The Buffalo Bills had 36 sacks last year, good for 18th in the league. In 2011 they had 29, good for 27th. That was the legacy of Dave Wannstedt‘s defense: Keep everything in front of you and don’t take chances. In reality it was an infuriating defense to watch. The Bills sat in zone coverage and tried to pressure the QB with their front four. What resulted was plenty of time for the QBs and plenty of long completions. The Bills tried to alleviate that by bringing in Mario Williams and Stephon Gilmore before last season, but that only marginally improved the D. A system overhaul was necessary.
Enter Mike Pettine, the new Bills defensive coordinator freshly imported from the New York Jets. Pettine promised and attacking style from the Bills’ defense, and that is exactly what we’ve seen after two weeks in 2013. They’ve featured heavy blitz packages and have put a lot of pressure on opposing QBs. You’ve seen linebackers and defensive backs blitz regularly in this defense as opposed to last season when cornerback blitzes were few and far between. The new system has paid off. The Bills have already recorded nine sacks through the first two games. The only team with more thus far in the season is the Kansas City Chiefs who have already played their third game. It doesn’t hurt that Williams looks like the former No. 1 overall pick that they were expecting when they signed him.
This week the Bills go up against Geno Smith and the Jets. Geno has already been sacked nine times through his first two NFL games, exactly as many as the Bills’ defense has. He’s held onto the ball for 3.5 seconds on average, and if he does that this Sunday you can count on more sacks for the Bills D. Pettine loves to move people around and mask formations, something that is a trademark of Rex Ryan defenses. Geno may have some trouble reading these defenses, and if he does it could make for a long day for him. It’s been years since the Bills have had an elite pass rush, but if things continue to develop on their defensive front there will be a lot of talk about it all season long.