So I was compiling my next round of the Our Mock Series when I stopped and asked myself, "self, what are our needs on defense now." Aside from adding depth, the Bills should re-sign FS Jairus Byrd asap or else possibly having to spend a high draft pick at safety. But this is old news, so why return to the subject.
As we all know, the Bills lost their excellent DC Mike Pettine to the Cleveland Browns. Atop of that, Pettine brought along some of his minions to the Doghouse as well or will do so shortly.
The Bills in turn have brought in one of the few, but good candidates remaining. That person was Jim Schwartz. Many of you may recognize the name as the head coach who blew a big chance to get the Lions to the playoffs, had trouble managing certain players on his team, etc. But as we have also found out is that Schwartz has coordinated some of the top defenses over the last decade.
Here's the hiccup though...
Pettine used a hybrid defense that disguised blitzes from any position. It's true the Bills look like a 4-3 defense having 4 players on the line with Mario Williams operating as a pass rushing linebacker or a defensive end often. BUT, the key here is that the Bills would use 3-4 personnel to make this happen... of the 4 players, Mario Williams was the lightest at 292 lbs. Pettine did a great job turning around the defense especially with the pass rush, but that in turn left it vulnerable to the run.
Had the Bills been able to stay with Pettine, they would have likely have needed just a linebacker (weak or strong-side depending where Manny Lawson lined up).
Schwartz in the past plays with a 4-3 defense wide-9 formation in which the defensive ends are more spread out. The problem with that is that this requires faster DEs. While Schwartz has indicated that wide-9 will be used from time-to-time, it won't define the defense. He is aggressive with his front four, but doesn't use any many blitzes to attain the pressure. His defenses are good though and typically boast better run defense stats as such. Having the DEs line farther apart and relying on more traditional 4-3 looks requires 2 DTs and 2 fast DEs. Suffice to say, Branch does not fall into the fast DE mold and the Bills would probably be better off with Mario playing closer to the tackle.
So aside from the aforementioned linebacker, the Bills may be looking seriously at adding a 4-3 DE in this upcoming draft. Jerry Hughes had a breakout year in 2013, but his size is more suited for a 3-4 OLB, pass rush specialist role.
A lot hangs on where certain players line up and could affect how the Bills view certain players in the draft. Some of the lineup issues are as followed: Will the coaches view Alan Branch, Alex Carrington or Corban Bryant as having enough speed to be a potential 4-3 defensive end? Will Mario Williams line up closer to the tackles or farther? Where will Manny Lawson line up - DE, SLB or WLB (figuring Kiko stays as the middle linebacker)? How often will be the Bills be switching schemes defensively, necessitating new players with 3-4 defensive abilities?
All of these factors go into the big question that I now ask you. What do the Bills need on defense under Jim Schwartz? For more information on defensive lineups - check out this article by Brian.
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