All offseason, the Buffalo Bills have raved about how their defensive ends have positional versatility. That is, they can kick inside to play defensive tackle on passing downs. Will that impact roster decisions when it comes down to the final 53-man roster?
On Friday night, we were watching which defensive ends kicked inside and for how many snaps. Situationally, you would expect it during the two-minute drill when the opposition is passing exclusively, and that’s in here certainly, but the other times it happened are just as important.
It’s also important to remember DT Vernon Butler, DE Jerry Hughes, and DE Mario Addison were all sidelined for the game. Addison played some DT in 2020 while Butler shifted between 1-tech and 3-tech defensive tackle. Positional versatility is something highlighted by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Per Pro Football Focus, Efe Obada played eight snaps inside at defensive tackle and Carlos Basham, Jr. played four snaps at defensive tackle.
Overall, Obada played 42 defensive snaps, so 19 percent of his snaps coming at defensive tackle seems pretty substantial. For Basham, who played 39 defensive snaps, that’s more than 10 percent of his number.
The timing of the snaps lends to them being part of the plan and not just situational. Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic tracked where each player played by drive, and noted that Obada lined up inside on more than one early drive; Drive 2 and Drive 4. Basham was mixed in frequently on later drives; Drive 4, Drive 8, and Drive 9. Drive 4 was the final drive of the first half with Detroit in their two-minute offense and Buffalo went four DEs across the line.
Here’s Obada blowing up the fourth down run from the DT position:
Efe Obada blows things up in the middle on 4th down and the rest of the #Bills D-line stuffs #Lions that was #nice #BUFvsDET pic.twitter.com/q81L4AUR7e— Nick (@Nick_Wojton) August 14, 2021
Could it be enough where the Bills go with an imbalanced roster featuring more defensive ends than defensive tackles? Probably. With the additions they made at defensive end this offseason, they are expecting a jump in their pass-rush production. One way to get more of them on the field at once to cause even more problems is kicking one or more of them to defensive tackle for a few snaps.