Rejoice, Bills fans! Marcell Dareus has arrived just in time to attack what PFF calls the NFL’s second-worst offensive line through the season’s first quarter. Obviously, when a player of Dareus’ caliber returns from any sort of hiatus, there will be some shifting of roles and playing time as a result. As Sal Capaccio reported, the Bills released their depth chart for the upcoming game, and it included a few specific changes that directly result from Marcel’s return. Those who seem as if they’ll be affected most are Leger Douzable, Adolphus Washington, and Corbin Bryant, though all will see a role change in different ways.
Bryant’s switch is less about playing time and more about his position. In Dareus’ absence, he’s been playing almost exclusively as a nose tackle. At 6’4” and 300 pounds, he isn’t quite built as a two-gap anchor, and in the Bills’ system, his ideal position is really as a 5-tech end or a 1-gap interior lineman. Allowing Bryant to switch to an end position gives him the chance to do what he does best, although his performance playing out of position should still be commended. Without its best player, the defense still ranked 16th in total defense, and 13th against the run. Bryant’s 8 tackles (3 solo) and 1 QB pressure are not overwhelming statistics, but it’s very difficult to judge a defensive lineman based on cumulative numbers. Often times, an interior defensive lineman’s true worth is gauged by his teammates’ success, and with the Browns running wild behind him, one could safely assume that Bryant has held his own in arguably his weakest position defensively.
Adolphus Washington sees his four-game run as a starter come to an end this week. A tremendous performance in the preseason earned him significant praise, as well as the starting gig; however, he has cooled off a bit in the regular season. This was to be expected, as he went from running against other teams’ backups to running with the big boys throughout. While he has started all four games this season, he actually ranks fourth on the team in overall snaps on the defensive line, as Bryant, Kyle Williams, and Douzable have all played more than he has.
Leger Douzable has played predominantly as a defensive end thus far this year, but the chart indicates that he’ll be moving back to defensive tackle with Dareus returning. Douzable has played on 44% of the team’s snaps, but it is safe to assume that he’ll lose some now that he’s backing up Kyle Williams. It’s also possible that Williams starts to take a few more plays off, as he’s been on the field for 80% of the team’s snaps so far, and that isn’t a pace that a 33 year-old coming off of knee surgery (and with a history of ankle/achilles injuries) should be expected to uphold.
Overall, the changes only solidify one point: Buffalo’s defensive line is deep, versatile, and ready to wreak havoc. They’ll need to disrupt the Rams’ running game if the team wants to secure it’s first win on the left coast in a decade.