It’s that time of the year if you’re a bad team, like the Buffalo Bills, that misses the playoffs by a mile: It’s end of season positional review time!
Over the coming days, yours truly is going to break down each position group by three factors: depth, reliability and performance. They’ll be graded on all three of these factors accordingly.
Today, we’ll be looking at the star of the show and by far the best position group on the year: the defensive line.
When you start with Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, you have pretty good depth along your defensive line. Alex Carrington provided quality depth before his season-ending injury in Week 3, and the signing of Alan Branch, who started 16 games the year before for a top-ranked Seahawks defense, proved to be a huge boon for an already pretty good line.
Add in the fact that Jerry Hughes had a career-year and the Bills are suddenly flush with capable players and can take their time with a few projects (Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles). Grade: A-
It’s hard to ask for more out of this group.
The Bills managed the latter Williams’ health well this season, sitting him for Wednesday practices and getting rewarded with 16 games. Mario fought off an early-season ankle injury to post his second-consecutive 16-game season, and Dareus, tardiness issues aside, was there the whole way.
They were rarely bad and consistently made plays in the backfield all year. Even once you got past the top three, the Bills knew they could put Hughes or Branch on the field and not get hurt. Still, it helps to have three very good linemen that you can put on the field at all times. Most teams beg for that. Grade: A-
Though the run defense again fared poorly, it’s hard to pin the blame on any one group. That said, it’s hard to get a much better performance out of your linemen than the Bills got this season.
Mario had 13 sacks. Kyle Williams, Dareus and Hughes all hit career-highs in sacks (10.5, 7.5, 10). This unit was a huge part of the Bills’ third-ranked pass rush and were a consistent presence throughout the season. It’s hard to match that kind of production unless you’re one of the two teams that had more sacks than the Bills, who broke a franchise record this season. Grade: A