It's quickly becoming clear that the most interesting interview among the Buffalo Bills' new coaching staff is defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He appeared on The John Murphy Show on Tuesday night, and if you're itching for some pure football talk, click this link and thoroughly enjoy the next 17 minutes of your life.
Murphy asked Pettine about several players on his defense, and his comments on three of the team's pass-rushing outside linebackers caught my attention. Take a peek for yourself:
Pettine on Mark Anderson
"I think we'll start with third down with Mark, and work our way backwards. I think when he's healthy, he can be an elite pass rusher - his body of work is certainly evident of that. Again, here's a guy - he just maybe wants to rush the passer, (but) I think he has some value on early downs as well. He's done a good job… buying in. Here's a guy that could have been like, 'Hey, I'm a designated pass rusher, I don't really need to sink my teeth into this playbook and the rest of the stuff' - and that hasn't been the case. He's making the effort to learn it, and there are going to be times where we can have a package on first and second down where he's one of our edge players."
Pettine on Jerry Hughes
"I see Jerry in a role similar to Mark, but I think Jerry can be more involved in the first and second down part of it. I think he can give us some depth at both outside linebacker spots. Coming from Indianapolis, where they taught our system that had originated in Baltimore that Chuck Pagano had taken - you can tell watching the tape a lot of the terminology is the same, a lot of the fronts are the same - he has some experience as an outside linebacker in the system."
Pettine on Marcus Dowtin
"I think he's a special athlete. We've primarily trained him here outside - he's been with the outside linebackers. In New York he primarily played inside as the Will linebacker as the dime, so we know he can fall back on that if we need to. But he's a guy that I think can play a lot of different roles for us; he can be in man coverage, he can blitz, he can drop in zone, he can pass rush off the edge."
One of the reasons that it's hard to figure what Pettine's defense might look like in Buffalo is because it's tough to project these edge defenders into specific roles. To my eye, Pettine's chat with Murphy differentiated a similar group of athletes: Dowtin provides the most versatility (and therefore, in theory, utility) to the defense, while Anderson and Hughes are depth players, with Anderson the better pass rusher and Hughes the better early-down defender. If any of these players are going to emerge as three-down defenders early in Pettine's run as Bills defensive coordinator, I think it's pretty clear that Dowtin is the front-runner.