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Posted: Friday, 11 April 2014 11:42AM

Bills Draft Outlook: Defensive End

(WGR 550) -- The focus of the draft for many fans has been for the Buffalo Bills to improve the offense around second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. While that is the likely course of action in the first round for the Bills when May rolls around, the team still needs to address certain parts of their defense.

One of the more intriguing issues that they could address? Finding more pass rushers to get after the quarterback from the edge. 

What they have
Starters: Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes
Reserves: Manny Lawson, Jarius Wynn, Jacquies Smith, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun

What they need
- The Bills need to add a young pass rusher with some potential to develop to plan for future seasons beyond 2014. The way their roster is currently set up, defensive end might be the thinnest of all the positions for this upcoming season and beyond.

Under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the sack totals for the Bills skyrocketed to levels that hadn’t been seen before. Pettine left to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Jim Schwartz took over the defense and now the Bills are switching back to what appears to be a four-man front primarily.

With that change, it means the Bills have to plan in the event of not only things going awry, but just for a normal rotation of pass rushers. Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes will be the starting defensive ends, but both come with their questions. 

Will the production for Williams deem that his $19 million cap hit in 2015 is worthy, especially for a 30-year old player? And, with Hughes being an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2014, will the Bills offer enough to keep him on board past this season?

Combine both of those questions with Manny Lawson being more of a “tweener” for this defense and the Bills really lack depth at the position. They did sign Jarius Wynn in April, but he doesn’t have anything more than the occasional rotational potential.

The Bills should plan ahead and take a player with some long-term potential in this draft and let him grow in Schwartz’s system in 2014.

How will they do it?
- Unless they move up to select Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, there really isn’t a viable pass-rushing prospect to select with the ninth overall pick. When you get into the second or third round however, the Bills could find themselves with the opportunity at 41 or 73 to select a player that could fit into Schwartz’s defense quite well. In the second round, Missouri’s Kony Ealy and Oregon State’s Scott Crichton both look to be potential fits for the defense if available. The problem, though, is the pass rushing group isn’t particularly deep in 2014 and that could push some options for the Bills to be drafted ahead of their second-round pick. If they have a chance to select a player with that skill set on the second day, whether it be the second or third round, it would be a welcomed addition to a roster in need of more edge rushers.

Players connected to the Bills (will be updated):
Scott Crichton, Oregon State (Pre-Draft Visit)

Previous ‘Bills Draft Outlook’ Editions
Wide Receiver 

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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