Bills searching for defensive end depth

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
10:00
AM ET
In his pre-draft gathering with reporters Friday, general manager Doug Whaley didn't shy away from identifying one area where the Buffalo Bills need some help.

"I think with the 4-3, we could use some more defensive end depth," Whaley said. "But we signed some guys who are unproven, so we're excited but we just got to wait and see there."

With the arrival of Jim Schwartz, the Bills are expected to have Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes at the top of their defensive end depth chart. Yet, unless they address the position in the draft, Williams and Hughes could play upwards of 90 percent of snaps, which isn't a formula for success for most pass-rushers. They'll need rest at some point.

Hughes is 254 pounds -- a far cry from Williams, at 292 pounds -- and he'll need to add some bulk if the Bills want him to play an early-down role at defensive end. The same is true for the lanky, 240-pound Manny Lawson, who is without a natural home in Schwartz's scheme after starting at strong side linebacker in Mike Pettine's system. Whaley's comments Friday suggest that Lawson won't play much of a role at defensive end.

That leaves the 285-pound Jarius Wynn, who the Bills signed earlier this month, as the probable third option unless replaced through the draft. Most of Wynn's NFL experience has come as a 3-4 defensive end, so it's a bit of a projection if the Bills line him up at defensive end in their 4-3 scheme. With Wynn's size, he may even be better suited as an interior rusher than an edge player like Williams or Hughes.

Who's left after Wynn? A pair of players who have never played an NFL snap: Jacquies Smith and Ikponmwosa Igbinosun. At 260 pounds, Smith is smaller and more compact, while Igbinosun is sturdier, at 286 pounds. Smith was a productive pass-rusher at Missouri but has yet to emerge on the NFL level.

How would Whaley ideally like his defensive line? He made a comment Friday about the Seattle Seahawks that could answer that question.

"This is a copycat league. The team that won the Super Bowl is the Seattle Seahawks and they have a ‘NASCAR’ package," he said. "That’s a package where they have a lot of speed on the defensive line coming at you in passing downs."

It's not necessarily a new concept. The New York Giants used a speed-based line to win the Super Bowl in 2007, subbing Justin Tuck in for a defensive tackle to supplement the pass rush from Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

Right now, the Bills don't have the personnel to do that. Williams and Hughes are a starting point, but they'll need more.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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