Mike Pettine has left Rex Ryan to make a name for himself as a top defensive coordinator and possible future head coaching candidate and his first and most would like to hope is only stop will be Buffalo. The point of me writing today is to breakdown mostly the pros and the one big worry fans should have about their new defensive boss. Brian Galliford wrote a very informative piece (http://www.buffalorumblings.com/2013/5/22/4353848/defining-mike-pettine-bills-defense-a-philosophical-endeavor) earlier in the week breaking down Pettine's scheme and strategy. I suggest that you should read it as it is very good.
Pettine's defense in New York finished eighth in total defense, second against the pass and 26th against the run last year. Compared with the Bills who finished 22nd, 10th and 31st respectively in those same categories, it appears that Pettine is clearly an upgrade from Dave Wannstedt and George Edwards.
We know from watching the Jets the last few years that this will be a much different defense then what BILLS fans are used to and this is a good thing! Pettine has said that his defense is going to be aggressive and rush the quarterback. The big positive to me is finally the BILLS have a defensive coordinator who is going to disguise his coverage and audible. The last four years under Perry Fewell and the above mentioned Edwards and Wannstedt the BILLS would line up in a base scheme and wait. This is why Tom Brady torches the defense twice a year because there was no trick to what the BILLS were going to do. You knew when they were blitzing and you knew when they weren't. The same goes for zone and man coverage. There were college defenses being more slick then what the BILLS have been putting on the field the last four seasons.
With Pettine the fans and players should be confident that the defensive scheme is going to be more aggressive and is going to have quarterbacks and offensive coordinators worrying about what the defense is going to do instead of the other way around. He is going to blitz, he is going to audible and disguise his coverage, he is going to rely on all 11 players to do their part instead of leaving the pass rushing to the front four and the tackling to the rest of the players. These are the positives and fans should be excited that finally there is a progressive defensive coordinator who appears to have the right schemes and mindset to fix this defense and make the BILLS competitive in more games. The worry is does he have the talent and if he doesn't can he coach well enough to hide the weaknesses and utilize the strengths?
This is a worry for one reason only and it is not because he worked under Rex Ryan. The worry is because he has had phenomenal talent in New York and Baltimore. As fans know he had the best cornerback duo in Revis and Antonio Cromartie, a very good linebacking group in David Harris, LaRon Landry and Bart Scott and a competitive defensive line that helped register 47 sacks last season compared to the BILLS who only had 30 for the year which was less than two per game. Obviously in Baltimore he had that guy named Ray Lewis so Pettine has always had great talent to coach.
When you have that level of talent you can get away with a lot more then you can when you can with average or slightly better than average talent. The BILLS do have talent on defense. The line now with Pettine calling the plays will hopefully reach its potential of being the top d-line in the NFL. But the linebacker and secondary units are young. Talented but young. Can Pettine make the same type of man-to-man calls with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin at the corners instead of Revis and Cromartie? If he can't will he figure that out soon enough and adjust his packages to give those guys chances to succeed? The same goes for Manny Lawson and company at linebacker? Over the years the BILLS have shown an inability to make proper in game and halftime adjustments. Can Pettine do that?
The success of the defense falls squarely on the shoulders of its new coordinator. Mike Pettine has decided to break away from Rex Ryan and give it a go on his own. He is going to get a couple of seasons to right this ship. If he can you are probably looking at a future head coach in this league. If he can't then he will be the latest in the long line of BILLS coaches that either move laterally or take demotions when they go to new teams.
Personally I think Mike Pettine is the right guy for the job and he brings many more positives then negatives. Again disguising the schemes and being aggressive is a welcomed and refreshing change that the BILLS have needed for quite some time. He has talent to work with, it just may not be as plentiful as what he had in New York and Baltimore. If he can figure how to use their strengths and make the proper in game adjustments then this defense may finally start leading the way to more Buffalo victories!