As the off season progresses and the fallout from the explosive 2018 NFL draft has passed, 2017 season positional reviews continue! Today’s post will be on the defensive end position. As always, Banged Up Bills will review all injuries and determine outlook for 2018.
There were 5 players that suited up at defensive end for the Bills this season. First up is DE Eddie Yarbrough. The 2nd year player out of Wyoming burst onto the Buffalo Bills roster in training camp after spending the 2016 on the Denver Broncos practice squad. Yarbrough recorded 1 sack, 23 tackles with 11 assisted tackles. He impressed the front office with his work ethic and ability to adapt to a new defense which earned him a roster spot. Injury wise, Yarbrough only suffered a chest injury following the Kansas City game for which he did not miss any time. He has earned a contract for next season and should be in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.
Next up is DE Ryan Davis. Unfortunately, Davis has recently been cut from the team but may find his way back to Buffalo under the right circumstances. As for playing time, the journeyman appeared in 16 games producing 3 sacks for 17 tackles and 9 assisted with 1 forced fumble. Despite not starting any games and being cut, Davis is still jobless but could return in camp on a veteran minimum with the option to return as a depth player.
Filling out the reserve players is DE Nordly Capi. The rookie spent time with the Giants during pat of the season before finding his way to Buffalo for the last 4 games of the season. During his time here, he recorded 1 sack with 3 tackles and 2 assisted tackles along with 1 forced fumble. Similarly to Davis, Capi has recently hit the free agent market to sign with anyone else in the league. Whether he returns on a vet minimum contract to Buffalo or elsewhere is up in the air.
Rounding out the starters is DE Jerry Hughes. The 8th year pro has been in slow decline over the past several years after back to back 10 sack seasons 5 years ago. Hughes season stat line was 4 sacks for 28 tackles and 16 assisted with 1 forced fumble. While Hughes is not as productive as in years past and may be a cap casualty in the near future, he continues to stay healthy, only suffering a shin/calf injury halfway through the season that he did not miss any games. Hughes should find his way back to the Bills this season and may be effective for another season or two before calling it a career.
Finally, DE Shaq Lawson. The former first round pick has been overall underwhelming during his time in Buffalo, appearing in 11 games with 10 starts. Lawson’s stat line consists of 4 sacks, 17 tackles along with 16 assists. He also caused one forced fumble and 2 pass deflections. Injury wise, Lawson had difficulty staying on the field with several injuries causing missed time. Lawson suffered a groin injury in the win over the Denver Broncos which caused him to miss the Atlanta Falcons game. Lawson also suffered a nerve contusion in his lower leg which was described as a foot injury on the injury report. This did not force him to miss any time but his injury was certainly unique and initially caused some concern for the season. Unfortunately, Lawson’s season came to an abrupt end with a high ankle sprain in the loss to New England during a goal line stand. Despite Lawson’s checkered season, he was still relatively productive and should not have any long term issues going into this season as long as his ankle healed up correctly.
Overall, this is another position that will see extensive turnover with the return of Hughes, Lawson, and Yarbrough along with the addition Marquavius Lewis, Trent Murphy, Owa Odighizuwa, and Terrence Fede. I expect this position to have several additions following the draft and several free agents for camp. Unless Lawson continues to grow into the first round talent he was predicted to be and if Yarbrough explodes into his 2nd season, then I expect this position to look drastically different within the next few years. As this team continues to be molded into McDermott & Beane’s image, players that fit “The Process” will continue to be brought in to take this team to the next level.
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