In 2017, the Buffalo Bills had a porous run defense. They allowed 124.6 yards per game before allowing 155 yards on the ground to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card playoffs. After the team jettisoned Marcell Dareus, they struggled to find a consistent starter next to longtime Bill Kyle Williams.
In our latest installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we look at one of the rotational players who head coach Sean McDermott trusted quickly at defensive tackle.
Name: Rickey Hatley
Height/Weight: 6’4” 310 lbs.
Draft: Joined the Houston Texans as a UDFA in 2017
Financial situation (per OvertheCap): Hatley is in the second year of a three-year deal worth $1,515,000. His cap hit for 2018 is $480,000.
2017 Recap: Hatley was added to Buffalo’s practice squad on December 23. Before that, he had played with Houston during the preseason; he was waived when the team cut down the 53 players on September 2. He then caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he was released (September 19), re-signed (November 13), then released again (December 14). The Bills added him to the active roster on December 27, and he played 25 snaps in the game, good for 35% of the team’s snaps on defense. He made one tackle in the game. He then played 18 snaps (30%) against Jacksonville in the playoffs, recording 3 total tackles in the 10-3 loss. In each game, Hatley essentially acted as one-third of a starting defensive tackle, splitting reps nearly equally with Adolphus Washington and Cedric Thornton.
Positional outlook: Washington is still on the roster, but Thornton is not for 2018. veteran Kyle Williams returns for one last go-round, and the Bills also added veteran Star Lotululei and third-round draft pick Harrison Phillips to the fold. The sixth defensive tackle on the roster is Tenny Palepoi.
2018 Offseason: Nothing has been written about Hatley thus far.
2018 season outlook: This could be interesting, as the safe bet is that Williams and Lotululei will start, with Phillips acting as the first man in for substitution purposes. That leaves Hatley most likely battling Adolphus Washington to stick on the roster. While it’s possible that the Bills keep five defensive tackles, it isn’t exactly likely. McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier used Hatley almost immediately last season, but part of that might have been out of necessity given how bad Thornton was and how inconsistent Washington was. The coaching staff has shown it isn’t afraid to take players with lesser pedigrees if they fit the system, so it isn’t impossible for Hatley to beat out Washington this year.