Much has been said recently about switching to the 3-4 defense with a new coaching staff. Out with the old and in with the new seems to be the new MO among many Bills fans. However bad our offense may have been, or however bad our defensive scheme may have operated in the past years, change simply for the sake of change is not desirable.
As it stands, at the end of the regular season, the Bills rank 16th at 20.4 in points allowed, 19th in yards allowed at 340.6, 2nd in passing yards allowed at 184.2, and 30th in rushing yards allowed at 156.3 yds/g.
Last year, in these respective categories, the Bills finished 14th at 21.4, 14th at 326.1, 13th at 204.4, and 22nd at 121.6. Taking a look at this, our PPG went from 21.4 to 20.4, our total yards per game allowed went from 326.1 to 340.6, our passing yards per game changed from 204.4 to 184.2, and our rushing yards allowed per game rose from 121.6 to 156.3 yards per game.
Our points allowed per game decreased, along with our passing yards allowed. Our rushing yards allowed rose dramatically, causing our total yards to rise as well. The primary downfall of our defense this year was quite obvious. Our run containment was atrocious (and our offense continuously went 3-and-out).
Instead of looking at how we as a team may fix this, many fans instead are deluding themselves that switching to a 3-4 will solve all of our problems-if not now then two years down the road. Heck, Green Bay had a quick turnaround, why can't we? The answer to our problems is simple. We need more talent at the OLB position and at DE. OLB is not as much of an issue. Kawika Mitchell, while having his own issues and flaws, is still a solid (but not spectacular) linebacker. Losing KM to the IR on 10/13 hamstrung our defense. This was exacerbated by losing Pozluszny for four games at the beginning of the season (and eventually his replacement, Marcus Buggs), as well as losing the unspectacular-but-solid-backup Keith Ellison a month later - 11/20. With no depth at OLB our run containment started to suffer. From the season opener until KE was put on IR, our rushing yards allowed in each game grew larger: 73, 57, 222, 250, 171, 318, 116, and 182. For the worst of those games we were without Poz manning the middle.
Many of the teams that ran for ridiculous yardage against the Bills had two things in common. They broke off for one or two big plays a game, and they completely shut down our offense. Injuries are a part of the game, but without our top men playing the majority of the year together, it is quite obvious our defensive scheme (or any for that matter) will not work as well. Next year we will get our two OLBs back, whether fully healed or not. Assuming KM can come back and play up to his standards, this unit is lacking only one more LB. Whether that involves acquiring a MLB through the draft/FA and bumping Poz to OLB, or acquiring an OLB doesn't matter (Rolando McClain comes to mind, maybe Sean Lee in the 2nd). One more is needed, relegating KE to being a very solid backup.
The second culprit behind our terrible run containment is on the defensive line, more specifically, the ends. An upgrade is needed here to help this unit improve. Whether or not Maybin panned out this year, or does in the future, we would still be in need of a new defensive end opposite one of the Aarons. Maybin will never play opposite Schobel, as he was brought in to be his successor at RDE. What we need is what we've been searching for this last decade. A competent LDE to play opposite Schobel. Kelsay had a fantastic year compared to his prior work, but he is average at best (on his good days).
For the Bills' sake there are a few good options at this position. Whether or not anybody feels like spending another high pick on DE two years straight, Derrick Morgan out of Georgia Tech might just do the trick. At 6-4 270 pounds, he has good size and should be able to hold up against the run fairly well. There is always the possibility of trading back, or even snagging someone like Corey Wootton of Northwester in the 2nd (or late first if he rises prior to the draft). Unlike the questions that surrounded Maybin, there are plenty of sizeable DEs we could plug in place of Kelsay (whom we could keep as depth).
In this Bills fan's opinion, DE and LB (MLB or OLB) are the two major needs on the defense. We could fix our defense with some very promising prospects in the early rounds (obviously this changes if we have a shot at Defensive Need#3 (DT) - such as Gerald McCoy falling to us). However, I'm not here to bore you with my mock draft or favorite players we should draft (except of course with the exception of wide receiver - DRAFT ERIC DECKER!!!)
This long rant/ramble/poorly-strung-together-thought is about why we SHOULDN'T switch to the 3-4. We have no NT (Stroud is already diminishing in his 4-3 role). We have no backup NT in case our nose tackle goes down [see Jenkins, Kris; Wilfork, Vince]. NT are already a rare and price commodity. We can't assume our DTs can readily switch over to DE (leaving us with more holes). Many like to claim Aaron Maybin or Aaron Schobel could switch to rushing OLB, mostly because Maybin is "undersized". Maybin played DE in college, and switching positions, no matter how good or fast you were in college, isn't a given [see Gholston, Vernon]. Aaron Schobel is old, slowing down, and I'm going to presume unwilling to learn a new scheme at his age after 9 years of losing. Next, we need to address LB. We might have a decent LB we could use as a rushing OLB. If not, add that to an ever-expanding list of draft needs. We found out this year (through extremely bad luck) that we don't have the LB depth for 4-3. Needing one more competent LB by switching to the 3-4 is not going to help our problems. If anything, it sets us back even more. Switching to the 3-4 will not help us against the run if we don't have a NT, and two talented run-containing DEs. It will work no better than the 4-3/Tampa-2. All it will do is possibly confuse the quarterback with multiple blitzing schemes. As we could see this year, under one year of tutelage from Bob Sanders, our D-Line provided much more pressure than in previous years, ergo those multple blitzings schemes aren't needed. This, in a sense, makes a switch to the 3-4 unnecessary. Some will say we don't need to be competitive on defense next year if we're switching to the 3-4. I agree, and wouldn't expect us to be. However, with one more DE and one more LB, rather than blowing up our entire defensive front we could be very competitive in the 4-3. With all of our returning vets and these two additions, we could be borderline top 10 (if not actually in the top 10). Minnesota, along with Indianapolis, are prime examples of working 4-3s. While Indy might have the smaller defense that works in the dome, Minnesotas defensive line and linebackers are pretty massive. And thus the point of this piece of junk post is revealed.
Why on earth, if we're so close to being great on defense (or good, for the pessimists) would switching to the 3-4 even be considered sane or desirable?
Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.