Listed at 6-feet-3 inches tall, and weighing more than 330 pounds, it is hard to fathom that someone with as imposing of a presence as Marcell Dareus could simply disappear on the football field, but through the first four games of the 2017 season, the Buffalo Bills find themselves issuing a missing person’s report for their former All-Pro defensive tackle.
There was a thought that, following first-year head coach Sean McDermott’s efforts to light a fire under Dareus, Buffalo’s talented but inconsistent defensive standout would answer the challenge and begin contributing more to Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 defense. After all, Dareus, who was selected third overall in the 2011 NFL draft (behind former NFL MVP Cam Newton and Von Miller, MVP of Super Bowl 50), began his Buffalo career in dominant fashion, logging 28.5 sacks through his first four seasons in Orchard Park.
Dareus’ disappointing start to the 2017 regular season might be attributed in part to an injury, as he has been battling an ankle injury since Week 2’s 9-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers. But he returned to the field healthy for Sunday’s showdown in Atlanta with the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, and despite his clean bill of health, Dareus’ name did not appear on the stat sheet.
Appearing in just 22 snaps, the fewest for any member of the Bills defense, Dareus did not record a solo tackle, did not record an assisted tackle, did not record a tackle of any sort in Buffalo’s big 23-17 win over the Falcons.
Switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, the Bills (3-1) find themselves alone in first place in the AFC East.
Without any productivity from “Mr. Big Stuff,” the Bills defense is currently the stingiest in the league, allowing 13.5 points per game, and the Bills rank third in interceptions (six), are eighth in sacks (11), and are 10th in total yards allowed per game (306.5).
Dareus, the team’s highest-paid defensive player, has now logged a grand total of ONE assisted tackle, with no sacks and no quarterback hurries through the first quarter of the season. He is one of only three current Bills without a solo tackle along with Jerel Worthy, who just made his season debut in Atlanta (matching Dareus’ season total with one assisted tackle and managing a quarterback hit). Tanner Vallejo, Buffalo’s rookie linebacker, is the other Bill with one assisted tackle.
After signing a six-year, $108 million extension with $60 million in guaranteed money in 2015, it’s safe to say McDermott and the rest of the Bills’ brass were expecting more from their star defensive tackle.
Following the quick start to his Bills career, including a 10-sack 2014 season that earned First-Team All-Pro honors from the NFL, Dareus has managed only 5.5 sacks in his last 26 games.
If only his issues were limited to the playing field, maybe McDermott and Frazier would be more tolerant and patient with their former All-Pro. But Dareus has found himself in trouble off the field in recent years.
Among his issues, Dareus served a one-game suspension in 2015 and a four-game suspension in 2016 for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He was also dismissed from the team prior to the Bills’ Week 3 preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, reportedly for being so late that other members of the team were already on the field stretching.