If the Buffalo Bills expect to be legitimate playoff contenders in 2012, the defense will have to drastically improve over their 2011 performance.
Overall, the defense was ranked 26th in 2011. If you break it down, the defense was ranked 19th against the pass and 28th against the run, allowing 139 yards per game on the ground.
The Bills have been notorious for being atrocious against the run in recent seasons, so that has to change quickly. The entire defense managed just 29 sacks, 10 of which came in one game against the Washington Redskins, so that minuscule number is highly inflated.
Not very good at all.
Under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, the Bills look to have a defensive line-friendly scheme. From Chris Brown at BuffaloBills.com, Wannstedt said:
“It’s going to be a defensive line friendly scheme. By that I mean we’ll be as good as our guys up front. That’s how it was at Dallas, at Miami and every place where we’ve run this scheme. The guys up front it all starts there. If we can get a good rotation going and keep some guys healthy that kind of sets the foundation for what we’re trying to get done here. There’s going to be some transitions, there’s no question about that. Those pre-season games will be very, very important to us because of getting some full speed live work.”
Right now there are 12 legitimate candidates to make the roster as defensive linemen.
Of those 12, only two were not with the Bills in 2011, those being All-Pro Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, both defensive ends.
Wannstedt likes to use a rotation on his defensive line, much like the Super Bowl champion New York Giants did last year on their remarkable run. The opening day lineup is expected to be Williams and Chris Kelsay at defensive end, with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams clogging up the middle.
Kelsay will most likely come out on passing downs, due to his lack of ability to effectively and consistently rush the passer. This is where Anderson comes in. Recording 10 sacks last season with the New England Patriots, Anderson likely won't start, but will definitely see a lot of playing time.
Behind Dareus and Williams are former second-round pick Torell Troup, who has been nagged by back injuries; Dwan Edwards, who is converting from a three-technique defensive end to a defensive tackle; and Kellen Heard, who has made some splashes in his limited time on the field.
It will be interesting to see where former third-round pick Alex Carrington fits in. He played defensive end in college at Arkansas State, finishing his career with 21.5 sacks, but is currently listed as a defensive tackle on the Buffalo Bills official depth chart, due to his bulk from the transition to the 3-4.
The Bills obviously need to improve on stopping the run, though on paper seems like the problem has been fixed with two stud defensive tackles in Williams and Dareus. They also need to improve on their pass coverage, but with coverage directly connected to pass-rushing pressure, it will be interesting to see how the defense as a whole adjusts to the new-look defensive line.