Breaking Down Buffalo Bills Starting Defense
2013 Buffalo Bills Starting Defense
The Buffalo Bills have had a rough few years on the defensive side of the football. They were 22nd in the NFL in yards given up per game last season with 362.9 yards given up per game. It was actually an improvement on 2011 when they finished ranked 26th in total defense with 371.1 yards given up per game. They've given up over 25 points per game every season since 2010. Quite simply put, the Bills haven't had a good defense in this entire decade so far and probably beyond that.
The Bills and new head coach Doug Marrone took steps to change that this offseason when they brought in former New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine will bring a fast attacking style to the Bills defense that hasn't been seen in Orchard Park for a lot of years. This year's defense should look a lot different than former DC Dave Wannstedt's vanilla defense. Pettine plans to use exotic blitzes and misdirection so that the opposing quarterbacks won't know where pressure is coming from. Unlike Wannstedt, Pettine plans to move around players so the schemes are not as predictable.
There is nothing that says that a faster, more complicated defense will be a better one but it should make for more exciting games. There is a boatload of talent on the Bills defensive roster but Wannstedt just couldn't put it all together and make it fit. It's Pettine's task now and he says he is up for the task. After all, this is a guy who lived in Rex Ryan's very big shadow for four years and is eager to show that it wasn't just Rex who was responsible finishing in the top 10 in defense every year that they were together.
Here is a look at the lineup for the Bills 2013 defense...
DE Alex Carrington
Carrington was a third-round pick for the Bills in 2010 and was a bit of a disappointment over his first two seasons with Buffalo. He came on strong last season, recording 19 tackles, two sacks, three passes defended and a forced fumble, all career highs. He's been inserted into the starting lineup for 2013 and will serve as the big end opposite Mario Williams and the other pass rushers along the defensive front. Carrington is in a contract year so there will be pressure on him to perform.
DT Marcell Dareus
Although last year was considered a disappointment for Dareus, his numbers were slightly up. He had 5.5 sacks, which was as many as he had in his rookie year, along with six passes defensed, which was up from two in his first season. Still you'd like the No. 3 pick in the entire draft to make a bigger leap from year one to two. The Bills staff will try to get the agile Dareus going in the attacking defense and hope that he will be a force up the middle in both the passing and rushing game.
DT Kyle Williams
Williams is the rock of the Bills defensive line. He is the longest tenured Bill on defense and is as consistent as they come. His problem in recent years has been health. If the Bills can keep Williams on the field, he should produce mightily next to Dareus in the middle.
DE/OLB Mario Williams
Williams will be playing the hybrid position on the Bills new defense. Sometimes he'll have his hand down and sometimes he'll rush the passer from an upright position. Even with a foot injury last season, Williams managed 10.5 sacks. With the injury behind him combined with an attacking new defense, most are expecting a jump in his sack numbers this season.
ILB Nigel Bradham
Bradham is the type of sideline-to-sideline player that could excel in the middle of Pettine's defense. He played outside in his rookie season and is quite the athlete. He started 11 games last year for the Bills and they'll expect a jump in year two in a faster defense.
ILB Kiko Alonso
People in Buffalo are excited to see Alonso play. He is a high-energy guy who will man the Mike position in the middle of the Bills defense. While he has an aggressive style, it seemed a bit too aggressive at times during the preseason. As long as Kiko knows when to settle down, he should be a playmaker in the middle of the Bills D.
OLB Manny Lawson
Lawson was an astute free agent signing for the Bills in the offseason. He brings a veteran presence and versatility to the Bills defense. Lawson has been effective in pass coverage over his career and his role will be important in games against teams like the New England Patriots who like to spread the ball around.
CB Stephon Gilmore (injured)
Many thought that Gilmore was ready to make the jump to an elite player this season and he still may. However, it will be after he returns from a fractured hand. He'll be sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks and the Bills hope that when he comes back, he can continue to show why the Bills made him the No. 10 pick in last year's draft.
CB Leodis McKelvin
McKelvin will be an important player in the early going with Gilmore out of the lineup. The hope is that since an attacking defense will put more pressure on the QB, there will be less pressure on McKelvin to be on an island with the receivers. McKelvin can cover guys 1-on-1 but has issues playing the ball when he is left alone and can get burned deep often if the QB has enough time.
CB Ron Brooks
Brooks is the nickel corner and will start in place of Gilmore while he's out. Brooks was a streaky player in his rookie season but looked good at times. He didn't even start on his college team at LSU but was an ace in the slot. He'll be more effective when Gilmore is in the lineup and he's lined up as the nickel.
SS Aaron Williams
Williams is moving from corner this season. After a few knee injuries slowed Williams the Bills are hoping that a switch to safety will do him good. He is a ball hawk and has shown some physicality at the position in the preseason. He now has a good mentor in veteran Jim Leonhard who will see some time on the field as well.
FS Jairus Byrd
Assuming that his planar fasciitis doesn't keep him off the field, Byrd is the general out there in the Bills defensive secondary. Byrd might be the best player on the field for Buffalo when he's healthy so it's important for both the Bills' sake and his financial future that he can contribute.