In stark contrast to the Bills offense, the defensive unit doesn’t have much that leaps off the page and screams of a potential championship run.
The defense ranked 14th overall in the NFL last season. They were good, but not great.
The unit epitomizes recent Bills teams. There are loads of potential on the roster, but the group as a whole has been plagued by inconsistency and generally underachieves.
There are of course some very bright spots.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny led the team in tackles with 110, good for a tie for 24th best in the NFL. He should remain a force up the middle for many years to come.
Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison make for a solid group of linebackers.
Most of the secondary is more than capable, though also plagued by inconsistent play.
The Bills have developed a penchant for picking up safeties and corners, some of them appear better than others.
Leodis McKelvin looks like a nice pickup. As a rookie, McKelvin had 32 tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Returns are what really make McKelvin a great addition. In 2008, he returned 52 kicks and averaged just over 28 yards per touch.
Safeties Bryan Scott, Ko Simpson, and Donte Whitner have all had their moments and make up a talented group. Throw in rookie second-round pick Jairus Byrd, and the Bills could have quite the rotation shaping up in the defensive backfield.
Up front is where the Bills have had their problems.
Last season saw defensive end Aaron Schobel play in just five games before suffering a lisfranc foot injury. Schobel participated in the Bills first day of OTAs Monday and says he’s back to 100 percent.
Schobel will be the key to the Bills’ defensive success. Last season, the entire Buffalo defense managed just 24 sacks. For reference, DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys had 20, by himself.
Getting to the quarterback is imperative this season, and that’s why they used the 11th overall pick in the NFL draft to pick up defensive end Aaron Maybin out of Penn State.
Maybin won’t come in and dominate right away, he won’t even play every down. The Bills really like his explosive burst off the line, however, and they expect him to be able to at least contribute early on.
If the Buffalo defense can just improve on what they did last year and most importantly stay healthy, they can give the entire team a huge lift.
It’s certainly possible that the big play potential of the offensive unit is finally realized this season and will ease the pressure on the D, but their ability to keep opponent’s scoring in check could be the difference between making the playoffs and having yet another 8-8 season.