Field Goals: Bills defensive line set for drastic change

The Buffalo Bills defensive front has undergone a massive transition this season. Both in scheme and regarding personnel. Training camp will provide fans, coaches and media the chance to see the new, deeper Bills defensive line.

When Dave Wannstedt decided to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3, it ensured that the Bills two most dominant lineman would be on the field on nearly every down. While Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus each played a significant role in George Edwards’ porous 3-4 front, they will be able to anchor the defensive interior in an even front.

Think back to the dominance the Bills enjoyed with Pat Williams and Sam Adams or Ted Washington in the middle of their defense. That is what Wannstedt is toying with by allowing those two to line up side-by-side.

Obviously signing Mario Williams galvanized the rest of the front from a talent standpoint. With that one signing, the Bills went from having little pop in terms of pass rushing, to an elite, superstar talent rushing off the edge. Adding Mark Anderson and the speculation that Shawne Merriman has returned to full health provides even more talent on the edge.

In total, the Bills only added two new players. But they represent a 50% change for the defensive front. At the beginning of the year, the Bills were lining up Dwan Edwards, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus with their hands in the dirt with a mix of either Alex Carrington, Spencer Johnson, Chris Kelsay or Merriman mixed in one way or another. Penciling in the 2012 starters would put Anderson, Kyle Williams, Dareus and Mario Williams down on the front four. Obviously, Kelsay will factor into that competition along with a few others. Regardless, that is an impressive turnover for a defense that struggled mightily in 2011.

Training camp is going to provide an interesting for a number of players, specifically those who aren’t penciled in as week one starters. A few – namely Danny Batten and Dwan Edwards – are facing an uphill battle after being specifically acquired to play in a 3-4 scheme. Others, like Torrel Troup, will simply be battling for a roster spot. Continue reading

Deskchair Quarterback – Bills vs. Bears

In an attempt to bring a fresh look at each Bills game this season, I’ll try to use this space to offer some analysis and a breakdown of the team’s effort from the last game.

The Bills’ first effort of the preseason ended up as I expected, although there were some high and low points that surely stood out to everyone. Aside from the fact that the NFL preseason is a complete waste of time, the exhibition schedule always catches my eye because I enjoy seeing some of the young talent carve a niche on the roster. For example, Antonio Coleman really stood out as an effective OLB last year and was – and still is – far more effective that Aaron Maybin at the same position.

Saturday night showed me a few things. The most glaring issue is that the Bills’ offense has the potential to be REALLY bad this season. Even before the idiotic trade of Lee Evans, I felt like this would be a down year for the offense. After watching on Saturday I feel like my fears are all but confirmed.

The Bills have no tackles. They have some big guys who are listed as tackles, but they’re not very good at the position. If this team tries to play 16 games with Demetrius Bell, Erik Pears and Ed Wang as the top three bookends, Ryan Fitzpatrick will die. This was the second biggest need for the Bills to address this off season and they failed to do so.

It seems as if this will be a season full of three-and-out, sacks and clogged running lanes.

On the bright side, C.J. Spiller appears to have improved patience and additional duties in the passing game. His rushing numbers didn’t reflect his play, another indication of the porous line, but he looked much better after seeing a handful of plays. Brad Smith also looks like a wise acquisition as he is a true run/pass threat out of the wildcat. Josh Nesbitt was equally impressive in that scheme, it would be cool if they could utilize him as a two-way guy (safety and QB) but there is no need for two wildcat quarterbacks.

Defensively it would seem as if the Bills had adopted the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Marcel Dareus was beyond disruptive and Shawne Merriman was scary good coming off the edge.

The secondary is still good, the Bills are crazy deep at corner and it will only help if Terrence McGee is going to be healthy all year. The safeties are a little average for my liking. I suppose the organization is hoping Da’Norris Searcy comes along fast and is able to start at strong safety. If that is the case there should be no worries, if Bryan Scott is playing all the time it could get ugly.

The special teams didn’t look good, but there are no set responsibilities yet in the system. There are still guys adjusting to kick coverage who have never done it before. I will say that Bruce DeHaven’s crew was pretty average last season and the results on Saturday didn’t inspire much faith. After years of Bobby April’s brilliance, I worry about the mediocrity of this new system.

The second and third preseason games are always the most entertaining for fans and also offer the most insight as to which players are really going to stick around. The next two Saturdays will tell a whole lot more in regards to what kind of team the Bills will have this season.