On Sunday, January 16, the New York Jets dominated the New England Patriots en route to a convincing 28-21 win in Foxboro. In reality, the game was not that close due to the dominant play of the Jets defense. Quarterback Tom Brady looked shaken from midway through the first quarter and never recovered. The Jets simply put on a defensive clinic until they took their foot off the gas toward the end of the fourth quarter.
So what does that have to do with the Buffalo Bills? The Bills were close to beating the Patriots in the first meeting of the season (final score of 38-30), but got dismantled very effectively in the second game (34-3). There were plenty of games this season where the Bills offense performed admirably, but the defense just could not stop anyone.
Yet there are a lot of Bills fans that are clamoring for a quarterback to be taken with their first pick in the draft. Yes, there were days where the offense did not produce. However, I think that falls primarily on the makeshift nature of the right side of the offensive line down the stretch this season.
I think the biggest problem on the team right now is the lack of playmakers in the front seven of the defense. Nose tackle Kyle Williams is a beast of a player, but he cannot overcome the liabilities around him every single play.
Rookie linebacker Arthur Moats showed the ability to make plays, but he still has a way to go before he can be considered a playmaker. Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman is a playmaker when fully healthy, but only time will tell if he can return to his Pro Bowl form.
Even though the Bills finished with four wins, they were competitive through most of the season. This team could be even more competitive with a really good front seven. In the AFC East, you have to beat the Patriots to go anywhere. The Bills haven’t been able to do that for years.
The Jets just proved how to do it, much like the New York Giants did in the Super Bowl. Get in quarterback Tom Brady’s face the entire game and the Patriots don’t have an answer. The Bills need to generate a consistent explosive pass rush and simultaneously shore up their run defense. They need to get bigger and faster in the front seven.
That is why I want the Bills to invest their high picks on defensive playmakers, starting with Marcell Dareus out of Alabama.
Yes, Nick Fairley from Auburn is an elite talent. However, there are concerns about his style of play, namely the amount of dirty plays. There are also concerns about how mentally committed he is to excelling wherever he goes, a la Albert Haynseworth. I still like Fairley, but I have yet to hear any mental concerns about Dareus.
This post over at mockingthedraft.com, courtesy of poster 3k, highlights Dareus’s impact on an offense. He has the ability to play 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 defensive tackle, and is big and explosive enough to disrupt from anywhere on the field. He would be a great addition to the Bills at the third pick if available, which he should be.
In the videos from the Mocking the Draft post, Dareus showed the ability to generate a pass rush from a three-man rush as well as part of a four-man front. In the Jets-Patriots game, the Jets were able to generate a pass rush with three-man rushes as well as blitzes, thanks in large part to tackle Sedrick Ellis.
If the Bills get Dareus, he and Williams would make a formidable duo to line up with solid defensive end Dwan Edwards in the 30 front.
Defense prevailed on Sunday in the Jets-Patriots game, and that kind of defensive play is something the Bills have lacked for years now. They have a solid offense that can make plays in the running and passing game. It’s time to start adding players to make plays on defense. Until they do that, they are not going to be able to win those close games against the elite teams in the NFL.