In the fourth installment of my “Predicting the Bills Breakout Players of 2012″ series, I’ll take a look at defensive tackle Marcell Dareus of Alabama.
Marcell Dareus was selected with the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, filling a need at the three-technique defensive end utilized in a 3-4 defensive front. He had experience all over the line during his time with the Crimson Tide, playing end and nose tackle in ‘Bama's 3-4 defense, so the Bills' front office was confident in his ability to adjust to the NFL game.
At Alabama, Dareus made 70 tackles, 20 for a loss, had 11 sacks and registered 20 quarterback hits.
He began the 2011 season at the three-technique, a defensive end in the Bills' 3-4 front, where he commanded double teams early due to his large 6’3″, 331-pound frame. But then he moved inside to nose tackle after the incumbent starter, Kyle Williams, went down with a season-ending injury. Dareus displayed great gap penetration, registering 43 tackles—nine of which for a loss—eight quarterback hits and led the team with 5.5 sacks.
Nose tackles aren’t supposed to put up those numbers, as their primary responsibility is to occupy blockers, allowing the linebackers to make plays. But Dareus proved that he was a disruptive force.
With the Bills switching to a 4-3 defense, he will start alongside Kyle Williams, one of the most underrated defensive tackles in the game, with All-Pro defensive end Mario Williams and Mark Anderson holding down the defensive end positions.
In 2012, Dareus will have a lot more opportunities to get after the quarterback due to the improvements across the defensive line, and he will present major matchup problems for opposing offensive lines. Three of the Bills’ four down linemen require double teams most of the time, so the opposition will have to pick its poison with this ferocious defensive line.
With Williams and Anderson rushing the passer, Dareus will be able to take on more single assignments and clean up the trash in the backfield. And with the move to the 4-3, I'm projecting Dareus to have an extremely productive sophomore campaign, in which he could record upwards of eight sacks.