Finding the Best 11: Defensive Schemes Buffalo Could Be Running (Part I)
The Tampa 2, that’s what Buffalo’s base scheme is. It consists of smaller, speedier guys that fly to football with ease and employ the bend but don’t break philosophy. But what if there is something more?
Something that has been brewing and is being tweaked, tested, and tinkered with—occasionally on game days—the past three years under Dick Jauron.
Jauron likes to take a one step at a time approach; he prefers to have his players learn different facets of the game at his pace, rather than overwhelming his squad.
When you look at the majority of Jauron’s defensive player selection, he goes for guys that can play multiple positions.
So let’s take a look at his team: draft selections, free agency selections, and inherited players.
*Due to the sheer size of this piece, it will be running as a four part article. First the team, then the scheme.
Donte Whitner, Ohio State, FS/SS, 5’10, 208 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2006 NFL DRAFT, RD 1, PICK 8
Donte Whitner, Jauron’s first ever selection as Buffalo’s head coach, can play SS, FS, NB, and can even get the team out of a jam playing outside CB. It helps that he has an exceptional burst and that he likes to play mean.
Certain fans of the team like to rag on Whitner’s play due to a lack of big turnover plays. Perhaps this is the year Whitner starts dominating the defensive backfield.
John McCargo, NC State, UT/NT, 6’2, 307 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2006 NFL DRAFT, RD 1, PICK 26
John McCargo—the unheralded DT out of N.C. State—can play UT in a 4-3 and most likely DE in a 3-4. The problem with him is health history and desire. Potential is the number one word associated with McCargo.
Unfortunately, a certain adjective called "realized" can’t be placed next to him. He should realize that now that Bob Sanders is here, teaching defensive line techniques such as counter moves, he has no excuses not to perform.
Ashton Youboty, Ohio State, CB, 5’11, 189 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2006 NFL DRAFT, RD 3, PICK 70
Ashton Youboty’s career has been mired by one roadblock after another. In 2006 he lost his mother, which was a mental setback. In 2007 he battled for playing time, but was relegated to spot duty.
2008 looked to be a breakout year for Youboty, but Plantar fasciitis sidelined the promising NB’s career. Youboty has the size and speed to play both inside and outside corner positions.
He is another player that you can place in the untapped section.
Ko Simpson, South Carolina, FS, 6’1, 202 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2006 NFL DRAFT, RD 4, PICK 105
Ko Simpson showed promise his rookie season as he recorded 77 tackles, a forced fumble and two interceptions. Since breaking his ankle in the 2007 home opener against Denver, he has relatively been a non-factor on the field.
Simpson needs to have a solid camp or he may be cut due to a certain rookie emerging, or because of solid veteran play. Either way, Simpson is on a very hot seat.
He could play CB in a zone based scheme.
Kyle Williams, LSU, NT/UT, 6’1, 306 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2006 NFL DRAFT, RD 5, PICK 134
Kyle Williams has been viewed as a solid player since coming to Buffalo in 2006. He played in every game since becoming a Buffalo Bill, and has started 43 of those contests.
He could play NT or UT in 4-3 schemes and DE in a 3-4. This guy plays with a high motor. Although physically his potential is probably maxed out, his football IQ and awareness can continue to get better.
Keith Ellison, Oregon State, SLB/SS, 6’, 229 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2006 NFL DRAFT, RD 6, PICK 178
Keith Ellison is the perfect definition of an enigma. He isn’t quite quick enough to be a safety, and he isn’t quite big enough to be a linebacker. While he plays solid against the pass, he usually gets engulfed by blockers versus the run.
He is a solid spot-duty player who should be playing SS instead of SLB.
Paul Posluszny, Penn State, MLB, 6’1, 238 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2007 NFL DRAFT, RD 2, PICK 34
Paul Posluszny is the throwback to the old days. He possesses a good nose for the football and rare football intelligence. If there is ever a guy that is needed to stop the run, it’s him.
Although he was robbed of his rookie season, he bounced back in 2008 to achieve Buffalo’s Team MVP honors.
Posluszny can play MLB in either 4-3 or 3-4 schemes.
John Wendling, Wyoming, FS/SS/ST 6’1, 222 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2007 NFL DRAFT, RD 6, PICK 184
John Wendling so far has been nothing but a special teams gunning ace. His opportunities to contribute on defense just haven’t been there.
While he possesses outstanding athleticism, he hasn’t proven he can play good angles to the ball and might be considered a victim of the numbers game.
He could play SS or FS and possibly LB if he put on more muscle mass.
