Newman takes the fall for a bad D

I think it's a joke that the Bills were displeased with Keith Newman's performance last season. Why didn't they try playing him more than two downs a series? I don't think his abilities tailed off so badly in two years since the Donahoe/Williams regime came aboard that he's no longer an effective linebacker.

Newman, 26, is in the prime of his career. He has great ability. He proved it by collecting eight sacks on third downs in 2000. It was his first season as a starting linebacker.

That year, when Wade Phillips realized the Bills needed to get more heat on the quarterback, he went to a nickel defense instead of a dime, and kept three linebackers in, instead of two. Newman was added and played with Sam Cowart and Sam Rogers. His presence was felt. He rushed the passer with abandon. Phillips' nickel defense worked well almost instantaneously. His wrinkle certainly worked faster than any wrinkle the Bills recently have come up with in the 46-hybrid.

The point is Phillips, Ted Cottrell, John Butler, Dwight Adams and A.J. Smith all knew Newman was good. And there's no arguing about the linebacking groups those men put together: Cowart, Rogers, John Holecek and Bryce Paup. They pinpointed linebackers with talent, molded them as a unit and the players were formidable.

Newman never complained about being misused, given many opportunities to do so. He was a company man all the way. In retrospect, maybe he should have been more public about his concerns and disappointments, but that's not how he is. Now he's going to be gone. And someone is going to get a very good strongside linebacker who will flourish when used properly.


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