It's an exciting time to be a fan of the Buffalo Bills. Over the past two days, the Bills have been aggressive in significantly upgrading the front seven of their beleaguered defense. Yesterday, the team signed LB Kawika Mitchell of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Today, the splash was even bigger, as the Bills added two (starting?) defensive tackles in former Jaguar Marcus Stroud and former Viking Spencer Johnson.
One of our favorite features to run is the good old blogger interview, and it just so happens that the three SB Nation bloggers who know these players best graciously stepped up to the plate to answer questions about the three newest Bills. In a trifecta of interviews, here's what SB Nation's finest had to say about the three newest Bills:
River City Rage, Big Cat Country, on Marcus Stroud:
First off, are you going to miss Marcus Stroud?
Honestly, no. His 2007 campaign was a disappointment from top to bottom and it's unclear if he's ever going to return to his Pro Bowl form. The Jaguars' run defense was worse than normal, and when Stroud was suspended for four games, it didn't change. His impact on the defense was marginal and I'm glad we were able to get some value out of him rather than overpay him or force a pay cut.
How long would you say it's been since he's played at that Pro Bowl level you mentioned?
I think 2005 was his last dominant year, 2006 saw the struggle with injuries start, playing only 11 games. Then with the off-season microfracture surgery, he's just plain lost a step. His quickness is what makes him so good, but when he's not fast, he's just another big guy on the line.
At his peak, where would you say Stroud fits in among the NFL's elite tackles?
Top five. The only thing that holds him back is that it's hard to tell who benefited more from the other, Stroud or John Henderson. Stroud always got the Pro Bowl nod, but Henderson does some wonderful things as well. The two of them could collapse any pocket; that's what made them so disruptive.
Do you believe Stroud could succed, post-injury, in a rotation where he's not counted on as much as he was in Jacksonville?
Yes, without a doubt. I'm not saying the guy is done, just that he's not the player he used to be. Limiting snaps is a good way to keep him healthy and effective. I don't know that he'll be a 65 tackle guy again like he was in 2003 and 2004 though. But use him right and he'll do some good things. Stroud will certainly command a double team from time to time, provided he can get some pressure up the middle. You'll also probably see more outside runs, as he's a pretty big guy stuffing the run up the middle.
Final thoughts on Stroud's Jaguars career and the "legacy" he leaves behind?
Stroud was the cornerstone of a very physical Jaguars defense; he's been a gift from Tom Coughlin since he was drafted, and he's very much the reason why the Jaguars are known for being such a nasty defensive team. He brought that attitude in with him and inspired some great play. If there was ever a time for a player to leave a team and in good terms, it's this time. I'll miss him, and I'm sure Peyton Manning, David Carr, and the other quarterbacks he's killed will feel better with him farther away.
ETVal, Big Blue View, on Kawika Mitchell:
Kawika Mitchell is a very solid outside linebacker, and should be a good addition to the Buffalo Bills' defense. The Giants would have liked to keep the five-year veteran, but the price was too high and the Giants do have players who can step in.
Anyway, what are the Bills getting? They are getting a guy who was a decent middle linebacker for four years in Kansas City, then made a smooth transition to the outside during his one year in New York. He's not a spectacular player, but he doesn't make mistakes and he doesn't miss tackles. He's also a solid citizen who doesn't make waves. He will provide some leadership on the Buffalo defense as well as being a good player.
This was a good signing for the Bills, even though I think they probably overpaid.
Gonzo, Daily Norseman, on Spencer Johnson:
I personally think that there's a lot of teams in the NFL that Spencer Johnson could be a starting DT for... it just so happens that he was stuck behind the best DT combo in the NFL in the Irresistable Force and the Immovable Object (or, as you might know them, Kevin and Pat Williams). We got Johnson as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2004, and he's performed very well in a reserve role for us. He even notched 3 sacks for us last year in limited playing time. He's got some pretty good quickness for a DT, and has a very good first step. However, because he's a bit undersized (he's listed at 285, but I think that's giving him about 10 extra pounds), he can get pushed around a little bit if an OL gets a hold of him. I have no doubt that he'll be a good addition for the Bills, but his impact will be felt more as an interior pass rusher than it will be as an all-around defensive tackle, in my opinion.