Bills Midway Awards: Best Offseason Addition

Jim Schwartz is getting the most out of his defense. Buffalo is at the top of the league in sacks and interceptions, while greatly improving their run defense. For these reasons, Schwartz is Buffalo's best offseason addition.

The Buffalo Bills added a lot of talent to their roster in the offseason. Buffalo signed RB Anthony Dixon, OG Chris Williams, DE Jarius Wynn, LB Brandon Spikes, LB Keith Rivers and CB Corey Graham in free agency. In addition to their free agent signings, the Bills also traded for WR Mike Williams and RB Bryce Brown. They weren’t flashy acquisitions, but Buffalo was looking to add talent and depth across the board. So far, so good. While there are a few worthy candidates above, none of the players listed should be considered Buffalo’s best offseason addition.

No, that honor belongs to Jim Schwartz.

After Mike Pettine became head coach of the Cleveland Browns, the Bills were quick to sign Schwartz. He took over a defense that was second in sacks (57) and interceptions (23) in 2013. Buffalo was also 4th in pass yards allowed (3,271) but 28th in rush yards allowed (2,063).

Schwartz’s defense and Pettine’s defense on paper weren’t very similar. Schwartz’s base defense is out of the 4-3, while Pettine’s is run from the 3-4. Pettine uses exotic blitzes and sends pressure throughout the game. Schwartz on the other hand depends upon his front four to create pressure and get to the quarterback. Schwartz sends blitzes from time to time, but he doesn’t send pressure the way Pettine does. There were certainly changes on the horizon for the Bills.

Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson became defensive ends. The position change was new, but Hughes’ role wasn’t changing. He and Mario Williams would attack the quarterback. Lawson has done well in a reserve role along with Wynn.

Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus took on greater responsibility with Schwartz’s arrival. They were expected to make plays in space to slow down opposing running backs. Behind them, the Bills needed a run-stopper. This was a big reason why Spikes was signed.

More depth was added in free agency and the draft, but no one knew for sure just how well Schwartz’s defense would play. So far, the results are very encouraging.

Buffalo is currently ranked first in the league in sacks (28) and interceptions (12). In pass defense, the Bills currently rank 18th. They’ve allowed 1,870 yards in the air through eight weeks as teams have found it easier to pass on the Bills than run. That’s because the Bills run defense is greatly improved. Currently, the Bills have allowed 738 rushing yards on 207 attempts (3.6 YPC). The improved run defense is a big reason why the Bills sit at 5-3. Buffalo has been able to make certain teams they’ve played one-dimensional and it has allowed the defense to play the pass.

 The first half of the season has been encouraging for Buffalo’s defense. Schwartz’s defensive playcalling is a big reason why the Bills find themselves with a winning record and have legitimate playoff hopes at the midpoint of the season. For that reason, he’s Buffalo’s best offseason addition.

Publisher’s Note: Kyle Orton was not a candidate for this award. He signed with the Bills on August 30th, which was after training camp and the preseason.  

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