Bills Offseason In Review – 2009 Part II


By PFC Bills Writer Jay Kommuru

As promised, Part II of the Bills offseason will be reviewed with full coverage of how the front office addressed the defensive side of the football. Unlike on offense, the defense was re-tooled mostly through the draft. Although there were a few under-the-radar defensive signings via free agency that could make some noise in 2009. Lets take a look.
Defense

Re-Signings

MLB – John DiGiorgio: Dependable backup that will probably (and hopefully) not see much action with the starting unit. His biggest contributions however will come on Special Teams, which in Buffalo is just as important as Offense and Defense. He’s not the biggest guy, but he is fast enough for this defense, and he provides solid depth behind Paul Posluszny at MLB.

OLB – Keith Ellison: Decent starter who really should be a backup at the NFL level. Somewhat of a tweener as he really lacks the size and strength at the point of attack to play the SAM spot in a 4-3 defense. His speed is an asset and ultimately that is what keeps him in the lineup in cover-2. The Bills are probably stuck with Ellison at SAM – linebacker.  To his credit, Ellison does have solid starting experience in the NFL. Last year he started 14 games for the Bills after Angelo Crowell was placed on IR and in his 2-down role he amassed 73 tackles and 2 passes defended. There were rumors flying around that the Bills made an offer to free agent LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, but he signed with the Chicago Bears late last week.  Although he would have been an upgrade over Ellison (albeit not a significant one), he wanted starter money which the Bills really cannot afford to spend on a two-down player.

Free Agent Signings

LB – Pat Thomas:  Very active LB who is mostly a back-up in the NFL. He spent the last year and a half with the Chiefs.  His 2007 season was cut short due to an ankle injury. In 2008, he amassed 47 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 passes defended in spot-duty and Special Teams.  He has the requisite speed to play in the Cover-2 and really is a sideline-to-sideline defender. In Buffalo, he will be one of the top back-up LBs and a heavy contributor on Special Teams.

CB – Drayton Florence
:  Florence has had a very up and down career so far in the NFL. He was with the Chargers from 2003 to 2007 where he had 10 interceptions and 38 passes defended in 43 starts.  However he was also responsible for a couple of bone-head plays with the Chargers during the 2007 AFC Divisional playoff game.  Most notably, he head-butted then-Patriot TE Daniel Graham which resulted in a personal foul following a 3rd-and-long play and subsequently the Patriots kicked a FG to win the game 24-21.  The following season he signed a six-year, $36 million dollar deal with the Jaguars.  However, he was a complete flop in Jacksonville where he was asked to play in zone coverage a lot and he struggled to make the mental switch from man-to-man coverage. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with the Bills who heavily use a zone-based scheme.  At the very least, he will be a solid veteran presence and some competition for the nickel spot. Ideally, he will make some spot-starts in place of one of the starting CB’s – McGee and McKelvin.

Draft

DE – Aaron Maybin (6’4”, 249) (Scouting Report) Maybin is an edge rusher in its purest form, and has the quickest first step of any DE in this draft.  He is undersized to be an every-down player in the NFL, but he has the frame to add more muscle which he has already done (230 lbs to 249lbs).  Maybin is a high character player who has already shown some leadership during the rookie mini-camp.  While he didn’t have a whole lot of starting experience at Penn State, he is very coachable and his tremendous explosion off the edge will certainly help him make the transition to the NFL. The Bills will most likely use him as a situational pass-rusher, at least until he shows that he can bulk up without losing his first step and being able to contribute more against the run.

CB/S – Jairus Byrd (5’11”, 208) (Scouting Report) The biggest surprise pick in the Bills’ draft came in the 2nd round when they picked Byrd.  His production at Oregon is unquestionable – 17 Ints as a 3-year starter.  However, he didn’t time well at the combine, especially for a CB, which hurt his draft stock.  That didn’t stop the Bills from holding him in high regard and they will use him as a FS where he can use his excellent ball-hawk skills, awareness and instincts to help them in the turnover department.

OLB/S – Nic Harris (6’3”, 235) (Scouting Report) Harris is another player who offers some position flexibility as he played safety for the Oklahoma Sooners but is too slow to play that position in the NFL and will likely play OLB for the Bills. He is an aggressive player who had many plays around the line of scrimmage for the Sooners last year. He was also a 3-year starter in college, and was very durable as he rarely missed time due to injury.  He will likely be competing for the SAM LB spot with Keith Ellison, and mostly contribute on Special Teams.

CB – Cary Harris (5’11”, 187) (Scouting Report) With Dick Jauron at head coach, you have to expect a few late round defensive backs in the draft, and Harris is just that. While he got a lot of experience at a big-time program, Harris will most likely be a Special Teamer in the crowded defensive-backfield.  At the most, he’ll make some spot starts at nickel.

CB – Ellis Lankster (5’ 10”, 191) (Scouting Report) Two defensive backs were not enough, so Coach Jauron strikes again with yet another corner.  Lankster is a physical player, but has limited experience as a starter because he was a JUCO transfer before ending up in West Virginia. He will have to make the most of his limited chances to make the Bills roster.  At most, he’ll be counted on for Special Teams.

2009 Projected Starting Lineup

LE – Chris Kelsay
DT1 – Marcus Stroud
DT2 – Kyle Williams
RE – Aaron Schobel
OLB – Kawika Mitchell
MLB – Paul Posluszny
OLB – Keith Ellison
CB1 – Terrance McGee
CB2 – Leodis McKelvin
SS – Bryan Scott
FS – Donte Whitner