He played a total of 16 snaps in the preseason, but if you ask anyone that watched those 16 plays on defense they’d tell you
“I think I am (ready),” said Merriman. “I’ve seen a lot of preseason games and I’ve been around long enough where I know how to prepare, so I don’t need to go out there and get 30 or 40 snaps in order to get ready for the season.”
The Bills defense takes on a completely different appearance with Merriman on the field. In the preseason opener in the span of nine plays, he logged a pair of sacks and three tackles. A sore groin kept him out of the next two preseason games. In the preseason finale however, Merriman had three more tackles including one for loss and a third down stop to force a punt in just seven plays.
The linebacker’s run defense was on display more against the Lions, an aspect of his game that’s often overlooked.
“That’s probably going to be one of the most underrated things, but I’m going to keep doing what I need to do in order for us to be better and that’s holding the run up front and setting a good edge out there so the rest of the guys don’t have to worry about who is out there doing their job,” he said.
Two of his tackles, Merriman showed his ability to close on ball carriers from the back side of the play giving strong indication that his trademark speed and explosion have returned.
“That’s God-given ability man, and not playing for so long you sometimes forget that it’s still there,” he said. “But you don’t have the opportunity to go out there and do that, so it was good.”
Merriman and the Bills took a slow and steady approach to his return to full game action. They erred on the side of caution knowing his long layoff from live game action required patience. Now with close to 11 months of offseason work in the rearview mirror with the Bills, the pass rushing linebacker feels it’s time to provide results.
“Really one of the main things I wanted to get accomplished is just getting ready for the games and getting a process and a groove going to be ready,” he said. “It’s all about preparation and even though I only had a few plays Thursday it allowed me to stretch at the right time and go out and warm up at the right time and just get ready. The next seven days though are going to be key for me and for us.”