With 99% of the vote, no qualifications were needed: You chose Kyle Williams as the best defensive lineman for our Buffalo Bills team of the decade. We still need at least one more d-lineman, so with Williams off the list, here are your candidates for the next roster spot.
The Bills missed out on top QB Cam Newton in the 2011 draft, but picked a talented defensive lineman in Dareus. While he wasn’t able to fix Buffalo’s 3-4 defense (no one was), he did have 5.5 sacks as a rookie (which, oof, led the team). He only improved from there, and four years into his career he had amassed 28.5 sacks and 34 TFLs. That puts him in a league with stars like Geno Atkins, Ndamukong Suh, DeForest Buckner, and Cameron Jordan. He had two Pro Bowl nominations and a first-team All-Pro, and was just turning 25 years old.
Of course, we all know what came next. The Bills paid Dareus big bucks, hoping for more of the same. A new coaching staff (and new defensive scheme) came to town. Dareus became an afterthought on the field. He started failing drug tests and stopped putting in the day-to-day effort.
After the Bills hired head coach Sean McDermott, Dareus was on thin ice—and the team traded him to the Jacksonville Jaguars midway through the 2017 season. He’s played there since, but hasn’t reached the heights of his lofty early career success.
Overall stats: 85 games started, 296 combined tackles, 46 TFLs, 35.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 13 passes defended.
When Sean McDermott joined the Bills, it was a little bit surprising to see that the team’s biggest contract, a five-year, $50 million deal, went to a nose tackle. Maybe that emphasizes how much McDermott values keeping his linebackers clean. Over two years, Lotulelei has been taking on linemen and sealing gaps so the team’s back-seven defenders could clean things up.
It definitely hasn’t resulted in any stats to highlight. Lotulelei only has 36 combined tackles in the past two years, and went the entire 2018 season without a sack. But his value can be measured by all of his prolific teammates.
Overall stats: 32 games started, 36 combined tackles, 4 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, two passes defended, one interception
Originally a second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins, Phillips had a hard time making an impact in South Beach, did not mesh well with Adam Gase, and finally saw his wishes fulfilled when the Dolphins waived him four weeks into his fourth season. The Bills picked him up that year and used him as a reserve defensive tackle. Phillips seemed revitalized in Buffalo’s culture, and while he didn’t start any games in 2018, he did rotate and contribute a handful of splash plays.
When Kyle Williams retired in 2019, the Bills drafted Ed Oliver with their first-round pick, but also gave Phillips the starting role out of seniority. Though Oliver was hot on his heels, Phillips had a career year. He blew up plays again and again, with 16 hits on the quarterback and 13 tackles for loss. He had 9.5 sacks in 2019—which was more than any defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald or Arik Armstead.
The Bills, with Oliver waiting in the wings, allowed Phillips to test free agency, and he signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
Overall stats: 9 games started, 50 combined tackles, 15 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three passes defended.
Voting time. Kyle Williams needs a teammate, so who will play alongside him on the All-Decade defensive line?
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: Defensive lineman 2
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