BFR Roundtable: Will defense take next step?

BFR panel analyzes whether the Bills defense will break out this season. The team added several players this offseason to improve upon its 31st ranked defense. Was it enough? We debate.

Don't Bill-eve the hype

By Tyler Dunne

It'd be magical, wouldn't it?

Team needs playmakers. Team signs players. Players boost team. Every year, some team somewhere in the league unloads the wallet book for defensive free agents. Last season it was San Francisco overpaying for Nate Clements amidst a team-wide overhaul. This season, Buffalo infused its roster with newcomers via free agency and the draft.


tydunne07@yahoo.com
BFR

But change isn't always good. Blame the Democratic National Convention blaring in my ear right now, but change is a vague, overplayed assumption. Seemingly every analyst in the national media is labeling Buffalo a playoff team primarily on the additions of Marcus Stroud, Kawika Mitchell, Leodis McKelvin, Spencer Johnson and (virtually) Paul Posluszny.

Settle down, Bill Clinton.

Don't expect Buffalo's defense to be elite this season. No way. Don't buy the hype. Last season's unit was far too skewed in philosophy and raw in personnel to suddenly become on par with the Jacksonvilles, Pittsburghs and Tennessees in the AFC. Sure, they'll be improved – primarily based on the interior development of core players, such as Angelo Crowell, Chris Kelsay and Kyle Williams. But not elite. The Bills' new faces aren't good enough to lift the 30th ranked defense in the NFL from a year ago into the top 10.

Go down the line…

Marcus Stroud could become the NFL's answer to Shaquille O'Neal. Creeky, banged-up ankles supported a heckuvalotta weight. He's one crooked twist of the ligaments away from injury. Also, Stroud may be past his prime too. The eight-year vet hasn't been a disruptive force since 2004.

Kawika Mitchell screams Larry Brown and Dexter Jackson: a Super Bowl-winner that unjustly cashes in big time as a free agent. Mitchell may have exploded against Buffalo last year (two sacks, interception), but he's nothing more than a placeholder. A $17.5 million placeholder that is not a substantial upgrade over Keith Ellison.

Leodis McKelvin could be one of the best returners in the NFL this season – if he's able to crack the field on his own team. At cornerback, though, he is not starter material yet. Multiple blown plays throughout camp confirmed that. The wide receivers he faced at Troy are quite different than Randy Moss.

Maybe Buffalo takes a step forward defensively this season. But diehards expecting 6-3, 10-6 grind-it-out wins will be disappointed.

New additions will kick defense into gear

By Patrick Moran

The Buffalo Bills should be superior on defense in 2008 than it was last season. In fact, if the Bills are to legitimately contend for the playoffs, they'll have to be. The offense should take a step or two frontward this season, but there's still more than a kink or two in that armor.


patmoran2006@aol.com
BFR

Everyone chatters about the additions of Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell and they should. Both bring talent and guidance to a defense in dire need of it. Stroud will make the run defense better by himself if healthy. His numbers may not soar off the stat sheet, but he'll tie up blockers and allow guys around him to make more plays. Mitchell is a leader with a Super Bowl ring to boot. He also isn't very warmhearted towards Tom Brady, something every Bills fan will appreciate.

But the solution to the defense may be the return of two it's young starters. Paul Posluszny looked to be a tackling machine as a rookie before having his season cut short in week three at New England with a broken forearm. He's back and looked sturdy this preseason. Perhaps the most crucial addition is the return of Ko Simpson. While he's still a bit wet under the ears, he's also a playmaker and isn't shy about laying lumber on backs in run support. With backup George Wilson having a nightmare of a preseason, especially in deep coverage, a healthy Simpson is imperative to the secondary giving up fewer bigger plays.

One person to keep your eyes on is the most under the radar signee of the spring. You hardly hear people discuss Spencer Johnson, but they ought to. Stuck in Minnesota behind Pat and Kevin Williams, Buffalo could be his coming out party. He won't start but will get plenty of snaps and could surpass Kyle Williams in the starting lineup.

How good this defense ranks depends in part on the offense. Being on the field less and getting more chances to play ahead in the score would be a welcome change for a unit that justifiably got worn out last year. The Bills have a chance to see their defense climb among the top dozen in overall ranking this year, provided Stroud is in the lineup all 16 games. Yes, he's that essential to their success.

Bills defense ready to make the leap

By Marc Heintzman

The Bills really concentrated on their defense this off-season, and for good reason. Last year, they ranked pretty close to last in nearly all defensive categories. They were gashed on the ground and opposing quarterbacks were able to pick apart the patch-work secondary all season long. With the help of some free agents, fresh draft picks, and healthy, returning veterans, expect this year's edition of the Bills defense to make a huge leap back into relevance.


mdheintz@gmail.com
BFR

The key to the turnaround will be Marcus Stroud. Shoring up the center of the defensive line with Stroud's size and talent will enable the rest of the Bills defense to improve greatly. Stroud, Kyle Williams, Pro-Bowler Aaron Schobel, and Chris Kelsay will be a solid line, with John McCargo and Spencer Johnson rotating in to keep the tackles fresh.

The return of Paul Posluszny to middle linebacker is also a reason this defense will greatly improve. Posluszny is a dominant player who will have an immediate impact on the field. Kawika Mitchell and Angelo Crowell are also two solid veterans that will also have an impact this season in stopping the run.

The secondary has received some new talent in Leodis McKelvin and Will James, McKelvin being the Bills' first-round draft pick and James a free agent pickup from Philadelphia. They join an already talented duo of Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer. The defense will be very deep at cornerback, expect them to have a better year as well.

Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson are due for a big year at safety as well. This could finally be their year to be the dominant safety duo fans expected in 2006.

Last season, the entire Bills team suffered with 17 players on injured reserve by season's end. If the defense can avoid injury and stay healthy this year they can be quite good. The talent is there, the depth is there, and hopefully the improvement in rankings will be as well. If all goes well, the Bills D can make their way back into the top ten by season's end.

The Bills really concentrated on their defense this off-season, and for good reason. Last year, they ranked pretty close to last in nearly all defensive categories. They were gashed on the ground and opposing quarterbacks were able to pick apart the patch-work secondary all season long. With the help of some free agents, fresh draft picks, and healthy, returning veterans, expect this year's edition of the Bills defense to make a huge leap back into relevance.

The key to the turnaround will be Marcus Stroud. Shoring up the center of the defensive line with Stroud's size and talent will enable the rest of the Bills defense to improve greatly. Stoud, Kyle Williams, Pro Bowler Aaron Schobel, and Chris Kelsay will be a solid line, with John McCargo and Spencer Johnson rotating in to keep the tackles fresh.

The return of Paul Posluszny to middle linebacker is also a reason this defense will greatly improve. Posluszny is a dominant player who will have an immediate impact on the field. Kawika Mitchell and Angelo Crowell are also two solid veterans that will also have an impact this season in stopping the run.

The secondary has received some new talent in Leodis McKelvin and Will James, McKelvin being the Bills' first-round draft pick and James a free agent pickup from Philadelphia. They join an already talented duo of Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer. The defense will be very deep at cornerback, expect them to have a better year as well.

Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson are due for a big year at safety as well. This could finally be their year to be the dominant safety duo fans expected in 2006.

Last season, the entire Bills team suffered with 17 players on injured reserve by season's end. If the defense can avoid injury and stay healthy this year they can be quite good. The talent is there, the depth is there, and hopefully the improvement in rankings will be as well. If all goes well, the Bills D can make their way back into the top ten by season's end.


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories