As the Bills came off the practice field Wednesday they were given the promising news that a proven pass rusher was going to be added to their lineup with the team claiming Pro Bowl LB Shawne Merriman off waivers.
"I think it's big for us as a whole on the defensive side of the football," said Donte Whitner. "It just shows that we are going to do the necessary things that it takes to get pressure on the quarterback and be a successful defense."
With the Chargers announcing their intent to waive the veteran linebacker as soon as he was healthy following a calf injury two weeks ago, Kelsay admitted that he thought about the potential of adding Merriman to their defensive lineup.
"Instantly when I heard about it a couple of weeks ago it jumps in your mind as a possibility knowing Buddy (Nix) was out there and that connection," said Kelsay. "And what he can do and what he has done in this league. So you start to think about it being a good fit for Shawne to come here. If he can produce like he has, especially early in his career, then we're definitely headed in the right direction."
Buffalo has made marginal improvements with their pass rush with seven sacks in the last three games, but without a proven pass rusher drawing extra attention, consistent pressure has been hard to come by.
Whitner knows a player of Merriman's caliber can change that dynamic.
"If we get two guys to pay attention to him and three guys or they have to chip with a back you single up a lot of other guys inside," he said. "So guys that were maybe seeing double teams early in the season are going to get single coverage. We haven't had that. I don't think there are too many interior guys that can block Kyle (Williams) one-on-one."
As Whitner sees it Merriman doesn't even need to get sacks. Just getting pressure and forcing opposing passers to move around in the pocket can be enough to help create turnovers, and the Bills could use that with only six takeaways in seven games.
"If you move that quarterback around and get him looking at the rush and take his eyes off downfield and get him off his launching spot where he wants to throw the football. There are not too many quarterbacks that are accurate doing that," Whitner said. "That's when you get tipped balls, errant throws, fumbles, forced fumbles and balls rolling around on the ground. It's because those quarterbacks don't want to get hit back there."
The players realize that Merriman has struggled with injuries for much of the last two years, missing almost all of 2008 and appearing in just three games thus far in 2010. But adding Merriman certainly changes the appearance of Buffalo's defensive unit.
"It changes the conversation because we all know what he can do, especially when he's on top of his game and when he's healthy and the energy that he brings to the game," Whitner said. "Making plays and having fun on the field. That can bring a lot to a defense, so hopefully he's out there healthy and we'll see what we can get from him."
"We just need to try and find a way to win," saiD Kelsay. "And if this helps us win, it's definitely a plus for us."