Following the Saints playoff win over the Eagles it really impressed me that New Orleans shut down NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy. Given the Bills run stopping woes most of the season, I wondered how the Saints differed from the Bills personnel wise or other.
Are the Saints bigger? Not really, they have a big nose tackle that played about 40% of the time. They have a big end that played about 80% of the time. They have a big LB who didn't play a down.
So size probably isn't the difference.
Skill? With Kyle, Dareus, Super and Alan I doubt the D-line is the problem. linebacker? As everybody surmises, the Bills should use a decent chunk of resources to upgrade the LB position. They need a player that is strong, tough, fast, athletic and smart. This is not an easy fill and the Bills might spend their number one draft pick here. I don't think this is the only problem though.
The system? Maybe a bit.... The Bills play a complicated D (like the Saints) but don't seem as comfortable playing it yet. That will be fixed by next year, but I still think there's more.
What was the biggest difference? The fans that say tour defense was on the field too much may be right. The Saints D was on the field for only 58 snaps. The problem with this easy solution is that we don't know why the snap counts were so low. Was it because the D shut down LeSean McCoy or that the offense controlled the clock? Even the stats can be misleading, but I feel sure that there is no question that the best way for the D to improve next year is by getting the offense to improve; especially the QB position. I think the Bills run D needs all this and more by next season.
Could Alex Carrington's Bills career be already over? Looking at the Bills top seven defensive linemen, The Bills already have four players who should be able to man the big end position just fine. In Super Mario, Alan Branch, Stephan Charles and Corbin Bryant the Bills have four linemen between 6'4"" and 6'6" and between 292 lbs. and 324lbs. The only guy on the roster who could (try and) replace Marcel Dareus over the long haul is Alan Branch. Where as Dareus, Super or Charles could simulate Kyle Williams. Size may not have been the problem this season but if something happened to Dareus or even Branch next year, as it stands now, we would have a serious problem. While coach Pettine highly values players with pass rushing ability (and rightly so) I think there is a good chance the Bills add more of a big DT to the defensive line rotation this offseason. I think the Bills would require that this player also be able to help create a pass rush, although having the ability to collapse the pocket every now and then would definitely help in the pass rush department.