Show and prove: Shawne Merriman

The AFC East blog continues its series of players who have a lot to prove in 2012.

Shawne Merriman, Buffalo Bills

2011 stats: Nine tackles, one sack

What he has to prove: First, Merriman must stay healthy. He suffered back-to-back season-ending Achilles injuries, and Merriman must prove he's fully recovered and can play close to a full season for the first time since 2009. Second, he must be a productive player again. Merriman has played just eight games the past two years, and in those games he hasn't looked anything close to the explosive, former Pro Bowler we saw in San Diego.

Walker's 2012 outlook: Achilles injuries are bad for pass-rushers. Merriman has clearly lost a step, but perhaps corrective surgery will help "Lights Out" regain some of his explosiveness. Merriman was medically cleared to join his teammates last week, which is evidence that he's working hard to regain his old form. But Buffalo doesn't need the 17 sacks Merriman produced in his prime. If the Bills can get 6-8 sacks and Merriman stays healthy all season, Buffalo would be happy. I also find it interesting that the Bills are using Merriman at defensive end, which may or may not be his best fit in Buffalo's new 4-3 defense.