Quarterly Report: Injuries ravage 'D'

With three of their four starting DB's and their starting MLB out, Bills defense must adjust...

Defensive Line: B-plus

A silver lining. Low and behold, a silver lining. After barely sneaking into the backfield at all last season, the Bills are sustaining a steady push in the trenches. Through the first four games, Buffalo has totaled 11 sacks — good for sixth in the NFL. On pace for 44 sacks, the Bills had only 24 all of last season. Suddenly, Buffalo's defensive backs have a fighting chance on pass plays.

The key hasn't even been rookie Aaron Maybin, the guy brought in to remedy the front four's woes. Instead, veterans Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Marcus Stroud have combined for six sacks and multiple pressures. A mini resurgence of sorts for the trio. Their collective effort has kept opposing pockets caving at once, rather than one freelancing third-down specialist. Whenever Maybin catches up to the speed of the game to be that weapon on the edge, the Bills could boast one of the best pass rushes in the league. Schobel is playing angry. Kelsay is playing above average. And the pass rush in general will give this injury-ravaged defense a fighting chance each week.

Linebackers: C-minus

This was a problem the front office had to foresee way back in March. Depth at linebacker has been one of the team's biggest problems in recent memory. Season-ending injuries to Angelo Crowell and Paul Posluszny had already warped the team's rushing defense. But rather than bring in a new outside linebacker to compete with Keith Ellison and provide depth overall, the Bills stuck with continuity. Opportunities arose at many junctures during the offseason. Buffalo flirted with Cato June, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Freddy Keiaho but didn't seal the deal with anyone.

In the middle is where Buffalo is paying. There isn't enough talent to reshuffle into a legitimate starting trio. After Posluszny (broken arm) went down again, Marcus Buggs proved to be far too undersized to play middle linebacker. Buffalo was gashed for well over 400 yards on the ground the last two games, exposing a problem that will last as long as Posluszny is in street clothes.

Secondary: Inc.

Bryan Scott recently told the BFR that he sees a lot of himself in Jairus Byrd. Good thing. An ankle injury to Scott and thumb injury to Donte Whitner has vaulted Byrd into a starting role sooner than the team probably would have liked. Nonetheless, the ballhawking corner convert is being used on a play-to-play basis.

Possibly no team has endured as many injuries to one position than Buffalo's defensive backs. Aside from the injuries to Scott and Whitner, Leodis McKelvin (broken leg) was lost for the season. Unlike the dire situation at linebacker, Buffalo did have a Plan B in place if McKelvin didn't work out. After losing Jabari Greer in free agency, the Bills signed veteran Drayton Florence at the great discount of $6.6 million over two years. A steal. Florence should hold up fine. This unit must have an incomplete due to the constant changes and injuries. No foursome has been able to settle in and gain chemistry. When Scott and Whitner return, Buffalo's secondary can more evaluated more fairly. In the meantime, the rookie from Oregon will receive valuable reps.

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