Can Whitner increase productivity in Year 3? (Photo Source)
Prior to the 2008 NFL Draft - in fact, prior to the free agent signing period of this past March - we took a look at the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position, breaking down then-current personnel, finding holes, and building our community needs list.
Now that free agency and the Draft have been completed, and the Bills have infused their roster with new talent, it's time to repeat our process. Where has Buffalo gotten better? Where have they gotten worse? How will additions impact which Bills veterans remain on the roster? These are questions that we've been attempting to answer for the past week or so, and will continue to do so.
We continue those discussions today with an examination of Buffalo's strong safeties. To view our previous discussions on Buffalo's SS situation (pre-off-season), bang it here.
Donte Whitner: Entering his third year in the league - and his third as the Bills' starting strong safety - Donte Whitner, at least from your humble narrator, is facing lofty expectations. Whitner is regarded as one of the best young safeties in the NFL (and that very well may be true), but on a weak Bills defense, Whitner's production has been anything but elite. In '07, Whitner notched 89 tackles (good for third on the team) and an interception. He brings a lot to the table in terms of consistency, athleticism and leadership qualities, but with the team making significant defensive improvements this off-season, the pressure is on Whitner to produce like a #8 overall pick should. I like this kid - but he's still got something to prove.
Bryan Scott: Signed as a street free agent during the '07 campaign, Scott was a pleasant surprise as a reserve safety and situational blitzer and run stuffer. Scott has bounced around the league a little, but when the Bills re-signed him this off-season, it was an excellent move - they've brought back a player who knows the system, knows his coaches and teammates, and can play an important role in a defense that could still use more diversity. He's got special teams value as well. Scott may end up being the top reserve at both safety spots for the Bills - yes, even ahead of George Wilson.
John Wendling: No, I'm not sure what position he plays. I'm not even sure he'll see the field as a defender outside of the pre-season in 2008. All I know is this - just like a very similar player named Coy Wire, Wendling is a safety in a linebacker's body, and his specialty will be as... well... a specialist. Will Wendling ever play defense in any capacity? That remains to be seen. What's known is this - Wendling will be a centerpiece of a revamped special teams unit, and therefore his value to this team is underrated by many.
The Additions: None.
The Subtractions: None.
Pre-Season Outlook: Unlike the free safety position, which is largely unsettled, there shouldn't be too many surprises at the strong safety position throughout training camp and the pre-season. Whitner is the starter, and he's probably going to be the defender who plays more than any other (barring injury, of course). Scott is the niche player that can make an impact as a reserve, and Wendling is the centerpiece to the team's new-look special teams units. There's still something to prove for all three players (but especially in Whitner's case), but this position is settled and, by and large, very strong.
As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome and encouraged in the comments section. We'll wrap up our State of the Roster II series this afternoon with a general discussion on the team's special teams units.