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Mike Schopp's Blog

Schopp: Pass rush to judgment

My 2-year-old son pointed out to me today that we still have a pumpkin on our porch. Good thing he's around, I can be so lazy. Thanksgiving is over so Halloween is ancient history. Out with the pumpkin!

Of course, the Bills' last victory was longer ago than even that -- October 30 to be exact. I read yesterday how the Bills rank last in the NFL in sacks (17), which isn't amazing at all except for the fact that they had 10 sacks in one game! I wonder if peameal bacon falls within the boundaries of the NFL's substance-abuse program.

The sack stack isn't the only stat I like from the Washington game. London Fletcher, the Redskins middle linebacker and former Bill, had 19 tackles that day (plus an interception). Did you know that 19 tackles is one more than the Bills got this season from Kyle Williams and Shawne Merriman combined (nine each)?

Injuries surely played a role in the demise of the Bills' pass rush, although it's not like smart money was ever spent betting on the brittle Merriman to become the next Jim Marshall.

Aaron Maybin was headed toward footnote-status in this story except for the strange thing that happened on his way to the agate page. Maybin found his career. His six sacks for the Jets are more than a third of the Bills' team total and are the most of any player on the team directly ahead of the Bills in the standings.

The draft pick of Maybin in 2009, 11th overall, has already been penned as one of the worst picks in Bills history. But imagine if Maybin, still only 23, puts up 7-8 sacks for another decade or so. Why couldn't he? If he retires with 70 sacks he's not exactly a bust.

In that instance the Bills will be remembered for giving up on him so soon, not drafting him.

Who's to blame? No doubt the Bills had their reasons for cutting him. In limited opportunity, Maybin did next to nothing to arouse any enthusiasm about his becoming a sack artist.

The problem for me is that the opportunity was so limited.

Cue the chorus. In a dozen worthless years of mediocrity or worse, the Bills have not only won nothing - they've made no particular creative effort to level the playing field with the superior teams. It's almost like the Bills don't realize their inferiority.

For sure the Bills were unimpressed with Maybin's results, but his athletic talent is obvious to anyone. Make it work! Move him around in different formations. Build a scheme that suits him, or at least gives him a chance to succeed. Heck, throw him the ball and see what happens. What had they to lose?

The Bills have made so many stupid moves over the years that my mind is all jumbled of them. I don't so much blame them for signing Terrell Owens, but I do blame them for trotting him out there every week when the season had long been lost. Re-signing Gibran Hamdan whenever a quarterback got hurt? They'd seen him plenty and had to be certain that he wasn't NFL-caliber, so why not just try someone new? And there are dozens more of these.

But if Maybin has a big career, he'll be in a category all his own.

I accept that there is luck in the draft, and that predicting which college players will become good or great pros can be difficult. To a point, I sympathize with the Bills for their poor draft record.

But what can't happen is what happened with Maybin. You simply cannot draft a player 11th overall, severely limit his opportunities to impress and learn and grow, then cut him two years in and let a division rival take a freebie. The Bills have long been much more suited to letting young players play and learn; they've been terrible for what seems like forever. Yet the Jets, as championship-minded as they come, have made room for him.

Maybin was here, and with the right situation ready to become the Bills' best pass rusher since Bruce Smith. Yet it was the Bills themselves, never struggling to top their own incompetence, who let him skip to New York.

So here we are again. No young stud in sight to harass quarterbacks. The idea remains elusive.

Just like the Great Pumpkin.

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : New YorkWashington
People : Aaron MaybinBruce SmithGibran HamdanJim MarshallKyle WilliamsLondon FletcherShawne MerrimanTerrell Owens

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