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Bills re-sign DE Merriman to bolster banged-up D

Bills re-sign DE Merriman to bolster banged-up D

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Shawne Merriman is back in Buffalo after the Bills re-signed the free-agent pass-rushing star to bolster their banged-up defense.

The Bills (3-3) announced the signing Monday, after returning home from an extended West Coast trip, and a day after a 19-16 overtime win at Arizona worked them into a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East.

``You can never have too many guys that we believe can rush the passer,'' coach Chan Gailey. ``We'd rather not go into a game with just three defensive ends.''

Merriman returns to the Bills two months after the team cut the three-time Pro Bowl selection in part because it wanted to develop several younger players. Buffalo's priorities have since changed after the team's depth has been depleted at defensive end. Veteran end Chris Kelsay said the adjustment will be easier since Merriman knows the territory.

``Shawne's a great dude,'' Kelsay said. ``He's a guy who came right in and fit well (with) a great personality. We don't have a lot of egos on this team and he fit right in, so it's good to have him back.''

Mark Anderson is out indefinitely after he required surgery last week to repair a left knee injury. Veteran defensive line Spencer Johnson has missed the past two games with an ankle injury.

The 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Merriman earned the nickname ``Lights Out'' while generated 39 1/2 sacks through his first three seasons before injuries slowed his production. Merriman combined for just six sacks, playing in just 23 games over his past four seasons.

The Bills that take the field will have momentum on their side despite scrapping their way through an ugly road win in Arizona. Left for dead in the desert after two blowout losses in which they were outscored 97-31 overall and allowed a combined 1,201 yards over the two-game stretch, Buffalo battled back to .500 against the Cardinals and further crowded to top step of the division.

``We all played hard, that's the biggest think to look for,'' defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. ``We're working towards being a better team. Just finishing the game for the most part.''

The much ballyhooed pass rush lived up to its preseason hype Sunday, sacking the Cardinals six times and keeping quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton on the run. Mario Williams had received considerable heat for a slow start after signing a $100 million contract in the offseason, but turned that temperature on the Cardinals with 2 sacks and a number of hurries.

``That was the best game our defensive front has played all year,'' Gailey said. ``I really believe that if we can keep working, we can create those types of problems for people week in and week out.''

Kelsay concurred.

``They really gave us the freedom this game to just line up and play,'' he said. ``We had a really simple game plan. We knew what we had to do.''

The Bills needed the strong defensive performance after a questionable Wildcat passing play for Brad Smith yielded an interception late in regulation that allowed the Cardinals to drive for a game-tying field goal.

``We thought we had a chance to hit the home run and ice the thing right there,'' Gailey said. ``In hindsight? Bad call.''

That's all in the past as the Bills prepare for a Tennessee team that is 2-4 and should be well-rested after beating Pittsburgh late Thursday. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson said the opponents aren't the issue. It's the Bills' effort that will dictate their success.

``When we play a full game, we can play with anybody,'' Johnson said. ``It was an ugly win.

``But we got it.''

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NOTES: In addition to the Merriman signing, Buffalo also resigned safety Delano Howell and released defensive tackle Jay Ross and center David Snow. ... Gailey said Monday that Spencer Johnson and starting right guard Kraig Urbik both have chances to be available Sunday. ... The Bills will welcome fifth-round draft pick and cornerback Ron Brooks back to practice on Wednesday from the injured reserve list. ... The win at Arizona was Buffalo's second on the road this season. They won just two total away from home last season.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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