In 2008 Buffalo's defense improved in several categories including overall defense and points allowed, but where they faltered was turnovers and for a second straight year with their pass rush. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell believes that can be changed with an influx of difference makers.
"We did not have a lot of sacks and we had some pressures and we had a lot of balls on the turf that we did not capture," said Fewell. "We did not take advantage of that opportunity to get the ball. That's definitely going to be an emphasis for us. I've said often times to my staff in the offseason that we need to add more playmakers to our defense."
Sacks and turnovers often go hand in hand, which is why many consider a boost to Buffalo's pass rush as priority number one for the Bills with the draft on the horizon. While the team has talent at the end position, Fewell believes what needs to be added is a unique prospect.
"I think it's a different kind of talent that we need to add," said Fewell. "We have some talented guys that do some different things in their own respect and in their own way. But we're looking for maybe one that can put some more pressure on the quarterback in a third down situation."
Fewell isn't even necessarily looking for an every down starter in the draft, just someone that can have an impact on their pass rush at least once a series.
"He might not have to be a full time starter, but if he can give us (help) in long yardage situations or passing down situations to increase our pass rush, that will work for us," he said. "And then we can work him into being an every down player because football right now is so situational. It's a situational game that sometimes you can pick a situational player."
But to get a top flight pass rushing talent to have an impact even in just your subpackages, a team will still need to make that selection early in the draft.
Fewell wouldn't address specific players, but isn't opposed to taking a hybrid or situational player early if he's deemed the right fit.
"A lot of times we put pressure on ourselves and the scouting department puts pressure on themselves and they say if you pick a guy high he needs to be first, second and third down (player) and I don't disagree with that," said Fewell. "But sometimes you have to pick a guy that really helps your team and really gives your team some uniqueness."
One possible example is Penn State's Aaron Maybin. Currently 250 pounds Maybin indicated he could drop weight or add more on depending on whether the NFL team that selects him wants him to be an end or a linebacker. Even if a team like Buffalo made him a strong side linebacker instead of a full time end, he'd still be able to line up as a pass rusher on third down.
Of course Fewell would be more than happy to add a pass rusher that is capable of being an every down player, but even if a young prospect only has an impact on third down Buffalo's defensive boss believes it will make a big difference.
"The best way I can describe it is I'm looking for a guy that has a redeeming quality and when he brings that redeeming quality to our football team then it's up to me to put him in position or put him in different positions for us to use that redeeming quality," said Fewell. "So that's why I say he can possibly be a situational player and not an every down player because if we can add a kid with a redeeming quality that will help us a lot."
Naturally if there is more consistent pressure it translates to more sacks and more hurried or errant throws. That can lead to more fumbles and interceptions for Buffalo's defense.
Fewell isn't dismissing some of the pass rush talent already on the roster, including second-year end Chris Ellis, who has yet to have an opportunity, but it's clear he's looking for reinforcements feeling it's what can put Buffalo's defense over the top after finishing 14th overall in 2008.
"When the ball is in the air or on the turf can we get a person that creates turnovers for us to put us in a better position," asked Fewell hypothetically. "When we look at different players not only in this draft, but on our football team, can we add a person that will help us make more plays? Hopefully we can increase our production in sacks as well as turnovers."