Couch Scouting The Buffalo Bills' Defense

The Buffalo Bills are on their bye week, and as backup safety George Wilson told reporters on Wednesday, the bye week is a time the team uses to self-scout. Using that same logic, I thought it'd be prudent to take a look back at some of the player notes I've jotted down through the first five weeks of the season, combining them into one "couch scouting" post, if you will. We'll start with the defense, looking at a few players as well as a few alignments.

DE Dwan Edwards. Of Buffalo's defensive end group, no player is getting as much playing time, thanks in part to Marcus Stroud's one game missed. Edwards started the season off with solid performances against Miami and Green Bay, but struggled mightily against New York and even Jacksonville. The Bills are using him in all of their defensive packages, meaning he's playing the run and rushing the passer. He's a solid technician with a great feel for the game, but like most of his teammates, he needs to find a bit more consistency in this scheme. It's not saying a lot, but he's probably the team's best pass rusher at this point in time.

NT Kyle Williams. This guy is Buffalo's best defender. He comes to play every week, and is really the only defender that is talented enough to force the offense to react to where he's lined up and his penetrating abilities. The Bills aren't asking him to play the zero technique; rather, he's playing the one technique, shooting gaps and trying to get into the opposing backfield to cause a little havoc. He draws a lot of double teams, and like Edwards, he goes full-bore on 100% of plays. Many readers want the Bills to try to trade him, but he's simply too good to let go.

OLB Chris Kelsay. What's impressed me most with Kelsay through these first five weeks is that he's got a great grasp of the defensive scheme. He knows where he's supposed to be, his length makes him something of a problem when he drops into zone coverage, and again, he hustles. His problems, as always, are athletic-related - he has very little range in coverage and poor change-of-direction skills, which obviously leave him exposed very frequently at his new position. As a result, he's been burned on numerous occasions. He's at his best when he's got a hand in the dirt in sub-packages, but even there he's underwhelming. I'd argue that he has been one of Buffalo's weaker run defenders this season, as well.

ILB Paul Posluszny. It hasn't helped that he missed some games with a leg injury, but Posluszny doesn't yet look comfortable in this 3-4 scheme. Because of the way George Edwards is scheming Williams at nose tackle, Posluszny is still having to deal with guards getting to him at the second level, which is pretty much the opposite of what most expected would happen coming into the season. Poz is struggling to get off blocks and getting caught in the wash very frequently, and the run defense results have obviously been poor. What's more, Posluszny looks lethargic in coverage, often late to read and not athletically gifted enough to compensate. He's not playing as poorly as many want you to believe, but he certainly hasn't been good.

CB Leodis McKelvin. At times, he has been Buffalo's best defender. He plays the ball extremely well going forward, and has several pass break-ups (and, unfortunately, a dropped interception) to prove it. He's a reliable tackler, and clearly the most athletic DB on the roster. His problem remains consistency, as he has been beaten deep on a few occasions and missed assignments on others, leading to some big plays for the opposition. He also continues to take an occasional poor angle in run support; Danny Woodhead's touchdown run in New England is a good example. He's getting better, but not at a very quick pace.

CB Drayton Florence. He graded out fairly well after taking McKelvin's starting spot in 2009, but after beating him out for a starting job this season, Florence's play has slipped overall. He's allowed scores, been penalized frequently, and seems to have lost a step from '09 to '10. Still, because he's a solid tackler and the most physical of Buffalo's cornerbacks, he's been on the field more than any other corner, even when Terrence McGee was healthy. I'm not sure how long that will continue, because Florence has been something of a liability for this defense, even amidst long stretches of very competent play.

FS Jairus Byrd. George Edwards knows this guy's strength, because he's spent most of his time in deep center field playing the pass. He's gotten beat once or twice, particularly when bigger targets get behind the linebackers in zone coverages; Byrd doesn't have the size or the quickness to make plays on the ball when a guy like Marcedes Lewis is standing in front of him. In general, however, teams aren't throwing deep, instead taking underneath throws to try to exploit the linebackers. In run support, Byrd's problem isn't his tackling form or his willingness to be physical; it's simply bad angles. That's correctable, but he has been absolutely torched by some running backs early this season.

SS Donte Whitner. Like Byrd, Whitner's biggest problem remains angles; he's been beaten both against the pass and while defending the run because of his poor angles. Whitner has struggled this season, giving up several big plays. He is Buffalo's best tackler, period - his whiff on LaDainian Tomlinson notwithstanding, Whitner has been very sound in the tackling department. He's made some very big hits, too. Whitner, however, is a safety that needs a lot of help in front of him to play at a high level, and clearly, he doesn't have that help.

The "heavy" defense. Against Jacksonville, the Bills - in an effort to shore up their shoddy run defense - broke out a heavy, almost 4-3 package to try to get more physical at the point of attack. Williams and rookie Torell Troup lined up inside, while Marcus Stroud and Dwan Edwards (spelled by Spencer Johnson and Alex Carrington) played defensive end. Kelsay played outside linebacker, while Andra Davis and Posluszny took "inside" roles, though Posluszny, as the third linebacker, looked like he was playing outside. The results were mixed. Williams and Troup performed rather well inside, but the Bills were beaten at the edge with relative ease by the Jaguars. Cutback lanes were plentiful, as the Bills really struggle to defend the back side against the run. But there were also moments, for the first time in a few weeks, when the run defense was good enough to force the Jags to pass. Expect to see a lot more of this defense, possibly with Kelsay at end once the team gets a little healthier at linebacker.

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