The Buffalo Bills brought back safety Dean Marlowe for another year in Buffalo. Dean Marlowe has only ever played defense for Sean McDermott, entering the league with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 and transitioning to Buffalo with McDermott in 2017. System familiarity isn’t a negative by any means, but let’s see how well it translated to the field in 2019.
When you think of the safety position, it might elicit visions of playing off the line as the last line of defense. Often this might be in coverage for pass plays. That’s not how the Buffalo Bills use Dean Marlowe though. Marlowe hit the field as the “Big Nickel” defensive back, playing closer to the line and mostly from the slot position. Marlowe often seemed a half step behind in coverage. Here he’s in position to make a tackle but only after what should have been a first down.
The Bills tried to limit Dean Marlowe’s exposure on passing downs. Despite that, there were still a few plays such as this one. Marlowe seems to hesitate on his responsibility and, as a result, allows this catch.
Being fair to Marlowe, in the run game he seemed able to understand the play book well with variable assignments. There didn’t appear to be a reason to question his mental game. Rather, Marlowe seemed like he was short on practice when it came to the passing game.
It seemed the Bills prefer to have Dean Marlowe in on running downs and the difference is significant to what we see above. The initial impact is a draw, which isn’t a bad start. Marlowe is then able to easily shed the block and make the tackle.
This block is by Lane Johnson, who has an All-Pro season to his name along with three consecutive Pro Bowl nods. The initial impact actually favors Dean Marlowe a bit, which is pretty wild all things considered. Marlowe also keeps himself clean and starts to work inside Johnson with a good shot at getting through. It’s only through an assist by the guard that Marlowe isn’t successful here.
This is pretty similar but gives a better view on how well Dean Marlowe tracks the play. It’s also a clear victory despite giving up a touch over 100 lbs to his opponent. This is also here to show Play 4 isn’t a fluke. Attacking downhill, Marlowe is a monster for a defensive back.
Dean Marlowe will almost certainly remain a rotational player in the highly variable McDermott/Frazier defense. In addition to getting playing time after Taron Johnson was injured in Week 1, Marlowe also saw extra time against the Philadelphia Eagles in what was definitely a game that featured the run. Well, the Eagles did anyway. If pressed into a starter’s role the defense would take a hit, but in the role we currently see with the Bills, Marlowe can be an effective rotational component of the Big Nickel.