The Buffalo Bills need to improve in several areas if they want to make another run to the AFC Championship next season and one of those areas is finding a way to get pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The Bills only recorded 38 sacks this season, which allowed them to finish in the middle of the pack as the 15th most during the regular season. Then, in the postseason, the Bills only racked up five sacks, and three of those came from veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes, who tallied three sacks, two against the Baltimore Ravens and one against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Improvements could come in several different ways. The Bills could come up with a new scheme, or a new approach to bring better pressure, but they are getting older at the defensive end position and might need an injection of youth this offseason.
Hughes is trending towards playing his 12th year in the NFL as he approaches 33 years of age and that goes the same for 10th-year veteran Mario Addison. So, while the Bills spent their second-round pick on Iowa’s AJ Epenesa this past draft, they could be in the market for another rookie defensive end in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In Pro Football Focus’ most recent mock draft, Ben Linsey connected the Bills to Penn State edge rusher Jayson Oweh, who posted an 89.7 run-defense grade this past season according to Pro Football Focus.
Oweh would add some much-needed youth to the position.
You aren’t a two-time member of Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List without having some serious athletic ability, and Oweh certainly has that. He can beat tackles around the edge with his get-off, and he was much improved against the run this past season at Penn State, posting an 89.7 run-defense grade.
The Bills will get Hughes, Addison, and Epenesa back next season, but they’ll also return Darryl Johnson who played in 31 games the past two seasons and tallied 29 tackles and two sacks. Veteran defensive end Trent Murphy, who only played in 11 games this season, is a free agent this offseason as well and most likely won’t be returning.
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Oweh Improved During Three Years at Penn State
In three years at Penn State, the 6-foot-5, 252-pound, New Jersey native, improved each season while playing in 24 games. After only recording four tackles, two of which were sacks, in four games as a freshman, Oweh built on his skillset each season. In 13 games last season, Oweh tallied 21 tackles and a career-high five sacks.
Then, this past season, in just over half the amount of games, Oweh improved all of his numbers as well. In seven games, he tallied 38 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He put together his best game of the year with 10 tackles, two of which went for a loss, against Maryland on Nov. 11.
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, if the Bills do go after Oweh, they’ll also be getting a great athlete.
4. Jayson Oweh, Penn State, defensive end
Freakiest attribute: Speed
On a team with a lot of Freaks, this is the most explosive one of the bunch. The 6-5, 257-pound edge rusher didn’t get to go through winter workouts, but he’s in the top five based on his previous numbers and the word from inside the Nittany Lions program. Oweh (five sacks in 2019) has run a jaw-dropping 4.33 40, according to Penn State coaches. He also has vertical jumped 36 inches and broad jumped 10-7 to go with a pro agility time of 4.46, a 380-pound bench press and a 365-pound power clean. His body fat is 4.9 percent.
And, as we’ve said before, you can scoff at some of these amazing numbers, but previous Penn State players (Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, Troy Apke and John Reid, among others) have backed it up at the NFL combine.
But, throughout the season, the Bills had to find creative ways to bring pressure and get to the opposing quarterback. In the AFC Championship, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes basically went untouched as Hughes’ sack was Buffalo’s only one of the night and the Bills only recorded three quarterback hits all game.
The Bills Can’t Miss in the NFL Draft
No matter what position they address in the NFL Draft, even if it is at defensive end, Bills general manager Brandon Beane knows that they can’t miss.
The salary cap for teams around the NFL is bound to be cut this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the Bills will have to try and improve their team through the draft. According to Beane, the 2021 NFL Draft will be more important than ever.