The move to obtain DE Anthony Hargrove from the St. Louis Rams a day before the NFL trade deadline wasn't made because the Bills were necessarily unhappy with the play of Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney, who have a combined 10 sacks through six games.
But it was a sign that Buffalo's roster is still a work in progress.
Hargrove, who has 19 career starts, had 6.5 sacks last year but fell out of favor with the Rams new coaching staff when he missed two days of practice without an excuse last month. Rams coach Scott Linehan sounded genuinely disappointed that he had to part ways with Hargrove in what amounted to a move made in the best interests of the team.
"I honestly think the world of Tony," Linehan said. "He's a real likeable guy. He's got a lot of talent. (But) he's been fighting with the level of consistency we demand."
The 6-3, 269-pound Hargrove fits the physical mold the Bills have sought for their defensive line. Speed and quickness over size. Coach Dick Jauron said he wouldn't rule out using Hargrove inside on passing downs, but the team views him primarily as an end. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar, who coached Hargrove in St. Louis, will quickly get him up to speed.
"He's got great work ethic which fits in well with us," Jauron said. "He's got speed to the ball, athletic ability. He's a young player, 23 years old, so he has a future in front of him, a good one. We think that he'll fit into our rotation."
The Bills return home after an 0-2 road swing but home field advantage won't mean much against New England. The Patriots, who beat Buffalo 35-7 last season at Ralph Wilson Stadium, have won four consecutive road games by a margin of 128-58. The Patriots defense has held the Bills to a TD or less in three of the last six games in the series. The way its defense is playing, and facing QB Tom Brady, Buffalo will need to score more than the 14.5 points it is averaging to have a shot at the upset. QB J.P. Losman has been a turnover machine of late and he desperately needs an effective ground game. RB Willis McGahee was held to 3.5 yards per carry in the first meeting and Losman was sacked three times, including once in the end zone by Ty Warren for what proved to be a game-winning safety for New England. Defensively, Brady -- 10-1 lifetime against the Bills -- is going to get his completions, yards and touchdowns. But Buffalo can't make it so easy. If they somehow can find a way to stop RBs Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon (they combined for 159 yards rushing last time), they can make the Patriots one-dimensional and improve their chances of getting pressure on Brady. It can be done. In the first half of last month's contest, Brady was held to 3 net yards passing and was sacked three times, once for a fumble that led to a Bills' TD 12 seconds into the game. New England put the game away by chewing the final 6:15 off the clock, running the ball 10 times in 12 plays. Unfortunately for the Bills, their run defense has regressed.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Bills CB Terrence McGee vs. Patriots WR Troy Brown. M<cGee is struggling badly in coverage while Brown is ready to set another career record. Brown only needs six more catches to pass Stanley Morgan (534) for No. 1 all-time on New England's receptions list.
Bills LBs vs. Patriots RBs Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk: The Bills defenders have had issues with poor tackling while the Patriots backs led a 183-yard rushing performance last meeting.
Bills RT Jason Peters vs. Patriots DE Ty Warren: Warren who had six tackles, a sack and two QBs hits last game, along with the game-winning safety.
Bills special teams vs. Patriots' Kevin Faulk: Faulk is No. 1 in the AFC in punt return average at 13.5.
The loss of LB Josh Stamer with a season-ending knee injury is a blow to the club's top special teams. Stamer was third in tackles with six and brought a lot of emotion to the table. Assistant coach Bobby April needs to hope someone else fills that emotional void. The Patriots rank third in punt returns and 15th in kickoff returns, led by running backs Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney.
The Bills, meanwhile, could be without their top punt return man, Roscoe Parrish, who is nursing a tender hamstring. The drop to backup Jim Leonhard is significant (10.5 average on 11 attempts to 4.7 on three attempts).
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
While the Patriots defense has played really well this season as a whole, outside linebackers Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin have been pretty much invisible. The two have combined for only 1.5 sacks and that's something that needs to change.
Overall, the New England pass rush has been inconsistent this year. They do have 12 sacks but half of them have come in garbage time when the game was well in hand. Vrabel, Colvin and Tully Banta-Cain haven't provided much of a pass rush from the outside and that's a cause for concern heading into the second half of the season.
Vrabel is a player who does a lot of different things for the Patriots defense, so his low sack total could be a result of the scheme and how he's being used. Colvin, on the other hand, gets paid to sack the quarterback. Playing next to Richard Seymour, Colvin should have more than one sack considering the level of competition the Patriots have gone up against so far this year.
This could be the game where Vrabel and Colvin breakout. Bills quarterback J.P. Losman was sacked five times against the Lions, with most of the pass rush coming from the outside. The Patriots played conservatively on defense in the first half against the Bills the first time they played and Buffalo was able to move the ball on them. However, they turned up the heat in the second half and started getting much more pressure on Losman. With the Bills offense struggling right now, look for the Patriots to be more aggressive on defense this Sunday, and for Vrabel and Colvin to be a big part of that game plan.
--TE Daniel Graham was drafted in the first round by the Patriots, mainly because of the pass catching abilities he displayed in college at Colorado. Although, with New England Graham's role has changed to where he's now used more for his blocking in both the running game and pass protection.
"You know, I wish I could get some more balls thrown my way but that's part of being a tight end," Graham said. "They've asked me to do different things here and I've done them."
Run the football. It may sound simple and it is. The Bills gave up 135 yards on the ground last week to the worst rushing offense in the NFL. The Patriots have shown that when they can just line up and ram the ball down a team's throat, they're more than happy to do so. New England ran for 183 yards the first time it faced the Bills this year, and you can expect to see more of the same this Sunday. Buffalo has some good individual players on the defensive side of the ball in linebacker Takeo Spikes, cornerback Nate Clements and defensive end Aaron Schobel. However, as a team they haven't been able to put it all together on defense yet. If Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon get going early, this one could turn ugly.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Patriots DB's vs. Bills WR Lee Evans -- The first time these two teams met, the New England defense did a great job against Evans, limiting him to only two receptions for 25 yards. In that game, Ellis Hobbs was asked to shadow Evans for the majority of the time and was up to the challenge. However, Hobbs played in the slot two weeks ago against Miami and was eaten up by Wes Welker. Evans is the Bills most dangerous weapon in the passing game, so the New England secondary will have to keep him under wraps like it did during the first meeting.
Patriots LT Matt Light vs. Bills DE Aaron Schobel -- Schobel has killed the Patriots in past years and had two sacks the first time the teams met this season. Schobel gave Light all kinds of trouble with his speed off the edge and was in Tom Brady's face all afternoon. Whether it's leaving Daniel Graham in to block or chipping him with a fullback like Heath Evans, the Patriots have to find a way to block this guy or their passing game will continue to struggle.
The Patriots surprisingly don't have any major injury issues coming out of the bye week like they've had in years past. Running back Patrick Pass still isn't ready to come off the physically unable to perform list but other than that, the team looks to be pretty healthy across the board. One injury on the Bills side that could impact the game is receiver Roscoe Parish's hamstring injury. Parrish strained his hamstring against the Lions after catching a 44-yard touchdown pass in the first half and is listed as questionable for this Sunday's game. The second-year receiver has 18 receptions and is also a dangerous punt returner. Parrish is similar to the Dolphins Wes Welker -- who hurt the Patriots coming out of the slot two weeks ago -- so his absence will be a big blow to both the Bills passing game and special teams unit.