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Defensive end competition

Posted Jul 29, 2012

On paper, it looks like an embarrassment of riches.  Three talented linemen rotating through at the right defensive end spot during the early days of training camp.

Seven year veteran Mark Anderson had ten sacks last year with New England.  In his 10th year with the Bills, Chris Kelsay has close to thirty career sacks.  Eight year veteran Shawne Merriman is a three time Pro Bowl Selection and a former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

They’re all getting early camp reps at right defensive end.  It’s an impressive preview of what Bills hope to put on the field.

We’ve got a good group of guys,” Mark Anderson says.  “Everybody is capable of being a starter. Everybody is capable of making plays. Me personally I’m just looking at it as a way to just get better, just trying to learn the defense.

Anderson has been an early training camp standout, with his explosive burst off the edge.  But he’s keeping an eye on the other candidates at right defensive end, and picking up what he can from them.

“Definitely yeah,” Anderson says.  “Kelsay has been in the league 10 years so I feel I can always learn from him. Shawne he has had some great success in the league as well. And I’ve had some success, and Mario as well, so I feel we can all learn from each other to become better.

Chris Kelsay is back on the defensive line, after spending the last two years as a linebacker in Buffalo’s old defensive scheme.  He feels more comfortable at defensive end, and he welcomes serious competition for playing time.

“We’ve got a lot of talent on the defensive line,” Kelsay says, “really at every position.  They’re gonna give everybody a look, and it’s gonna be a competition, but it’s fun that way.  It keeps everybody on their toes.  It keeps everybody out here competing, nobody’s missing practice, because you miss practice here or there, you may not be around.”

Shawne Merriman is trying to go “lights on” in his career for the first time in a while.  He was limited to five games for the Bills last year.  He hasn’t seen extensive action since 2009.  But already, the Bills see flashes of his early career form, and they’re hoping he can be a difference maker.

“I see him more than contributing,” Head Coach Chan Gailey says.  “I see him possibly being an impact player on our defense.  I am not sure as to every down, but I think it is having an impact on our defense and our football team in a positive way.  He shows flashes of great quickness, the instincts and pass rush that we all saw earlier.”

For now, Merriman finds himself splitting reps with Anderson and Kelsay at right defensive end- competing for playing time.  And he has a simple approach to the competition.

“I don’t really think it’s anything different than going out and playing,” Merriman says.  “You can’t really go out and think what’s gonna happen, or know what’s gonna happen.  You just gotta come out every day and get ready to go to work.  That’s all you can do right now.”

This is not your typical training camp battle for a roster spot, or even for a starting job.  Anderson, Kelsay and Merriman are three accomplished defensive line veterans, who all have a role to play in the Bills rotation up front.