This is the second installment of an analysis of the Buffalo Bills to identify how the moves that the team has made in the offseason will affect their chances at a playoff run.
The Bills defense will have to do much better than their 22nd ranked run defense and 28th ranked sack effort from the 2008 season to be competitive for the division crown.
The Defensive Line
The defensive line will be the biggest improvement for the Bills, which, in turn will dramatically affect the entire defense.
The Bills' decision to draft Aaron Maybin will be the biggest addition to the all-important defensive line. Maybin, 6’4” and 250lbs, is a super-fast defensive end that will put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and backside pressure on run plays going the opposite direction.
Maybin should add somewhere in the range of 15 sacks over the course of the year and should hasten offenses to dump the ball quickly.
The other defensive end will most likely be the dynamic Aaron Schobel, depending on if his left foot will allow him to play at the level he did when he recorded 14 sacks for the Bills in the 2006 campaign.
The inside of the D-line will be stout again this year with 300 pounders Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson providing clutter in the middle to occupy double teams and stuff the runs between the tackles.
Outside linebacker Kawika Mitchell is a solid player that has made some big plays to help the Bills win and should get the chance to do more this year with improved line play. Mitchell plays the run well and defends well against the past when he keeps the play in front of him.
Paul Posluszny played exceptionally well and seemed to be involved in every play last season. Posluszny is a blue collar favorite in Buffalo that will only grow as his leadership develops on the field. Like Mitchell, Posluszny is exceptional against the run, but sometimes suffers in pass coverage.
The other linebacker position may be filled by Keith Ellison or in free agency. The Bills have looked at a few free agents already and may pick one up prior to the season.
Pisa Tinoisamoa was the latest player looked at by the Bills. Ellison may not be ready to be a full-time starter—he was the backup for Angelo Crowell who left for Tampa Bay.
The Defensive Backs
The Bills are deep and talented at the cornerback position. Terrence McGee holds down the left corner spot and has been a remarkable shut-down corner for the Bills. Right corner duties will be picked up by Leodis McKelvin, who has shown some impressive skills and the ability to make up ground when he does make a mistake.
Jairus Byrd and Ashton Youboty will have a heated competition for the nickel slot. Byrd is a great cover corner that should win the nickel slot and may make the starting lineup by mid season.
Strong safety Donte Whitner is a Pro Bowl caliber player that can deliver punishment to opposing ball carriers and drops back well for excellent coverage. Whitner has shown over the past couple of seasons that he can play at a very high caliber.
Free safety Ko Simpson should be the starter this year, barring any injury. Simpson is capable at his position, but needs to avoid letting the big play get away from him. He should do well this year with improved performance from the defensive line, which will decrease the time that opposing offenses will have to stretch the field.
Formula For Success
The Bills defense will be a much improved unit mainly because of the play of the defensive line. A stout run defense will force many teams into throwing downs where the defensive ends will be able to put pressure on the quarterback.
The success of the D-line will allow all the other pieces of the defensive puzzle to fall into place and the Bills will see dramatic results. Those results will put them in a position to challenge for the division crown.
Next installment: Special teams.