The Buffalo Bills are serious about bringing back former players, even signing guys who were here only for preseason. Marquel Lee signed with the Bills on March 31, 2021 and was released on August 31. Aside from that he’s been with the Las Vegas Raiders since being drafted in 2017 by then Oakland. Let’s see how he might fit with the current Bills roster.
Note: Lee’s most significant playing time came in 2018 and All-22 isn’t available for whatever reason, so the clips below are all from a single game this past year.
So yeah, it’s pretty cool that Marquel Lee seems to be spying into the backfield and mirroring the running back but this play doesn’t really show all that much. This is a great representation of the fact that there’s not a wealth of All-22 for Lee.
Okay fine, here’s a play where he’s more directly involved. Lee flows well to the sideline and gets ahead of the potential blockers to fill the lane at the edge. Unfortunately the pile is threatening to fall into him and he can’t cut back to make the tackle. Lee’s presence does prevent a much longer gain.
There aren’t a ton of snaps for Lee in coverage due to the lack of snaps overall, but also because the Raiders seemed to steer toward putting him on the field more as a run support option. It’s hard to say Lee is at fault completely for this easy first down, as the zone he’s playing all but guarantees there’s space for a two-yard gain. The question then is whether or not Lee was asked to play it there.
Since I can’t say that with total certainty, let’s focus on tackling form. Lee uses the “Heads Up” approach the NFL has been promoting, make a good wrap, and then does something I enjoy seeing: He twists to the side and uses his own momentum to pull the ball carrier backward.
Lee doesn’t play this aggressively, which is, from my best guess with the physics involved here, the right play. Based on the angle I’m not confident bursting through leads to a TFL. The pause forces the lineman in front of him to make a choice and he reacts to Lee, letting Maxx Crosby (#98) free to make the tackle.
At the risk of summarizing prior to the summary, let’s say that from what I saw the Raiders had the right idea prioritizing Lee as a run defender. That said, not every situation is a coverage mismatch for him. Lee is covering well enough to make sure the check down is a really bad idea. That forces the next option on the run, which wasn’t successful.
Lee is forced to cover two gaps here and I think he does well. He keeps enough distance with his arms to float side to side. More importantly he reacts to an attempt to cut left, then again back right.
Like all linebacker signings here’s the obligatory “Marquel Lee isn’t here to replace Matt Milano or Tremaine Edmunds” comment. Further, I don’t think Lee’s presence signals the return of a 4-3 defense either. Lee is a respectable depth option and can be brought in on run down subpackages.
Lee fits the profile of a depth player in head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier’s defense. He’s a smart player with good fundamentals. He also has a lot of special teams experience, further completing said profile. He may have to prove himself against other similar players to stick on the roster, but it’s the second time the Bills have added him—suggesting there’s something they like.