What'll Bills do with three every-down LBs?

One of the reasons weakside linebacker Eddie Robinson signed with Buffalo was because he was guaranteed to play on third downs and the Titans couldn't promise that would be the case. So Robinson chose Buffalo, where he'll take over for Jay Foreman. The question now is how many linebackers do the Bills plan to play on third down, and are Keith Newman's days as a third-down player numbered?

 

Usually the Bills will play a typical nickel defense on third downs: two linebackers, with five defensive backs and four defensive linemen. That usually is the case because the formation provides flexibility in defending the pass and run.

Buffalo, however, is considering using all three of their starting linebackers on third downs.

We know the Bills' premier free agent pickup this off-season, middle linebacker London Fletcher, is certainly not coming out on third downs. He will be their defensive leader and his speed makes him valuable in coverage.

With Robinson, unless that promise really was never made or there is some kind of misunderstanding between the parties, he will be in on third downs too. The veteran linebacker is good in coverage, which makes him a good third-down fit, especially third and long.

Newman will not be the odd-man out either. He's too good of a pass rusher, and he has thrived on third downs in the past, particularly two seasons ago when he recorded four of his eight sacks on that down. Gregg Williams would like to get Newman going again so his defense can get off the field with regularity.

The Bills have three every-down linebackers. So the coaches, not wanting to lose Newman's contributions in rushing the passer, have talked about making him a down lineman on some downs, such as third downs or long yardage situations. Expect Newman to get some time at strongside end this year.

Talk with Lary Bump and Mike Doser in the Shout! chat room during NFL Draft 2002 April 20-21. They'll be at Bills headquarters covering the activity.


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