I love the moves the Bills have made recently. Of course it’s all “on paper” and nothing guarantees more success than last year. But there’s a lot to love about the new defense.
And of course if you’re going to talk about the defense, you’ve got to mention the man behind it, the new defensive coordinator, “The ‘Stache”, Dave Wannestedt.
The ‘Stache is one of those guys we’ve had to hate with other teams, and I can’t think of worse ones than Dallas (during the early 90s) and Miami. I could appreciate him during his stint with the Chicago Bears from 1993-98. He always had that Bill Cowher-esque scowl while he contorted his mustache into various configurations – all of them implying anger.
I love the guy as our D-coordinator. He’s one of those guys that never quite translated as well as a head coach but can be awesome as a coordinator. However he actually had decent success as a head coach: he was only 41-57 with Chicago, but he was 42-31 at the helm in Miami and that was with QBs such as Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas and Brian Griese. He actually made the playoffs his first two years at Miami (remember 2000 when our own Thurman Thomas played there? Ugh.) It’s worth mentioning that his NCAA record is 42-31.
His defenses typically rank pretty high in terms of yards allowed, points scored and takeaways. He had some off years with Chicago, but his Dallas and Miami defenses were amazing.
With Wannestedt though, everything is predicated on the defensive line, as it should be. That’s where the action starts, and if you can control the line of scrimmage you can typically control the game. As The ‘Stache says in this TBN article:
It’s going to be a defensive-line friendly scheme, and by that I mean we’ll be as good as our guys up front play,” he said. “That’s how it was at Dallas, at Miami, every place where we’ve run this scheme. The guys up front, it all starts there. If we can get a good rotation going, keep some guys healthy, you know that kind of sets the foundation for what we’re trying to get done here.
The Bills’ 4-3 will be an attacking defense as well. Not one that reads and reacts, but one that uses the talent we have very well. Says Wannestedt:
Our defensive linemen will never hear the phrase, ‘You gotta use up a double team or use up a block.’ We want them making plays.
By going to the 4-3, the Bills also get players back to their natural positions. It’s likely that the 4-3 defense was planned when Chan Gailey and buddy Nix took over but they didn’t have the personnel for it. We have the talent now. I couldn’t say it better then Pat Kirwan does:
Kelsey returns to his natural position (DE) but relegated to backup, too, and this improves depth. Andre Davis is gone. Barnett is better suited to play in a 4-3 front (scheme he played when originally drafted by Green Bay) and Merriman becomes a situational pass rusher which adds length to his career which has been up and down with injury. The only change in the secondary is McKelvin, who is now third string.
So a new defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and a new scheme in the 4-3. According to Wannestedt, there’s no reason whatsoever to worry that the switch to the 4-3 will be difficult or won’t happen in time for the regular season (from the same TBN post):
Every day we’re putting in something different. Every day it’s a different coverage, it’s a different front. It might be a different blitz and we’ve got it organized pretty good,” Wannstedt said. “I think when we get to about Day 11, 12 [of spring practice] we’ll be about ready to play a game, really. And then the key will be to come back in training camp and start over again.
SuperMario, Marcel Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mark Anderson… if those guys can stay healthy it could be the harbinger of very, very bad things for opposing QBs and RBs.