Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt spoke at length with reporters on Thursday afternoon about the direction and philosophy of Buffalo's defense as it transitions back to a 4-3 look. The themes of the day? The front four and pressuring quarterbacks.
"For us to take a jump in the defense that we're going to run, the front four needs to make a difference," Wannstedt told Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com prior to the press conference. "They need to make an impact. So that would be the position. Our defensive line, as a group, they need to be a major, major factor, run and pass, every week after week after week, for this defense to work."
Because of the nature of the league, wherein the Bills play the majority of their snaps out of the sub-package, Wannstedt doesn't believe there will be a steep learning curve for the defense in moving to a four-man front.
"We played last year about 65 percent of our snaps in nickel personnel where we actually had four down guys in the game with their hand on the ground," Wannstedt told reporters. "Whether we had five defensive backs or six defensive backs it really didn’t matter. The point was that if you looked at us we were doing a lot of things that there’s carryover within the 4-3 scheme and most teams do that."
Wannstedt named four players by name as guys that will be featured in the new defense, and it's nothing groundbreaking: Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams will key the defensive line, Nick Barnett will play the weak side and be on the field in passing situations, and Kelvin Sheppard will be the two-down middle linebacker. This is all information that we've assumed for months; Wannstedt seemed very high on all four players, Dareus and Barnett in particular.
Asked what positions the team needed to address, Wannstedt mentioned every positional group by name, but then focused his response on the defensive line and linebackers.
"The four down and three linebackers that can run, not the big 3-4 linebacker. We’re looking for guys that run and make plays," Wannstedt said. "When you reflect back on the defenses that I’ve been responsible for, for me the guys up front have been playmakers and we expect guys to make plays. We want it to be a defensive line friendly scheme. It’s really trying to put those guys in the best position where we can use their talent, where they can play fast and give them the opportunity to make plays."
Wannstedt also answered questions about the roles of specific players, including guys with up-in-the-air status, including Shawne Merriman and Terrence McGee. Be sure to check out the full transcript of Wannstedt's press conference here. What do you think of his philosophies and the direction he'd like to take Buffalo's defense?