To make a jump from 26 into the top five is a pretty big leap and not one you see often ... Last year the Texans jumped from 30th to second .... a few years ago Green Bay was able to jump from 20ish to top 5
That said it takes a lot of pieces falling into place to be able make such a drastic jump
My reasoning why I can see it happening for the Bills this year:
5. Veteran Leadership - this is the most leadership I have seen on this Bills defense since 2004 when we had the number 2 ranked defense. I think Nix has brought in the right type of guys. Barnett, Mario, Merriman to go with guys like George Wilson and Kyle Williams. These guys set the right example and bring the right approach both on the field and off. Tremendous work ethic and attitude which should exude to the young guys we have added recently as well. When you look at the Baltimore Ravens, when they bring in new people they immediately have Ray Lewis right there letting them know what is to be expected. You can't overstate how important that veteran presence is
4. Improvement in Second Year Players - I expect some significant improvements in some of our younger guys especially now that they have gotten a full offseason under their belts. I am expecting Dareus to be flat out dominant. I also expect Sheppard to excel as the MLB in the 4-3. Lastly, I expect Aaron Williams to earn a starting CB spot with Florence gone and McGee banged up. I have high expectations for all 3 of these guys. I really think the 2011 draft is one of the best we have had in a long time
3. Return of Injured Players - the biggest name here is obviously Kyle Williams. His return is going to help everyone on that defensive line. When healthy he can be unblockable. 2010 he was arguably our best defensive player if not our best player overall. Shawn Merriman also seems ready to return. Yes he has done nothing significant as a Bill but I still have high hopes for him. He is still only 28 years old, knows how to be disruptive on the D-line, and can set the edge in the run game something that we missed when he got injured. He also brings an attitude to the defense that I love. George Wilson and Terrence McGee also missed some time last year. I think their veteran presence is important in what is going to be a very young secondary. Wilson also had a knack for making big plays.
2. New Additions - the Bills didn't make a ton of new additions but I think they brought in guys who will make an impact. The Bills specifically upgraded the pass defense which is what most offenses are all about nowadays. Obviously Mario Williams what more can be said. Has the ability to improve everyone around him. He demands attention from opposing offenses. Can flat out dominate a game. 5 sacks in 5 games last year. Our top pass rusher last year was Dareus with 5.5 sacks for the whole season. That says something. A little bit more underrated signing was Mark Anderson but a guy who gives the Bills even more options rushing the passer. Has a variety of moves and surprising quickness. 12 sacks last year through the regular season and post season. Very impressive. And lastly adding Gilmore in the draft. I fully expect him to be a starter come opening day. His combination of size and speed is something we need in this secondary. I think he will be a significant upgrade over Florence he is clearly on a downslide.
1. Veteran Defensive Coordinator - One thing that happened with both the Texans and the Packers when they made their dramatic jumps was a change in coordinators. Texans brought in Philips and Packers brought in Capers. There's something to bringing in a veteran coordinator and allowing him to run a defense he knows well. With Dave Wannstedt we are getting a guy who knows how to run a 4-3 defense. You can look at the rankings of his defenses over the years and know that he knows what he is doing. I don't think anything is going to be more important to us improving defensively than promoting Wannstedt to coordinator. Yes you have to players but you have to be able to put them in positions to succeed as well. Right now I think we have both the talent and the coaching to really be a great defense.
I guess we shall see