Jim Schwartz’s systems. Three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts made him look like a bust, but Hughes had 20 sacks in his first two with the Bills. He never made a Pro Bowl in either of those seasons, and those were his best opportunities.
After Mario Williams departed, the Bills never really found him a reliable partner. Hughes has never reached the stats from his heyday, but he’s still a reliable primary edge rusher for the team. Coaches and rosters have changed over the course of the last seven years, but one piece has been consistent: Hughes, good for a half-dozen sacks each year, reliable against the run.
Overall stats: 96 games started, 303 tackles, 69 TFLs, 46.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 13 passes defended.
I struggled with where to place Alexander, because if any player justifies an explicit role as a defensive flex, it’s him. The Bills would use Alexander as an edge rusher, an off-the-ball linebacker, a down lineman in the B gap, and more. But he exploded onto the scene as a pass rusher in Rex Ryan’s defense. In his first year with the team, the 33-year-old Alexander made the Pro Bowl when he notched 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. Alexander played three more seasons with the Bills, and the team captain retired after the 2019 season at age 36.
Overall stats: 42 games started, 279 tackles, 32 TFLs, 24.0 sacks, nine forced fumbles, 25 passes defended, 3 interceptions.
The plan with Lawson was to give the Bills a star tandem with Jerry Hughes, but life worked out differently. He had a torn shoulder muscle coming out of college, which the Bills had him play through. Then there were concerns about his motivation through a coaching change. Further injuries and slow technique development also hampered his career, but by year four he’d come into his own as an excellent run-defending end who could threaten for a handful of sacks in a season. The Bills had declined the fifth year of Lawson’s rookie contract, and after the 2019 season he signed a deal with the Miami Dolphins.
Overall stats: 17 games started, 108 tackles, 25 TFLs, 16.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, 10 passes defended.
Alright, with those options listed, place your vote! Pick the first edge rusher for our All-Decade team.
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade Team: Edge rusher 1
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