State Of The Buffalo Bills Roster: Defensive Line

Buffalo Rumblings is in the process of breaking down the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position. Installments you may have missed: QB, RB, WR, TE, OT, G/C, Pass Rushers, LB, CB, S, ST.

When the Bills selected Alabama stud defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, fans everywhere - not just in Western New York - thought highly of the possible impact that pairing the versatile 340-pound rookie with Kyle Williams, one of the league's best and most under-appreciated defensive linemen.

That never really came to fruition in 2011. Dareus ranged between fine and quite good as a rookie, but most of the team's run-stopping (and pass-rushing, for that matter) efforts fell on his shoulders while Williams languished briefly on the field before a long-lingering foot issue forced him to IR. Just like that, the Bills didn't look functionally different from the unit they were in 2010.

Williams and Dareus are both on track to be fully healthy at the outset of the 2012 season, so the dreams are being revived. A look at those two players, plus the rest of the team's defensive linemen, is after the jump.

KYLE WILLIAMS
Age:
28 (29 in June 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2017. Entering the second year of a six-year, $39 million contract extension signed in August 2011.

One of the very best defensive linemen in the league in 2010 (54 tackles, 5.5 sacks), Williams appeared in just four games in 2011 before a bone spur in his ankle caused the team to believe he was on the verge of a ruptured Achilles. That issue has been surgically repaired, and Williams is on track to be ready for the start of 2012 training camp. A beleaguered Bills defense needs its best player back; the same truism may even be applicable to the entire team.

MARCELL DAREUS
Age:
22 (23 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015. Entering the second year of a fully guaranteed four-year, $20.4 million rookie contract.

Dareus was not a constant difference-maker for the Bills as a rookie, but did make a difference, as his 5.5 sacks equaled Williams' career high and paced the team on the season. The ultra-versatile, ultra-massive rookie played every position the Bills asked him to play at a high level, and he should continue doing that on a more consistent basis moving forward. Williams is the best player on the team right now, but that may not be true a calendar year from now. Expectations will be high - as they should be - and it'll be interesting to see how Dareus lives up to them.

DWAN EDWARDS
Age:
30 (31 in May 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $7.25 million in base salary over final two years of current deal.

In two years since signing a four-year free agent deal to be a starting end in the 3-4, Edwards has been a dependable, yet not overly productive and somewhat schematically-limited performer. He's sort of an end/tackle 'tweener that won't give you much insofar as a pass rush goes, but plays the run well and hustles harder than 90 percent of linemen in the league. It looks now as if there's a spot for Edwards on the team moving forward, but his salary number will be a significant one to watch over the next two years.

SPENCER JOHNSON
Age:
30 (31 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Will make $3 million in base salary in the final year of his deal.

You can go ahead and forget about where Spencer Johnson played in 2011, because there's a very small likelihood that he'll be asked to play the DE/OLB role he was forced into last year moving forward. Johnson is at his best as a reserve three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, where his quickness is his best asset, and there's more than a good chance that that's exactly what he'll be doing in 2012.

ALEX CARRINGTON
Age:
24 (25 in June 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $1.065 million in base salary over the final two years of his rookie deal.

Injuries forced Carrington into a starting role in 2011, and while he undoubtedly learned a lot in the first extended playing time of his career, he also didn't really stand out in any way. Carrington is still a big, strong kid, is capable of picking up a sack or two here and there, and is a factor as a kick-blocker on field goal attempts. Entering his third season as a 2010 third-round pick, the time is now if Carrington is ever going to be more than a wave player for the Bills.

TORELL TROUP
Age:
23 (24 in June 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $1.065 million in base salary over the final two years of his rookie deal.

After a shaky rookie season in which he played roughly one-fifth of the team's snaps, Troup was set for a bigger role in 2011 before a back injury first limited his availability, then landed him on IR. He's since had surgery to correct that back issue, and may not even be ready for the start of training camp in July. Troup may even have to fend off Kellen Heard for playing time in 2012, assuming he's healthy enough to compete.

KELLEN HEARD
Age:
26 (27 in October 2012)
Contract: RFA in 2013. Will make $490K in base salary in 2012.

In essence, Heard took over the role that the injured Troup vacated; he played about one-fifth of the team's snaps as a run-stuffing presence. Heard was largely a non-factor, but did have a couple of brief stretches in which he looked unblockable. He's earned another look next summer.

LIONEL DOTSON
Age:
26 (27 in February 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Will make $700K in base salary in 2012.

Dotson spent most of the season on the practice squad, then didn't play a lot when added to the active roster later in the year. He, too, will get another look next summer.

JARRON GILBERT
Age:
25 (26 in September 2012)
Contract: Undisclosed. Under contract for at least the 2012 season.

A late-season addition to the active roster, the ultra-athletic Gilbert didn't make it to the active roster on game days in 2011. His athletic talents alone merit a long look next summer, but the 2009 third-round pick (Chicago) has been a non-factor as a pro, appearing in just five games over the course of three seasons.

JAY ROSS
Age:
24 (25 in October 2012)
Contract: Under contract for 2012 after signing a reserve/future deal on January 3.

Ross spent most of the 2011 season on the practice squad, then got a reserve/future contract to keep him in Buffalo through at least training camp next year.

POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: In Williams and Dareus, the Bills have the true foundation of their defense, regardless of what scheme they're running. From there, the Bills have a clear delineation between heady veterans (Edwards and Johnson) and project-type youngsters (Carrington, Troup, Heard, Dotson, Gilbert and Ross). That's solid depth no matter which way you cut it, and there's quite a bit of talent to be had from top to bottom. Everyone's under contract, so it's hard to envision much movement here.

FREE AGENCY: We're not including any potential free agent defensive linemen here, because most of the defensive linemen fans will want to mention fit into the pass rusher category, which we've already covered.

2012 NFL DRAFT: With so much depth and enough youth to keep developing, it's also tough to envision the team spending one of their valuable draft picks on an already-well-stocked position.

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