Buffalo Bills Positional Review: Defensive Line
This monster is spear headed by an elite defensive line, a nickname that is gathering steam ‘The Cold Front’ seems rather appropriate.
A quick look at the resume of starters Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Jerry Hughes will show multiple pro bowl appearances, a couple of first team all pro selections, plenty of sacks, and oddly, a player that was once considered a first round bust.
An unexpected changing of the guard for the coaching staff shouldn’t alter expectations for the performance of this unit. Rex Ryan is considered by many to be one of the greatest defensive minds in the game today. His defense over six seasons as head coach of the New York Jets ranked tenth or better five times.
Fans have plenty of reason to be excited about ‘The Cold Front’ going into 2015. Let’s take a look at how the unit breaks down.
In 2012 the Bills made the big splash landing coveted free agent (and former first overall draft pick) defensive end Mario Williams with the richest contract for a defensive player in league history. At the time this signing created a lot of heated debates.
Fast forward three seasons and you’re not likely to find many that are upset about the contract.
In three seasons with the Bills, Williams has accrued 38 sacks. A good portion of those came last year when he set a career high with 14.5.
In a Rex Ryan defense you can expect to see ‘Super’ Mario get plenty of opportunities to get after the quarterback. Mario is also very responsible against the run contributing 19 tackles for loss in 2014, a number good for 45% of his total tackles.
Williams is one of the league’s premier pass rushers, fans can count on that being the case in 2015.
Defensive tackle/end Kyle Williams has played on some really, really bad Bills teams.
Despite the lack of talent around him at times, Williams has been an above average contributor and fan favorite for many years. Williams notched 10.5 sacks in 2013, an excellent number for an interior linemen.
He saw his production dip to 5.5 in 2014 but was still very effective against both the pass and run.
Williams has been a constant force on the Bills defensive line since he played his first snap in Buffalo (Buffalo Bills)
Williams saw great success under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in 2013. Pettine of course, came to the Bills after serving in the same role with the Jets for three seasons.
At 32 Williams is no spring chicken. However, given his familiarity with the defensive scheme we can probably expect to see a bit more from him in 2015.
After a down season in 2012 (largely contributed to the untimely death of his brother), fans weren’t sure what to expect from ‘Mr. Big Stuff’ in 2013 and beyond. All he has done since that point is rack up 17.5 sacks and mold himself into one of the top players in the league at his position.
Dareus possesses a rare combination of size, speed, and strength that makes him a terror in both the run and passing game. His 10.0 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2014 were good for second and third on the team respectively.
With a contract year coming up we can expect to see a little extra motivation from Marcell in 2015. The Bills will likely extend him with a huge contract making him a centerpiece of our defense for years to come.
With the benefit of hindsight, general manager Doug Whaley has looked like a pretty smart guy for the trade that brought defensive end/ outside linebacker Jerry Hughes to Buffalo from Indianapolis. Hughes was toeing the line of a bust label in Indy but has seen considerably more success since moving to Buffalo.
Hughes has been just what the doctor ordered for this Buffalo Bills defensive line, the reverse is also true. It was plug and play from day one as Hughes amassed 20.0 sacks in his first two seasons with the Bills.
Hughes revitalized his career when he came to Buffalo, can he become among the league’s best pass rushers under Rex Ryan? (Buffalo Bills)
Hughes’ speed from the edge has been the perfect complement to the already dominant play of his line mates.
Hughes may see an expanded role under Rex Ryan, we can expect to find him as a fourth down linemen, standing up to rush the passer, or shifting back into coverage. Following a big contract extension this off season fans will be hoping for more big things to come.
It’s tough to play every snap as a defensive linemen, with that said here’s a brief look at some of the rotational players.
At 323 pounds has the size to step in at defensive end or nose tackle as needed. He notched 3.0 sacks in 2014 as a rotational player.
It’s not 100% clear what the plan for Lawson will be in 2015. He started 15 games in 2013 and had a respectable 52 tackles and 4.0 sacks. The Bills are a bit thin at the linebacker position, that may prove the golden ticket for increasing Lawsons’ playing time.
At 285 pounds Wynn is most likely to see snaps as a rotational DE. He appeared in 11 games (1 start) in 2014 and collected 2.0 sacks.
He recently re-signed with the Bills on a one year deal. Can play all three positions on the line and with 6 career blocked kicks could have a bit of value on special teams.
2015 is shaping up to be another big season for the Buffalo Bills defense. One thing is for sure, The Cold Front will be leading the charge.