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Once again, pass rusher is Bills' top priority

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Posted Jan. 20, 2012 @ 3:06 a.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The Bills find themselves right where they were at this time last year — in need of a pass rusher.

It's easy to wonder if the Bills would have selected Von Miller if he had dropped to the No. 3 pick. They should be more than satisfied with what they got out of DT Marcell Dareus, who actually led the team with 5½ sacks and filled a big need in improving the run defense. Yet the pass rush is nowhere near where it needs to be.

In a candid conversation with reporters last week, GM Buddy Nix admitted that a pass rusher tops on the priority list, and the fact that the defense is expected to have a "40" front more often with Dave Wannstedt in charge also affects whom they will target. 

"I think Dave's expertise is more 4-3, but again, you're talking 50 percent of the time we'll be in that and 50 percent of the time you may be in a three-man rush," Nix said. "You need to get players that are playmakers and put them in a position where they can play."

At defensive end, one of those players is expected to be Chris Kelsay, who will be back with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 defense. One daily team observer believes that a defensive shift could mean the end of Dwan Edwards' time in Buffalo. The 3-4 D-end is owed $3.6 million in 2012. He did provide leadership this past season and made plays, but he won't fit on the end in a 4-3 defense.

That leaves an opening to find another defensive end, either in the draft or free agency. "We're going to be aggressive," Nix said, though the Bills generally are not known to spend big in free agency.

At linebacker, the Bills lost Shawne Merriman to injury — though he had only one sack. Second-year pros Danny Batten and Arthur Moats, both of whom the team was high on, combined for three sacks. As a team, the Bills had 29 sacks, tied for 27th in the league. Nix made it seem like there is still hope for Merriman to be a pass-rushing specialist, provided he can stay healthy.

There are no elite pass-rushing prospects in the draft like what we saw last year with Miller, who went to the Broncos and had 11½ sacks. Because of that, at the 10th overall pick, the Bills should have their pick of the draft's best pass rushers, such as Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and North Carolina's Quinton Coples.

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