The Buffalo Bills are a conundrum on defense. In 2012, they added Mario Williams and Mark Anderson through free agency in the hope that they could add a stout pass rush to an underachieving defense. That plan clearly didn’t work, as Anderson has since been released because Buffalo never got off the ground.
Their run defense, which was supposed to be the highlight after their offseason acquisitions, proved to be abysmal, giving up the second-most yards allowed in the league. If not for their solid coverage — 10th-fewest yards allowed — they might have been even graded out even worse. At the end of the season, the downtrodden defense finished 22nd in the league in total yards allowed.
So what, if anything, does the 2013 iteration of the Bills defense offer us? Well, the biggest change has to be the addition of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine is hoping to bring his style of defense to an eager, but troubled group of younger players.
They sent Anderson packing after his 10 tackle, one sack season. It’s not a loss, unless you count how much it cost for them to sign him to that lucrative contract. They also chose not to re-sign stalwarts George Wilson and Nick Barnett.
On the other hand, they added castoffs Jerry Hughes (from the Indianapolis Colts) and Manny Lawson (from the San Francisco 49ers), rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, and they franchised arguably their best defensive player, Jairus Byrd.
Even though Hughes, Lawson and third-year player Alex Carrington have done their part to help Williams out — nine sacks and 18 quarterback hits through three preseason games — the loss of their best corner, Stephon Gilmore, could be devastating. Gilmore’s loss could put a heavy reliance on special-teamer Leodis McKelvin, which could make it easy for opposing teams to put up big yards through the air.
The recent head injury to safety Da’Norris Searcy could also compound the issues.
Just touching on the offense for a moment, as they could also add a tough element to the weary defense. With a possible career-ending injury to Kevin Kolb, who isn’t a fantasy stud, they are almost solely reliant on rookie quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and E.J. Manuel. Turnovers or weak play by either of these guys could put even more pressure on the defense.
The Bills’ defense may indeed improve as a unit this year, especially if their pass rush keeps improving, but they aren’t a top-15 defense. If you wait too long to draft a defense this year and have to settle for your second or third defensive selection, I’d still let them hit the waiver wire before picking them up.