PHOTO: Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark (44) runs past Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel (94) and linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) during the first quarter of a preseason game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2004. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Buffalo's Defense Ready
By Scout.com Staff
The switch to an untested quarterback is good reason for an NFL team to get nervous. The Buffalo Bills, however, are feeling a lot less woozy than most teams in this position. Yes, J.P. Losman is a good-looking prospect with a ton of upside. But the second-year man out of Tulane also has a huge safety net to work above -- Buffalo's defense.
The Bills return 10 of 11 starters from a unit that ranked No. 2 overall in yards allowed for a second consecutive season under coordinator Jerry Gray, and also led the NFL in takeaways. Gray's Gang knows that it likely will have to maintain its high level of play to take the pressure off Losman and the offense. Keeping games close and allowing Losman to stay within the game plan and away from blitz situations, will go a long way towards him gaining his confidence quickly.
"Your team centers around your leaders and we have some great leaders on this team," Gray said on NFL Sirius Radio. "Hopefully, J.P. steps into that role. J.P. is the leader but we have to rally around J.P. and knowing teams are going to throw a lot of stuff at him. It's up to the defense and the special teams to take the heat off ... make him not say, 'I've got to win this game.'"
Gray lost only one starter, defensive tackle Pat Williams, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an unrestricted free agent. Ron Edwards and Tim Anderson will battle for that job, Gray said. Otherwise, the unit returns in tact, led by Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams, and veteran defensive backs Troy Vincent and Lawyer Milloy.
Buffalo didn't draft a defensive player but signed 10 college free agents. Gray hopes to pluck a player or two from that list with South Carolina defensive end George Gause and Wisconsin safety Jim Leonhard among the more intriguing prospects.
Gray knows there is still plenty of room to improve as a defensive unit. As well as Buffalo played last year, the defense gave up late scoring drives in close losses to Jacksonville and the New York Jets that contributed to the club's 0-4 start. The defense also wilted in a 29-24 loss to Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale, costing Buffalo a playoff berth.
"It shows that every game is pivotal," Gray said. "What we try and tell the young guys is that you don't really know what game is going to get you to the playoffs...Those games early, well, teams that start 4-0 or 3-1, they help you later on because then you're not fighting to beat a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is 14-1 (to get in)."
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