Buffalo Bills’ defensive end Shawne Merriman, for the first time in three years, is completely healthy for training camp. That means to him it’s time to put on the lights and get to work.
There has been a lot of buzz about the Bills defense and the additions made this past offseason, including Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Merriman gave the media a dose of reality reminding everyone there is still a lot of football to go.
“It is still early,” Merriman replied. “We still have a lot of camp left. Being around the guys for the whole offseason workouts, the OTAs and mini-camp, you got a feel for everybody’s work ethic and where we want to go. We just have to get there.”
Of all the defensive line changes, Merriman is the biggest wildcard. If he returns to his old form, the Bills could have one of the most feared defensive lines in the history of the NFL; however, Merriman knows that all the talking doesn’t mean anything.
“You know it is not about talking anymore about what I can do or what happened in the past, or how good things were in the past,” Merriman said. “You just have to go out and do it. And that is all I have been concentrating on. It is not one of those things I really think about. It is just going out every day and working.”
There is one big difference for Merriman between then and now. In San Diego, he was a outside linebacker and the Bills are moving him to defensive end this season. Merriman was asked about the difference, and the reality is things haven’t changed that much for him. He will still be tasked with getting after the quarterback.
“Well I am playing a different position obviously, so it is a little bit different for me,” Merriman answered. “But at the same time it is still the same mindset to go out, make plays and go out and continue to work. It is one of those things you cannot count on a numbers thing or what kind of numbers you want to set forth. It is really an everyday grind and that is what it is about right now.”
Both the defensive end of a 4-3 defense (like Buffalo) and outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense (like San Diego) are very similar. They will attack out of a different stance, and the outside linebacker will sometimes have coverage responsibilities, but it was Merriman’s ability to get after the quarterback that made his name as a Charger.
Tank Carder – Already Making an Impression
Many rookies (particularly from the later rounds) are eased in on special teams if they earn a roster spot at all. But Bills rookie has already caught the attention of head coach Chan Gailey.
The Bills took linebacker Tank Carder in the fifth round (147th overall) in this past April’s NFL Draft with a pick that they acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in the Marshawn Lynch trade. Like many other selected that late in the draft, if Carder was going to make an impact at linebacker it was expected that it wouldn’t be for a couple of years. However, Carder is already catching some eyes.
“Yeah, he has gotten his hands on more passes defensively than maybe any other player to this point, which has been pretty impressive,” Gailey replied when asked about him. “It would be hard not to notice him on the field. He has a nose for the ball.”
“He has some instincts,” Gailey continued. “We will see when we get the pads on. Some guys do it better. Some guys do not do it as well. Some guys keep doing it just like they have been doing.”
Of the three linebacker positions, two are already set as Kelvin Sheppard is the starter in the middle and Nick Barnett is one of the outside linebackers. So far, Kirk Morrison is the other starting outside linebacker.
Carder’s performance is also important to add some depth behind the three starters. The only other proven player the Bills have at linebacker is Arthur Moats, with Merriman moving to defensive end. If Carder keeps performing the way he has, he can not only earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but also give the Bills some needed depth at a key position.
By Paul Kasprzak