On the heels of finishing with the second-fewest sacks (21) in the NFL last season, the Bills spent the 19th overall pick on ex-Clemson edge rusher Shaq Lawson. Unfortunately, Lawson underwent right shoulder surgery after the draft and will be out until October, leaving the Bills without any real pass-rushing upgrades entering the season (plus, Mario Williams is gone). To fill Lawson’s void, the Bills could turn to IK Enemkpali, according to Joe Buscaglia of WKBW. Although the former Jet is known more for breaking quarterback Geno Smith‘s jaw with a punch last summer than anything he has accomplished on the field, Enemkpali impressed head coach Rex Ryan during spring workouts and garnered some first-team reps, per Buscaglia. As a result, the rush-needy Bills could platoon Enempkali and Manny Lawson at linebacker – using the latter on rushing downs – Buscaglia writes.
Notes on a couple other AFC linebackers:
- The Jets are counting on second-year man Lorenzo Mauldin to evolve into a more complete linebacker this season, writes Brian Costello of the New York. The 2015 third-round pick emerged as a pass-rushing threat in racking up four sacks while playing just 24 percent of the Jets’ defensive snaps as a rookie. On the negative side, the team has concerns about Mauldin’s abilities in coverage and against the run, according to Costello, who nonetheless adds that the 23-year-old is the favorite to start on the weak side for Gang Green.
- Similarly, the Texans “expect a lot from” sophomore inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, LBs coach Mike Vrabel told the Houston Chronicle. McKinney, whom the Texans want to use more in pass-rushing and coverage situations, has drawn praise from head coach Bill O’Brien this offseason. “I would say one guy on defense that I haven’t been asked a lot about that I think has really improved during the offseason and was improving at the end of last year is Benardrick McKinney,” said O’Brien. The 43rd pick in last year’s draft, McKinney started in 11 of 14 appearances as a rookie, picked up 63 tackles and a sack, and ranked an outstanding 17th among 97 qualifying linebackers at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
- In case you missed it, the chances of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady avoiding a four-game suspension this year don’t look good.