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All-22 analysis: free agent DT Star Lotulelei a mammoth in the middle for McDermott

A match made in heaven,

So far the NFL offseason has been an adventurous one in Orchard Park, mainly because of the trades made by Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane. Beane, however, has made one rather large (pun intended) free agent signing. That signing is Star Lotulelei, who will reunite with his former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott here in Buffalo.

This is just a brief overview of Lotulelei and what he will bring to the Bills defense. First of all, Lotulelei will mainly play the nose tackle (or 1-tech) in the Bills defense. He will be the guy whose main duty is to clog things up in the middle and keep the linebackers free of offensive linemen coming to the second level. This position differs from the one that you usually see Kyle Williams at, which is the “3-tech” or “under” defensive tackle. That position is more of a penetrator and disruptor. Lotulelei is the Dareus replacement that the Bills run defense didn’t have last season. If you are looking for an impact pass rusher from the tackle position it is not Lotulelei. This isn’t to say he isn’t athletic as the big man does have great short-area quickness, it is just that his strength is his power at the point of attack. Below are some GIFs that can help illustrate what type of player the Bills are getting.

This first play shows the power and hustle of Lotulelei, as he manhandles his man and then chases the RB down from behind after the defensive end to that side does a nice job setting the edge.

This next play has the guard giving the big DT a quick shove to help the center get across the face of Lotulelei on this outside zone running play. However, Star does a great job in not getting reached here, fighting across the face of his blocker, and is able to blow up the play in the backfield.

Looking at this next two GIFs, we can see the type of pass rush that Star will provide. As stated above, Star is a powerful defensive tackle and his pass rush will be pushing his man into the pocket and into the quarterback, not beating his man with finesse. The Bills pass rush in 2017 at times struggled to get a push up the middle and allowed opposing quarterbacks the space to step up and avoid edge rushers.

Finally, I want to illustrate why a defensive tackle’s stats are not the end-all, be-all. This is a huge tackle for a loss that if you were just reading the box score you would credit to the great Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly. However, when you watch the play, you can see most of the credit should go to Lotulelei who absolutely blows up the play completely. Plays like this were sorely missing from the Bills nose tackles last season.

Most people were under the impression that linebacker was the biggest need on the Bills defense for 2018. It is a flashier position that posts bigger stats and makes more highlight plays. However, I would say that, without a solid nose tackle up front, those linebackers aren’t able to make the highlight plays that we all love. Lotulelei will be the guy to keep the linebackers clean and should provide a very nice upgrade to the Bills run defense in 2018.

This last GIF is just for fun...