The Buffalo Bills have a solid safety tandem in Jairus Byrd and George Wilson. Last season, the two combined for over 200 tackles, and the veteran/youngster on the rise have given the Bills a nice one-two punch at the position.
With a bolstered pass rush due to the signings of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the safeties will have a better opportunity to make plays. However, second-year safety Da’Norris Searcy has been seeing some first-team reps at strong safety throughout the opening days of training camp. Let’s take a look at how the strong safety position stacks up.
George Wilson is the leader of the Buffalo Bills defense and is the team’s player representative. Since joining the team as a wide receiver, he made a difficult transition to safety and has been one of the bright spots on a sub-par defensive unit.
Last season in 13 games, Wilson racked up 106 tackles, forced two fumbles and picked off four passes. For his career, he has over 300 tackles and 12 interceptions. Wilson is not only a leader, but a playmaker and a solid tackler in the box.
Chris Brown, the lead journalist at BuffaloBills.com believes that Wilson is a possibility to make the 2012 Pro Bowl, stating:
He’s well respected around the league and he makes plays. A solid season with a strong team won-loss record could make his uncommon career position change complete.
The Buffalo Bills selected safety Da’Norris Searcy out of North Carolina with the No. 100 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft with the hopes that he could eventually take over the 31-year old George Wilson’s role.
In college, he was primarily a special-teams player for his freshman and sophomore seasons before seeing time at safety. In his two seasons at safety, he recorded 72 tackles; three for a loss, five interceptions and defended 12 passes.
In his rookie campaign, the former Tarheel appeared in all 16 games, starting three when Wilson went down with injury and performed pretty well, recording 34 tackles, defending a pass, and making an interception. Searcy brings a physical presence to the safety position with his size alone. At 5’11" and change and 223 pounds he can hit and tackle.
“I see a young man that’s physical,” said Bills secondary coach George Catavolos (as reported by Chris Brown). “He’s 220 pounds, a good tackler, plays well in the box.”
Searcy has been seeing sporadic reps with the first team throughout training camp in order to prepare him to come in and play at a moment's notice. From BuffaloBills.com, Chan Gailey commented on Searcy taking snaps with the first-team defense:
We have been doing that all along. George (Wilson) missed the last part of the season and we want to make sure we have got somebody ready to go at either position. George may have to move to the other spot and Da’Norris play there. One injury and Da’Norris has to go in.
Searcy definitely is being groomed for an eventual starting role in the secondary, but the question is when and how will that opportunity happen?
The Buffalo Bills agreed to terms with undrafted free agent safety Nick Sukay out of Penn State on April 30th. Sukay played three years at safety for the Nittany Lions, recording 136 tackles, eight interceptions, 27 defended passes, and two forced fumbles. He has solid size at 6’1″, 219 pounds and earned second-team All-Big 10 honors last year. Brown reported that Bills Coordinator of College Scouting Doug Majeski said of Sukay:
He probably fits more as a traditional strong safety. He’s aggressive coming downhill playing the run. Pretty good range and lateral ability, but more of a run support guy. He was two and a half year starter. Sukay has good awareness in coverage and worked out well at the pro day.
General Manager Buddy Nix stated that the Bills were “trolling” for another safety, telling BuffaloBills.com:
The one place I’m a little concerned is our depth at safety. We’ve got three guys and we’d like to have four there that can play. Other than that I think we’re pretty deep.
With hybrid linebacker/ safety Bryan Scott currently listed solely as a linebacker now, Sukay needs to prove in training camp that he can put up the production he did in college.
His abilities in the run game could help him earn a roster spot due to the team’s horrible attempts at stopping the run in recent years, but with so much depth at other positions, Sukay really needs to make an impression on the coaching staff in order to make the team.
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