Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bills' top edge gig opposite Mario up for grabs


The Buffalo Bills announced the release of defensive end Mark Anderson Tuesday, 16 months after signing the former New England Patriot to a four-year deal worth more than $20 million.

Anderson's first and only season with Buffalo was underwhelming due to injury issues that limited him to six games. He didn't do much in those six games.

Now, as Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com notes, the battle for the top edge rusher job opposite Mario Williams -- which is of the DE/OLB hybrid variety in new coordinator Mike Pettine's system -- is down to a pair of new Bills in free agent pickups Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes. Add newcomer defensive end Jamie Blatnick to the mix.

Lawson, who spent the last two years with the Cincinnati Bengals after a five-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers, has tallied 18 sacks, seven forced fumbles, 331 tackles and 19 passes defensed in seven years. Nine of his sacks came during his final year in San Francisco.

Lawson is listed as a linebacker, but linebackers and defensive ends often share roles in Pettine's system.

“I’m a defensive end in a linebacker’s body," Lawson said when he signed with the Bills in March. "I can drop into coverage. I can rush the passer. I think I fit well in this scheme in that I can bluff those same things, too."

Buffalo acquired the younger Hughes in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts. Hughes is a former first-round pick who totaled just 41 tackles and five sacks in three seasons.

According to Pro Football Focus, Anderson tallied 10 total pressures last year before injury issues forced him off the field. He finished 2012 with one sack. It's likely both Lawson and Hughes, regardless of where they sit on the depth chart, can each put out that much production in 2013. And if what Blatnick has shown to coaches in the offseason materializes on gameday, he's a player to keep an eye on, too.

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