TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 30: George Wilson #37 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates his interception with Jairus Byrd #31 during NFL game action against the Washington Redskins at Rogers Centre on October 30, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
The month of July is the time where NFL writers around the country start pitting teams against each other on paper during the slowest month in the football news cycle. The latest piece from SB Nation, BuffaloRumblings.com's parent company, ranks safety tandems - and the Buffalo Bills ranked surprisingly high.
"I bought the hype with this team, admittedly," says writer Ryan Van Bibber, who also runs TurfShowTimes.com. "Adding some muscle up front is going to make this secondary even better. Jairus Byrd has the makings of a superstar and a knack for being around the ball."
Byrd made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season with nine interceptions. Since then, his interception numbers have fallen off, but he's also become a consistent all-around free safety capable of helping against the run and the pass. Teammate George Wilson logged 13 starts a year ago, replacing former first-round pick Donte Whitner in the lineup.Van Bibber factors in the Bills' new and improved defensive line, which should help the safety tandem in a few ways. First, the pass rush should provide a few forced throws per game that could be picked off. Secondly, the threat of that pressure should force opposing offenses into more single-move routes. Lastly, quarterbacks with limited time in the pocket can usually only scan half the field, which means Byrd should be able to follow the quarterback's eyes more often in 2012 than any other point in his career.
"What makes Ed Reed so great is in the defense he plays with the kind of rush they have the quarterback gets one look," said defensive backs coach George Catavolos last month. "So if the quarterback is looking left he can break that way."
The Bills ranked behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, who both sent a pair of safeties to the Pro Bowl team, as well as the Arizona Cardinals. The rest of the AFC East was in the bottom third with the Patriots 22, Jets 23, and Dolphins 29.