Shawne Merriman: How Can He Help the Buffalo Bills?
Shawne Merriman, known as "Lights Out" because of his big hits, has had the lights turned out on his career in San Diego.
Drafted in 2005 by the Chargers, Merriman starred on the Chargers defense. In his first three seasons, Merriman had 39.5 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl each year.
However, his last three years with the Chargers have been marred by suspension and injury.
This season he has only played in three games, and he was placed on injured reserve by the Chargers after a slight calf injury. Now that he is healthy, the Chargers have agreed to release him.
ESPN and Jay Glazer seem to think that the Bills will claim him off waivers.
Let's take a look at what this means for the Buffalo Bills.
Improving the Pass Rush
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Though Merriman's star has faded, he was once a feared pass rusher.
In San Diego, Merriman terrorized opposing quarterbacks out of San Diego's 3-4 defense. In Buffalo, he will be inserted into that same base 3-4 and given the opportunity to rush off the edge.
Right now, the Bills have only 11 sacks. Look for Merriman, if he's able to be a shadow of the player he once was, to raise that total over the next several weeks.
Improving the Pass Defense
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This was sort of hit on in the last slide, but allow me to expand.
If teams are forced to account for an extra, more dangerous pass rusher, they will be forced to bring in extra blockers. Running backs won't be free to slip out into the flat, and tight ends will have to stay and chip.
Basically, Merriman's presence keeps an offense honest and doesn't allow them to spread a defense out.
The Bills will see more two-man routes and be better able to cover receivers.
Last year the Bills hauled in a league-leading 28 interceptions, but they have only one through the first seven games this season. Added pressure will likely increase that total.
Improving Third Down Defense
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Through the first four games of the season, the Bills had the 31st-ranked third down defense. Though they've improved over the last three games, their inability to get off the field remains a problem.
This third down futility can largely be blamed on their inability to stop opposing rushing attacks. However, the addition of Merriman should improve their ability to stop the run and, to a greater extent, their ability to get off the field on third downs.
His presence on third down will make the Bills a more effective blitzing team. Double teams aimed at Merriman will allow other defenders to come through untouched and pressure quarterbacks or stuff the run.
Big Game Experience
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The Bills don't have a lot of big games left this season. They are out of the playoff race and will likely suffer throughout the rest of the season. That being said, Merriman can bring some poise to this team.
Merriman has playoff and big game experience and can bring wisdom and maturity about big game situations to a young team. That may not necessarily pay dividends this season; however, as the Bills look to turn things around, his mentorship of younger or less experienced players could prove valuable.
Merriman may be assigned to a secondary role, especially if he is not completely healthy. Look for him to tutor players on this defense.
Intensity and Urgency
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Like I've already stated, there won't be many big games or much sense of urgency with the Bills. Their 0-7 start has eliminated them from playoff contention for all intents and purposes, and they may struggle to find motivation down the stretch.
Merriman, however, should have plenty of motivation. He is playing on a one-year contract. He is only 26.
This season with the Bills is an audition for him. Every game will be an opportunity for him to showcase that he is the player he once was. If he can do this, he might still land a big contract. If not, Merriman will end up as a three-year flash-in-the-pan player.
These last few games will have a huge impact on his future in this league, and he will most certainly be aware of that.