After the success of Ndamukong Suh with the Detroit Lions and his subsequent Defensive Rookie of the Year award, many assumed the hex over top-pick defensive tackles would be ignored.
The Buffalo Bills, however, were not deterred and would not be denied a key piece to their defensive front. Dareus' transition into that defensive front should be made much smoother by the fact that he will be playing the same position in the same front that he played in college—defensive end in the base 3-4 package.
It's no surprise that the Bills snared him up. Apart from being the best player available, he clearly addresses their biggest need with his ability to bolster the Bills horrendous run defense of 2010, which ranked dead last in the league.
They made improvements toward the end of the year, and paired with Pro Bowl nose tackle Kyle Williams, Dareus gives the Bills two stout run defenders and two serious building blocks for their defense.
No one can deny that more is needed, and the work probably isn't done by adding Dareus alone.
They must also address free-agent linebacker Paul Posluszny, who has led the team in tackles three years running.
Despite that, Posluszny struggled against the run last year, as pointed out by the statistical kings over at Football Outsiders in their article outlining broken tackles in 2010.
I find Paul Posluszny's appearance on this list to be interesting, especially in conjunction with the poor run stop rate we reported last week. Posluszny was making his tackles farther away from the line of scrimmage than is usual for a linebacker, but at least he wasn't missing them. This is the second straight year that Posluszny had only three broken tackles.
One of the biggest problems Posluszny faced in transitioning to the 3-4 defense was that he was tasked with taking on offensive guards more frequently.
Dareus' ability to soak up blockers from the defensive end spot will likely allow Posluszny to flow more freely at the second level to make the play.
Although Dareus is stronger as a run-stuffing defensive linemen than a pass-rusher, his skills to put pressure on the quarterback are underrated. We see in the highlight video (at the 0:55 mark) that Dareus is able to keep his feet under him to contain and chase down Cam Newton, widely considered one of the best physical specimens at quarterback to ever come out of the draft.
He makes a bunch of other plays on the quarterback, either putting the pressure on him or getting the sack.
It would appear, at least on the surface, that the run defense is all that needs to be shored up for the Bills. That is a naive and uninformed stance to take, though.
They finished the season ranked third in the league against the pass, but they also had the second-fewest passes thrown against them, as opposed to the most rushing attempts against.
They also gave up well above the league average per pass, ranking 19th in the league allowing 6.1 net yards per attempt.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey is cognisant of that as an inherent issue in their defense.
"That is a can’t stop the run deal," Gailey explained, according to Buffalo Rumblings writer Brian Galliford. "If they don’t have to throw it, they’re not going to. So, that’s what that is. It’s one of the anomalies of the statistics."
Hopefully, Dareus' presence on the defensive line will mean that opponents will have to throw it a bit more. If that's the case, the Bills had better hope they're up to the task of defending it.
The stats, however, indicate they're not. They gave up 28 touchdowns for the 26th ranking in the league and only had 11 interceptions for the league's fifth-lowest ranking (28th) in that category.
Still, their pass defense was better than their run defense.
While the addition of Marcell Dareus may help in some respects, there is still much work to be done. He will help tremendously against the run, and maybe a bit (however directly or indirectly) against the pass.
No singular player can be expected to change the fortunes of a defense that has been a playground for opposing offenses for years.
That, then, explains why the Bills used so many of their early picks on defense. Texas cornerback Aaron Williams and UNC safety Da'Norris Searcy should help solidify the pass defense, as there are some questions about free agency in the secondary. Up to five defensive backs could leave, including big names like Terrence McGee and Donte Whitner.
Kelvin Sheppard is a solid run defender, with the ability to quickly read a play and react accordingly. He could help bring some solidity to the linebacking corps if Posluszny leaves, and even more so if he doesn't.
Thus, while there is much work to be done, the Bills used the 2011 NFL draft to get off to a good start. If their picks pan out, we could be witnessing the makings of a great defense.