Buffalo defense looking to stampede opponents
If you score you may win…if you are never scored upon you can never lose. Every season, NFL teams try to figure out ways to defend against the high power opposing offenses they face. It also seems that every year teams are switching defenses to try to gain a competitive edge and mix things up for their opponents. So which one is the best? The 4-3, 3-4, 5-2, maybe the 4-6 defense that led the Chicago Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX? For the Buffalo Bills new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, why not use a mix of all of them.
Pettine plans to bring a mix defensive package to Buffalo using different fronts and schemes to confuse other teams and make them more unpredictable from week to week. Combine that with his plan of an aggressive blitz package could spell trouble for any team lining up against the Bills in 2013. It’s one thing to be able to draw it up on paper but you also need the personnel to pull it off. Pettine plans to shuffle players around the field, using players at several different positions to further add to the confusion of the offense. Can it work…sure. Will it work? Well…it has to for Buffalo to be successful in 2013.
Pettine faces an uphill climb to overcome poor defensive play that has plagued Buffalo throughout their playoff drought. Buffalo finished dead last run defense in 2012 and ranked 22nd overall. The defense gave up an average of 27.2 points per game and will have to lower that number greatly to help their rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. In fact over the last 13 seasons the Bills have given up 30 or more points 57 times and have recorded only three shutouts in the same time frame. Of course Pettine is counting on his new aggressive defense to be able to create more opportunities for the defense to capitalize on their opponents. Buffalo managed 36 sacks in 2012 trailing both the Broncos and the Rams who led the league with 52. Buffalo’s 12 interceptions was half as good as Chicago’s 24 and the Bills recovered nine fumbles falling way short of New England’s 21.
Personnel is one area Pettine has plenty of weapons at his disposal to pull of his hybrid defense. Team sack leader Mario Williams looks to improve on his 10.5 sack season and live up to his $100 million contract. Joining Williams across the front line is defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus as well as the return of a healthy Mark Anderson. Free agent Alan Branch and surprise standout from 2012 Alex Carrington will also be in the rotation. Stephon Gilmore looks to breakout in his sophomore season at cornerback and Leodis McKelvin is out to prove he is more than just a special teams standout. The rock of the secondary is Jairus Byrd who is looking to prove he is worth a new contract after being given the franchise tag. If Pettine can figure out who goes where and plugs the holes that need filled there is no telling how far this defense can go.
The bottom line is the defense has to hold strong going into a season where questions remain about the new offense. The Bills can’t afford to get into any shootout battles or have to play from behind if they plan on being successful. A big challenge indeed but Pettine is out to prove that his hybrid will work and that he can emerge out of Rex Ryan’s shadow.
Boomer Smith is a die hard Buffalo Bills and football fan who covers not only the Bills but the rest of the AFC East. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @BoomerSmith61