Aaron Maybin is an easy target. The 11th overall pick can do nothing right.
He held out of training camp. He barely ever sees the field. He is twicked away effortlessly by offensive tackles. Multiple times, he celebrated wildly after a ho-hum tackle. He got locked in the attic. His Christmas tree set on fire. His boss subscribed him to the Jelly of the Month Club.
OK, maybe not the last three. But, wow, Maybin sure has become Buffalo's own Clark Griswold. To many, he resembles $17.6 million down the drain — a wasted pick that will set the Bills back for years. You know, like Mike Williams. Only thinner.
Stop that. The undersized Maybin has been rag-dolled and ineffective but nobody should dismiss him yet. Be patient. There is plenty of time and plenty of hope for the Karl Malone-built speed rusher from Penn State. Management probably freaked Wednesday when Aaron Schobel said he is thinking about retiring after the season. That means the offseason grocery list mounts.
Schobel seemed two or three seasons — at least — from packing it in. With seven sacks, he has enjoyed a rebirth of sorts. Now it looks like Buffalo may have another chore in March. Mainly because Maybin has been invisible. Give him a chance, though. By next summer, Maybin may be the player everybody expects. He needs more seasoning and more chances to showcase his skills.
In reality, Buffalo probably screwed up. Brian Orakpo (11 sacks), Michael Oher (unscathed Joe Flacco) and Brian Cushing (119 tackles), Brandon Pettigrew (30 receptions, 346 yards) would have all started and contributed immediately. All had more sustained success in college than Maybin.
Unlike Maybin, Orakpo was a solid two-way end at Texas for three seasons. Not a one-hit wonder. Let's hope Tom Modrak didn't see Orakpo's four-sack massacre of Oakland two weeks ago. For his health. The contrast between Maybin and Orakpo this season can cause migraines. Maybe the Washington Redskins are run by a Harry Reid, spend-now-think-later owner but Dan Snyder hit a home run with Orakpo.
Meanwhile, Maybin has been a flop. No 11th overall pick should coast through his first season with only 15 tackles, let alone with the word "Mayhem" shaved across the side of his head. To his credit, Maybin realizes the irony. He knows the engraved college nickname is not reflecting in his production.
"Obviously not, because I'm not a starter,'' he said a few weeks ago. "We'll see once I start playing a little more.''
Bingo. We can't judge Maybin yet. He has seen the field as much as kicking tee. The sample space is too small. The player, too raw. Listed at 250 pounds, Maybin is probably more like 230. Thus, he was abandoned by coaches. Simply, he is not big enough yet. Offensive tackles have treated Maybin like a schoolyard bully, stealing his lunch money with ease.
Right now, Aaron Maybin cannot play in the NFL on a play-to-play basis. Next year, he will be a new player. Maybin is a late bloomer by nature. It took Maurice Evans getting suspended for marijuana possession and Jerome Harris suffering a second torn ACL for him to just see the field at Penn State. Out of necessity, Maybin started. Pure speed helped him dominate the Big Ten with 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss.
Out of nowhere, Maybin was one of the hottest NFL prospects.
In fairness, he was not ready for the rigors of the pros. Here's thinking Maybin will turn it around this offseason. He isn't consumed by the passive, take-it-to-the-bank attitude of many first-round busts. He will not sit idly by and watch his career fall apart. Maybin is driven.
Dating way back to childhood, Maybin has been obsessed by a rare work ethic. When his grades dropped, his father kicked him off the wrestling team. Maybin's priorities have always been in line. Unlike many of his peers, nothing was handed to Maybin. So, no, he won't accept this rookie season at face value. Expect Maybin to go Balboa this offseason. He'll return to Lancaster, Pa., and pack on weight with his trainer, Steve Saunders. The same guy that helped transform James Harrison into a Defensive Player of the Year has a project in Maybin, a project that is still under construction. Last summer Saunders told me that Maybin has the frame to carry more weight if need be. Obviously now, that's the plan.
So wait this out. If a bulked-up, rejuvenated Aaron Maybin gets more snaps and continues to falter next season, then maybe it's time for Buffalo to throw in the towel. But not yet. Give this project one more offseason. No defensive end makes a sudden impact after missing all of his inaugural training camp.
With a full minicamp and full training camp, Maybin can rebound.
This season was one frustrating mulligan for Maybin. In a way, he is the symbol of this year's bumbling Bills, the low point being his offsides penalty last weekend. We've all been trained to instinctively give up on players like this. Since John Butler left, draft busts have stormed through Western New York like blizzards in April. Draft-by-draft, the team digs its grave.
Just don't lump Maybin in the Mike Williams bin of busts yet.
Whoever comes in as the Bills' new head coach must push and must play Maybin. If Aaron Schobel does retire, Maybin is next in line at right defensive end. He is bound to play more.
So let's all calm down. For now, Bills Nation must bite its lip and wait.
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