Andra Davis hardly played for the Buffalo Bills after losing his spot to rookie Kelvin Sheppard during the 2011 season. He recently spoke with ESPN's Josina Anderson, who tweeted the aging linebacker's comments on his playing future over the weekend - and they included a snippet of what direction the Bills might be heading at the linebacker spot. Davis will be an unrestricted free agent this March, and is not expecting to return.
"I definitely don't plan on retiring, at least not by choice," said the 33-year-old. "I was questioning whether or not to play anymore after I hardly played after Week 6. But the good news is I feel more rested now, and I feel like I still have a lot to offer. In my exit interview they told me they appreciated the way I handled things and that their options are still open, but I think they like smaller linebackers now."
That last seven words are the most interesting part of the quote but hardly surprising.
In the 3-4 defense, Davis was asked to take on and shed blockers as the "Mike" inside linebacker, and needed to be big and physical to do that. In the 4-3, the defensive tackles occupy blockers more frequently, leaving the linebackers to sift through the mess and make the tackle. (Obviously this isn't on every play, and players like Kyle Williams excel by shooting the gaps, not taking on blockers.) In this case, "smaller" could also be a replacement word for "quicker," which is something Davis has not been since joining the Bills.
While we knew the Bills were moving to a 4-3 base defensive alignment, the idea of moving from bigger and more physical linebackers to quicker ones is one that GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey haven't mentioned specifically in post-game interviews. Since transitioning to the 3-4, Buffalo has still struggled against the run despite getting bigger at the linebacker position.
This is also fairly important to take into account when discussing the future of free agent Bryan Scott, who frequently lined up at linebacker in the team's nickel formation. Out of place in a base 3-4, Scott could once again find himself playing the role of 4-3 outside linebacker, a position he held under Dick Jauron for a time, in Buffalo's plans for 2012 should he be re-signed.