Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bills seek health, better pass rush via bye

By the Buffalo Bills’ bye week last year, Bills fans were already thinking about which big-name draft pick they would pick up in the offseason.

But at 4-2 this year with its best start since 2008, Buffalo is looking to use its week off for much-needed rest and re-evaluation before it tries to reclaim the lead in the AFC East over the middle and second parts of the season.

“We’ll do some evaluation, some self-scout stuff just to see where we are, what we’ve done well and what we need to improve on,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told the media Monday. “With the mandatory break here from the new CBA, guys will be able to heal up a little bit and have some time to recover.”

One aspect the Bills will surely look to improve is the pass rush. Buffalo is dead last in the league in sacks with only four. The secondary, on the other hand, is leading the league in interceptions. Bills coach Chan Gailey looks to work on technique up front in order to win more one-on-one battles on the line to balance out his defense.

“Is it personnel oriented? Is it scheme oriented? You have to look at it, evaluate it and decide which direction you’re going to go,” Gailey said. “That’s never easy. They’re blocking us rather than us beating them. So we’ve got to get better.”

More than anything, the banged-up Bills could use a week of rest. The Bills' latest loss comes at the tackle position with rookie Chris Hairston, who is out two to four weeks with an ankle injury. That makes two injuries at that position, as Demetrius Bell has missed the past two games with shoulder issues. Wide receiver Donald Jones is expected to miss a few weeks with an ailing ankle as well, and though he's started all six games, Andy Levitre has been struggling with knee problems.

“We’ve got a lot of guys banged and nicked up, so it’s a perfect week for guys to heal up this week and take advantage of this time,” linebacker Nick Barnett told the media Monday. “Hopefully we can come back and get at least half of those guys back and we’ll be in better shape.”

Barnett, along with a bunch of others on the defensive side of the ball, have been dealing with their own injuries. Barnett and fellow linebacker Shawne Merriman have been struggling to stay on the field for weeks, with Merriman missing last week’s game against the Giants after aggravating his Achilles heal. Add in outside linebacker Chris Kelsay and defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who each sat against New York, and Buffalo's break couldn't come at a better time.

“The bye comes at a good time just in terms of trying to get some guys healthy, both offensively and defensively,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ll see what we have come next week.”

Buffalo will be back in action Week 8 when it takes on the Washington Redskins in the Bills' annual home game in Toronto.