“Jerry Hughes doesn’t have enough sacks.” “Mario Addison and Vernon Butler are disappointments.” “The development of AJ Epenesa and the return of Star Lotulelei won’t be good enough to take down the Kansas City Chiefs.” “Ed Oliver is a BUST!” These are just some of the sentiments I have seen splashed over Buffalo Bills Social Media since the end of the season.
What do all of these takes have in common? They shoulder the blame solely on the players and not the coaching staff or front office. Brandon Beane could have easily wiped the slate clean by releasing Addison and Butler along with Quinton Jefferson. He also could have let Jerry Hughes go, which would have saved the team a significant chunk of change. The team could have used that money to chase one of the elite edge rushers in this free-agent class. They could have totally reshaped their defensive line. They CHOSE not to.
If you hold the sentiments mentioned at the top of the article or if you wanted the Bills to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers approach and go all-in on the pass rush to topple the Kansas City Chiefs. Then you need to reflect on exactly who is to blame for the way you are feeling. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane deserve just as much fault for your emotions as the players themselves. You cannot cheer on the “culture,” “the process,” the “salary cap wizardry,” and willfully ignore your perceived negligence in the construction of the 2021 defensive line.
Where Do We Go From Here
The off-season is far from over, and the Buffalo Bills can still make some moves to improve their perceived lack of pass rush heading into 2021. The obvious answer is Carlos Dunlap. The 32-year-old still has some juice left in the tank. Despite only recording 5.5 sacks, he flashed after his trade to the Seattle Seahawks mid-season. It could be feasible to restructure Tre White and Dion Dawkins to sign him to a one-year deal. Along with Hughes, Addison, and Epenesa, the Buffalo Bills should generate consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Another option is addressing the edge rusher position in the draft. Zaven Collins is a hybrid defender who could fill the old Lorenzo Alexander role and provide more pressure. If Jaelan Phillips falls to pick #30, he could be added to the rotation of Hughes, Addison, and Epenesa. The more likely names though, are Joseph Ossai from the University of Texas and Joe Tryon from the University of Washington. Dan Morgan was reportedly on hand at the Texas pro-day and was “locked-in” on the defensive lineman. The Buffalo Bills have also met virtually with Tryon. Both players are 3-4/4-3 tweeners who could start their careers as situational pass rushers before developing behind Hughes and Addison.
Last but not least, the Buffalo Bills could look to improve the pass rush by adding pieces to the secondary. Levi Wallace and Josh Norman could not handle the pressure of man-to-man defense last season. This kept the defense from being able to show any real versatility. Phillip Rivers exploited that as he dinked and dunked the Colts to an almost upset. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce had free release off the line all game in the AFC Championship loss. Malcolm Butler is a free agent who could allow the Bills to be more versatile if he were to win the CB2 job.
At this time, the Buffalo Bills have met with CB and S prospects, including Ifeatu Melifonwu, Trill Williams, Elijah Molden, Tariq Thompson, and James Wiggins. These players would allow the defense a chance to jam receivers more at the line of scrimmage. This would lead to the opposing quarterback hanging onto the ball longer and increase the likelihood of a sack.
What Else Was Discussed?
I was also joined by Buffalo Fanatics contributor Manny Deol to discuss the BOOMING Buffalo Bills trading card market, Christian Wade, and some players who could still be added through the draft and free agency.
You can find The Take on The Buffalo Fanatics Podcast Network. Available on Apple, Spotify, and all your favorite audio platforms.