Tyler Dunne: Miami probably knows about the Bills' banged-up secondary better than any team. Thankfully for Buffalo, Terrence McGee is finally in top gear — a far cry from the drubbing he received in the Sunshine State from Ted Ginn Jr. Now the problem is what's going on over on the other side. Jabari Greer, who has been one of the most pleasant surprises on Buffalo's defense this season, has missed the last two games with a sprained knee.
The entire safety corps has been embattled all season, too. So much for that summer guarantee. The unit's anchor, Donte Whitner, has missed three of the last four games with a shoulder injury suffered Nov. 2. Considering his versatility as a fill-in nickel corner, Whitner's absence has left a major void in the Bills' D. At 6-6, the Bills probably will not fulfill Whitner's playoff promise — his sore shoulder is a big reason why. If Greer and Whitner are out again, the Dolphins should go airborne.
Q: How big of an impact did the injury to DE Aaron Schobel have on the defense?
TD: Aaron Schobel wasn't exactly wreaking havoc prior to his foot injury. Nonetheless, he's light years better at rushing the passer than Buffalo's starting tandem of Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney. The Bills only have 21 sacks this year — 24th in the NFL. Since signing a seven-year, $50.5 million deal, Schobel only has 7.5 sacks in 21 games. He's quick to point out that the defensive end position isn't all about sacks, rather continuous pressure. Schobel's right to a point. Eventually, you need to bring the quarterback down and force third-and-longs. And without Schobel around, the Bills' pass rush has been completely zapped. He was at least an accountable force (three seasons of double-digit sacks). Among others, Chad Pennington (314 yards, TD) and Kurt Warner (250 yards, 2 TD) have had the luxury of operating in the pocket unscathed. It'll probably be more of the same in Toronto this weekend.
Schobel resumed light workouts before the Niners game, but missed his seventh straight game. It's looking like he may return against the Jets Dec. 14. This week, Kelsay and Denney will team again on the ends, where they've combined for only six sacks. Without question, the front office needs to pursue a speed rusher in March.
Q: Who has been the team's biggest disappointment on defense?
TD: Of the healthy players on defense, let's go with Leodis McKelvin. Yeah, his resume sure has a lot of white space — the Bills didn't buoy the kick returner to the defensive rotation until a few weeks ago. But McKelvin showed a couple weeks ago that he's a big play waiting to happen. His 64-yard interception return for a touchdown could go down as the team's play of the year. He stepped in front of Mark Bradley for the pick and out-sprinted three Kansas City players who had favorable angles on him. Unlike many Combine heroes, McKelvin's 4.3 speed translates to the field. His cover skills remain unpolished, but that'll come. For now, he's a ball-hawker that a bland Bills defense is starving for.
Q: Buffalo's special teams have been among the best in the league for years, but K Rian Lindell is coming off a game where he missed two field goals? Was that just an aberration or has his performance been slipping?
TD: Good question. That sure was ugly last weekend. It's been a rough stretch for Lindell. He had a potential game-winning kick sail wide right in the closing moments against Cleveland. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 but a win there puts Buffalo at 6-4 and maybe — maybe — is a springboard into the final stretch. Anyways, Dick Jauron rarely forces Lindell to take shots beyond 50 yards (he has only three such attempts this year). Jauron knows Lindell's limits. His leg's never been very strong. Still, Lindell's been dependable. Until last weekend. His play may not be particularly "slipping," but if his struggles linger through the final four games, Buffalo may test the waters for a new kicker in the offseason.
Personally, I do think Sunday was an aberration and that Lindell will rebound back to the above-average kicker he has always been.