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2014 Buffalo Bills defense review: snap counts, play time percentages, stats

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Where do the Buffalo Bills need to improve defensively? How is their system structured from a personnel standpoint? Who are their most productive and valuable players? Let's break it down.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

With the 2014 Buffalo Bills season officially in the books, we now have time to crunch some numbers to get a better feel for the 9-7 outfit, how they're built, and where they need to improve moving forward. We'll do so, to start, in the most basic way possible: breaking down snap counts. Let's go. (Players in italics are either already gone, or are scheduled for free agency.)

Defense

DE: 2,221 snaps (2.04 per play)

Player Pos. Snaps % total Stats
Mario Williams DE 788 72.5% 42 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 2 FF
Jerry Hughes DE 782 71.9% 53 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 3 FF
Manny Lawson DE 340 31.3% 20 tackles, 1.5 sacks
Jarius Wynn DE 311 28.6% 18 tackles, 2.5 sacks

This was a solid group on the whole, and one of the league's best in the starting lineup. Hughes' pending free agency is the top headline heading into the offseason on this side of the ball; whether or not he can be retained will impact both Wynn and Lawson. Hughes is on the cusp of stardom, and must be retained.

DT: 2,086 snaps (1.92 per play)

Player Pos. Snaps % total Stats
Kyle Williams DT 718 66.1% 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 INT
Marcell Dareus DT 678 62.4% 48 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 FF
Corbin Bryant DT 353 32.5% 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF
Stefan Charles DT 337 31.0% 23 tackles, 3 sacks

There isn't much of a secret about this position: the starters are outstanding, and the backups are useful as pass rushers but are a dramatic step backward against the run. Better depth is needed, and long-term, the team needs to start setting aside funds to re-sign Dareus long-term.

LB: 2,568 snaps (2.36 per play)

Player Pos. Snaps % total Stats
Preston Brown LB 1,020 93.8% 109 tackles, 1 INT
Nigel Bradham LB 806 74.1% 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
Brandon Spikes LB 504 46.4% 54 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF
Keith Rivers LB 186 17.1% 16 tackles
Ty Powell LB 44 4.0% 14 tackles, 1 sack
Larry Dean LB 8 0.7% 10 tackles

The pending return of Kiko Alonso does two things: it gives the Bills, potentially, the best young linebacking trio in football (with Alonso and Bradham flanking Brown), and it renders Spikes obsolete, at least in his one-dimensional 2014 role. This position improved by leaps and bounds in 2014.

DB: 5,080 snaps (4.67 per play)

Player Pos. Snaps % total Stats
Aaron Williams S 903 83.1% 76 tackles, 1 INT
Stephon Gilmore CB 838 77.1% 46 tackles, 1 FF, 3 INT
Corey Graham DB 778 71.6% 84 tackles, 2 INT
Da'Norris Searcy S 648 59.6% 65 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 FF, 3 INT
Nickell Robey CB 640 58.9% 46 tackles, 1 sack
Leodis McKelvin CB 534 49.1% 48 tackles, 1 FF, 4 INT
Duke Williams S 528 48.6% 53 tackles, 1 FF, 1 INT
Ron Brooks CB 145 13.3% 34 tackles
Bacarri Rambo S 55 5.1% 2 tackles, 2 INT
Ross Cockrell CB 11 1.0% 1 tackle

We're combining corners and safeties into one group here largely because of Graham, who spent a large chunk of time at both positions. Due to injuries at various points in the season, the Bills used seven defensive backs at a high rate: three corners, three safeties, and Graham, the ultra-useful swing guy. The beauty of this group is its depth, and that should continue heading into 2015 - especially if the team can retain the underrated Searcy at a reasonable rate.