The Bills as an organization felt their pass rush was in need of a shot in the arm. Ranking 29th in the league over the past two seasons in sacks, pressure on the quarterback was a priority. It's why they made Aaron Maybin their top draft choice this past spring.
The recent emergence of defensive ends Chris Ellis and Copeland Bryan over the first three preseason games however, in the absence of Maybin, has opened the eyes of the coaches.
Buffalo's defensive staff may have more pass rushers that can contribute than they initially thought.
Entering year two of his career, Ellis has made a noticeable improvement in his game. He was the leading tackler in the Hall of Fame game, had a sack, a quarterback hit and a fumble recovery against Chicago and three tackles including one for loss at Green Bay.
Despite just being a second-year player Ellis has fully grasped the urgency of his job security with a handful of veterans ahead of him on the depth chart at defensive end as well as the team's top draft choice.
"Being the fact that you're not a starter, you definitely always have something to prove, so you've got to go out there and the biggest thing with me is just to be consistent," said Ellis. "But I do feel more comfortable in the defense and my role."
Copeland Bryan, now entering his third NFL season, was sidelined for most of training camp and missed the first preseason game with a hamstring injury. But in his 2009 debut against Chicago Bryan flashed. He contributed a pair of tackles, a sack and forced fumble and a quarterback hit.
Bryan followed that up with a five tackle outing against Green Bay Saturday with another sack and forced fumble as well as a pass breakup. For Bryan it was essential that he hit the ground running after losing significant time to injury.
"I have to give a lot of props to the strength staff and training room staff," said Bryan. "They helped me keep my legs strong and keep my wind so when I did come back I'd be able to come back at the same level that I was when I went out."
Bryan played a bigger role in the Bills defensive rotation than Ellis last season appearing in 15 games. Ellis as a rookie appeared in just seven games before a high ankle sprain cost him the last four games of the year. But their play of late has demonstrated growth and an aggressiveness that Buffalo's staff is looking for from their ends in pass rushing situations.
"I know that Chris has gotten better every game we've played," said Jauron. "He's practiced hard, he's practiced well. He's been more physical. We're trying to get him more and more physical. Unfortunately Cope was down for so long with that hamstring and he's just coming back, and he does show up on the field."
The irony of their strong play is they could very well be competing against one another for one of the last defensive end positions on the 53-man roster. Bryan has been getting snaps with the second team at left defensive end sharing reps with veteran Ryan Denney. Ellis meanwhile has been getting second team reps at right defensive end.
"It's me and him against the world right now," said Bryan. "Because we're playing on the opposite sides of each other and relatively the same age it's real easy for us to get along. We're not feeling too much of that competitive bent yet of me versus him."
That figures to change when Aaron Maybin hits the practice field today as the defensive end rotation will be altered knowing the staff needs to get their top draft choice caught up as soon as possible.
Reps will become even more precious and big plays will carry even more weight. There are two preseason games left to be played, and Jauron made it clear it's a position he'll be closely watching with the deadline for final roster decisions fast approaching.
"In a lot of ways it'll be good to have the fifth (preseason) game," Jauron said. "We have positions that we need to look at with our guys. It'll be interesting."