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Bills hope Merriman can spark pass rush

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Posted July 07, 2011 @ 4:30 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Many mock drafts early on had the Bills taking OLB Von Miller with the third overall pick. Miller made tons of sense as the Bills desperately need help in the pass rush. With Miller off the board, the Bills had no problem selecting DE Marcell Dareus, who should improve the run defense while providing a rush off the end, but a need still exists in getting after the quarterback.

The Bills addressed the secondary, inside linebacker and nose tackle with other draft picks, but did not take a rush linebacker. Considering that Buffalo is rarely a buyer in free agency, and the OLB free-agent market is weak, the team will be counting on what it has on the roster to spark the pass rush, particularly veteran Shawne Merriman.

The way we hear it, the team is putting much of its need for a pass rush on the shoulders of Merriman, who was injured in his first practice after being claimed off waivers by Buffalo last season. One daily team observer said if Merriman can return to anywhere near the playmaking form he displayed earlier in his career, it could solve a major problem for a team that recorded just 27 sacks in 2010.

The Bills also would benefit by getting more of their money's worth out of Chris Kelsay, who signed a four-year extension worth $24 million last season. Kelsay had 3½ sacks last season and whose career-high 5½ sacks were collected in ’06. There's also Arthur Moats, who showed flashes in his rookie season coming off the edge.

Pinning the hope of an improved pass rush on Merriman is a big risk, as he has four sacks in 18 games played over the past three seasons and has never played a full campaign. There are plenty of doubts as to whether he can consistently wreak havoc in the backfield again. If the Merriman-Kelsay combination can't get after the quarterback and Moats doesn't emerge, the Bills could be in need of a pass-rushing outside 'backer next offseason, too.

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