Leodis McKelvin, Troy, CB/ST 5’10, 184 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2008 NFL DRAFT, RD 1, PICK 11
Leodis McKelvin may be one of the most gifted players to ever put on a Bills uniform. Blessed with blazing speed and unnatural instincts, McKelvin finds ways to put points on the board when the ball is in his hands.
He is a more than capable KR, but needs to work on his coverage skills as a DB. If he can improve his hand eye coordination and his anticipation skills he could be an ALL-PRO CB.
He plays tough, too. He is not afraid to come up and tackle a RB.
Chris Ellis, Virginia Tech, OLB/DE 6’4, 261 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2008 NFL DRAFT, RD 3, PICK 72
Chris Ellis is a bit of an unknown heading into the 2009 season. His play was limited due to the plethora of veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. He also went down his rookie season with a high ankle sprain.
He could stand to get stronger in his upper body if he wants to take on the behemoth OL’s in the NFL. He does possess a very quick first step and may be a surprise contributor for the up coming season either as an OLB or a DE.
Reggie Corner, Akron, CB, 5’9, 175 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2008 NFL DRAFT, RD 4, PICK 114
Reggie Corner has been a bit of a surprise for the Buffalo Bills. He not only shut down Brandon Stokley on Denver’s opportunity for a game winning drive once, he did it twice.
He was not a heralded selection by Buffalo, due to his 5’9 frame. In fact, some experts last year were saying he wasn’t a draftable player.
This year, he has been the talk of the training camp and may end up winning the NB role. Don’t make the mistake of thinking he can’t play outside either. He matched up against James Hardy in college and fared well.
Alvin Bowen, Iowa State, SLB/SS, 6’1, 222 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2008 NFL DRAFT, RD 5, PICK 147
Alvin Bowen had an opportunity to take the starting SLB role last year when Angelo Crowell was put on IR. Unfortunately, Bowen himself suffered an ACL tear and would miss the entire season.
Bowen is another tweener that flies to the football. He isn’t quite big enough to be a SLB and he might not be fast enough to be a true SS. He should push for playing time at SLB, but he may not have the coverage skills to be considered a rover or SS.
Aaron Maybin, Penn State, DE/OLB, 6’4, 250 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2009 NFL DRAFT, RD 1, PICK 11
Aaron Maybin is one of those players that Buffalo needs to keep an eye on. He has all the potential in the world with his "always-on motor" and lightning first step. The problem with him is he is undersized. He played college ball at 225 and just recently added the mass to play in the NFL.
He struggled against bigger offensive lines and could stand to get stronger in his upper-body as well as better with his counter-moves and overall technique. The sky is the limit for him. Unfortunately, he is starting at ground zero. There just wasn’t a lot of production in college.
He could play OLB now and DE down the road with added size and strength.
Jairus Byrd, Oregon, FS/CB, 5’10, 200 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2009 NFL DRAFT, RD 2, PICK 42
Jairus Byrd is an interesting player. While he certainly isn’t the fastest DB on the field, he may very well be one of the smartest. As a CB at Oregon he played excellent bump and run with receivers and showed great ball awareness.
He could probably get Buffalo out of tight spots at NB and should be looked at as viable competition at FS. He also adds versatility in the return game.
Nic Harris, Oklahoma, SS/SLB, 6’2, 232 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2009 NFL DRAFT, RD 5, PICK 147
Nic Harris is another interesting choice made by the Buffalo Bills. He offers good versatility at LB and SS. He isn’t quite big enough to be a true LB and not quite fast enough to be a true SS.
He could prove to be a viable option as a rover in certain schemes and adequate enough to play SLB in others. It will be extremely interesting to see what Buffalo plans to do with him.
Cary Harris, USC, CB, 5’11, 187 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2009 NFL DRAFT, RD 6, PICK 183
Cary Harris is a zone corner who may suffer from the numbers game. He hasn’t had a chance to really show what he is capable of at the pro level thus far due to injuries. He is not afraid to make contact with RB’s and could provide solid depth, but if he can’t get past the nagging injuries he may be relegated to the practice squad, or ultimately getting cut.
Ellis Lankster, West Virginia, CB/S, 5’9, 191 lbs
HOW ACQUIRED: 2009 NFL DRAFT, RD 7, PICK 220
Ellis Lankster is the final draft selection made by Jauron thus far. In OTA’s all indications are that he could turn out to be a sleeper player that was overlooked because he didn’t have the experience on the field.
He has a knack for finding the football and could play a CB/S tweener role. He will be interesting to watch this season if he makes the final roster. He also offers some versatility in the return game.
That’s it for drafted players. Stay tuned for free agent signings and undrafted free agents.
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