Now that the Buffalo Bills have hired George Edwards as their defensive coordinator, we can start taking a look at Buffalo's defensive personnel. As it's been announced that the team will be making the transition to the 3-4 defensive scheme, this exercise now becomes particularly interesting, because let's face it - the Bills are not well-equipped at the moment to run that system.
After the jump, we'll take a look at the only two players on Buffalo's roster that should be considered as nose tackle options.
What the new regime might be looking for
Edwards has experience in 4-3 and 3-4 alignments, but he's spent the past five years in Miami, and the last two working for the Bill Parcells regime employing your traditional two-gap 3-4 system. It's not crystal clear what type of 3-4 Edwards will look to implement; Buffalo's current personnel are much better suited to the 3-4 Over, which emphasizes athleticism in a one-gap setting, but Edwards comes from a Parcells 3-4 scheme emphasizing two-gap defensive linemen.
For now, all we can guess is that the Bills will go with what Edwards knows and begin the slow build toward a two-gap system. Edwards has said he'll try to tailor the scheme to the personnel, but that Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4 seems to be the most likely end result, so expect the Bills to make decisions based on eventually playing that defense.
I get the feeling that this will be intensely debated in the comments section, but we're only going to list two players as nose tackles going forward. As you'll see, the list does not include a certain highly-paid veteran that we traded for in 2008 that also played for Edwards during his illustrious career at the University of Georgia. You'll find out why (spoiler alert!) when we cover the defensive ends in this series.
Kyle Williams. There are a few current Bills players that have to be wondering whether or not they'll be here next year or in two years because of this switch, and Kyle might be the best of that group. Folks, listen closely: Kyle Williams does not fit into a 3-4 defense. Not in any way, shape or fashion. That does not, however, mean that he is not a valuable commodity; Williams is active enough to make a contribution in any defensive system. He absolutely will not be able to handle the end position in the Bullough-Fairbanks system, because he doesn't have the body type. He most closely resembles a one-gap nose tackle in the 3-4 Over, but he's not a perfect fit there, either. At best, Williams looks like a rotational player that can give you downs at the nose or at end, but he'll be a liability no matter where you put him.
Contract status: 3 years remaining. Owed $5.305M in base salaries.
Lonnie Harvey. We're listing him here because he's a 6'3", 342-pound unknown. He spent the latter half of the 2009 season on Buffalo's practice squad. I literally know nothing about this guy, but if he's capable of handling two gaps, his chances of making the 2010 roster skyrocketed yesterday. He's definitely a guy to keep an eye on, even if it's only to figure out exactly what we have in him.
Contract status: Signed a reserve/future contract on January 5, 2010.
Who stays? Who goes?
To be quite honest, I'm not expecting either of these guys to be on Buffalo's opening day roster next September. Harvey is a complete unknown, though clearly he's got a shot to stick simply because of the scheme change. Williams probably won't be cut, because he's too good a player with too reasonable a contract to simply be let go, but it's clear that he's not an ideal fit anywhere in any 3-4, and could hit the trade block.
If I were a betting man (and no, I'm not)...
Keep your eye on the Houston Texans. Yeah, they had the No. 10 run defense in the NFL in 2009, but they're not exactly brimming with talent at DT in their 4-3. Bill Kollar is Houston's defensive line coach, and was with Buffalo when the Bills drafted Williams. Kollar helped turn Williams into a pretty solid player, and with a reasonable contract, Williams could be pretty easy to deal for a mid-round draft pick. Given Buffalo's massive amount of needs and the complete re-building project they've taken on on both sides of the ball, that might be a deal worth making for both sides.
Let's assume for the moment, however, that the Bills choose to hang on to Williams. They'll still need help at nose tackle, but I wouldn't bet on them taking one high. Williams is too good to keep off the field, so the Bills might look for a cheap free agent or a mid-to-low round rookie to platoon with Williams. If Williams leaves, however, this position obviously slides up the list of priorities.
Names to keep an eye on
Dan Williams and Terrence Cody are easily the two best wide-bodies available via the draft this year; Williams, in particular, has seen his draft stock skyrocket after an outstanding senior season working with former Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in Tennessee. You're going to hear Dan Williams' name tied to Buffalo a lot, and he's a "safe" prospect that the always-conservative Bills might feel comfortable reaching for. A cheap free agent like Ian Scott or Jimmy Kennedy might make sense, too.