In last week's 23-0 win over the Washington Redskins, rookie defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (2.5 sacks) had the type of break-out performance that the Buffalo Bills have been waiting for since making him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Dareus moved over to nose tackle for the first time in his pro career for the game, which meant that he spent most of his time facing a battered Redskins interior line that featured second-year center Erik Cook, who was clearly outmatched against a far superior talent like Dareus.
Buffalo needs continued efforts like that from Dareus as long as Kyle Williams is out of the lineup. Dareus will have a hard time replicating his success this week against two-time All Pro center Nick Mangold.
Mangold missed Weeks 2 and 3 this season with a high ankle sprain, and the New York Jets' offense suffered without him. They struggled to run the football in a road loss to Oakland, then were positively dominated at the point of attack by Haloti Ngata and Baltimore.
In the three games since Mangold's return to the lineup, however, the Jets' offense has begun trending upward - particularly running the football, which they did very effectively (and up to usual Jet standards) in a Week 7 win over San Diego. Now, with the Jets coming off of a bye week, Mangold should be healthier than he has been in quite some time.
That spells trouble for Dareus. It's not as if Dareus isn't capable of playing well against, arguably, the game's best center - because he is. Expecting him to play well enough to key an entire defense in a critical division game against arguably the league's best center, however, is a slightly different animal. Dareus has played extremely well with Williams out of the lineup, but Week 9 will present him with the biggest challenge of his young professional career by a considerable margin. Here's hoping he's up to the task.