Over the course of the season, Dareus put a versatile skill set on display that allowed him to both rush the passer and stop the run effectively. The physical tools are there, and with a full offseason to refine his game, he could be the source of nightmares for offensive linemen and quarterbacks alike.
But all those skills were on display in the span of 60 minutes of football when the Bills squared off with the Redskins in Canada last season.
In that game, the Bills pitched their only shutout of the year, and their first since December 17, 2006 against the Dolphins. It was thanks in large part to a defense that registered 10 sacks, the second-most in team history.
Dareus led the group with 2.5 sacks on the day, accounting for nearly half his production on the season (5.5 sacks).
Let's take a look at one of those sacks.
On 3rd-and-7, the Bills line up in a 3-3-5 package—three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs.
Dareus lines up over guard Chris Chester and speed rushes to the 'B' gap between Chester and tackle Jammal Brown.
After he's done blowing by Chester, he blows up Brown with a fierce bull rush, pushing Brown into the backfield.
He rides Brown almost all the way to Redskins quarterback John Beck, disengaging from the block and then chasing down the passer.
What's interesting is that Dareus is known for collapsing the pocket up the middle, but he creates the pass-rush off the edge here in an end-tackle stunt with defensive end Chris Kelsay.
He's also more well-known for his bull rush, but at least to start, it's his ability to blow past a guard and show off some agility that helps him get after the quarterback here. He finishes the job by pushing the edge of the pocket into Beck's lap.
That combination of skills will make him a dominant defensive tackle in a 4-3.
But of course, he's not only making an impact when he gets the sack. He's collapsing the pocket consistently as a bull-rusher.
On 2nd-and-6 in the first quarter, Dareus lines up over the "A" gap between the center and right guard. With the offense in an I formation, it looks like it could be a running play.
Beck drops back, though, and stands in the pocket with confidence despite having already been sacked once and pressured several other times.
He immediately engages center Erik Cook and has no problem manhandling him all the way into the backfield, pushing the pocket with the bull rush.
His presence is so strong on this play that it takes away Beck's ability to step into his throw. As a result, he throws an off-balance pass with mostly his arm, and the ball sails on him even with wide receiver Leonard Hankerson starting to come open.
Dareus may not have logged the sack here, but his impact is clearly felt.
Beyond his abilities as a pass-rusher, he can clearly hold his own against the run as well. With the Bills lined up in the base 4-3, this next play should serve as a perfect example of that.
On 2nd-and-4, the Bills line up with four down linemen, and the Redskins line up in an I formation.
Right off the snap, Dareus engages Chester with both hands at the point of attack and gets inside the shoulder pads to maximize his leverage. With Chester at an arm's length, this allows Dareus to keep his eyes in the backfield.
He uses his strength and balance to maneuver while on the block and disengages just as running back Ryan Torain gets to the line of scrimmage. Even with Chester draped all over him, Dareus is able to make the tackle and drag down Torain.
Playing inside in the 4-3 is more demanding than it sounds; it's more than just shooting gaps and getting into the backfield, even if that concept is at the core of a 4-3 defensive tackle's role.
His ability to get leverage and bull rush effectively will help him remain a stout run-defending tackle, and he was a better pass-rusher than he was a run-defender, but the new-look defense will play to his strengths.
The combination of size and athleticism is enough to make him the Freddie Krueger of defensive tackles. Beyond all those football skills, there's one thing that makes him even more of a matchup nightmare: his motor.
One look at the video above, and you'll see countless "effort plays" where Dareus continues to give everything he has for the duration of the play and gets into position to make the play as a result of his relentlessness.
Dareus has shown the requisite work ethic and versatility in his rookie year, but needs to build off of what makes him a matchup nightmare to become an elite defensive tackle in the NFL.
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