This has been the best off season for the Buffalo Bills in more than a decade, and was a huge first step for an organization that has been in a Grand Canyon sized slump. A first step towards what every Bills fan wants: a playoff berth.
A great off season isn’t the only thing that the Bills need this year though; they need a couple young defensive players to step up and have “breakout seasons” if they are going to stop opposing offensive units, and end up better than the 30th ranked scoring defense.
I know Marcell is a good player already, but the move to 4-3 could make him a force to be reckoned with. Offensive lines can only really double team one guy, and we know that most of the time that will be Mario or Kyle. This is going to leave Marcel one on one with an offensive guard. We all know he has the ability to win that battle, and win it often. This can disrupt the passing game by forcing a quarterback outside to deal with the quick footed Anderson, or the powerful Mario Williams. In the run game he will be able to close running lanes before they open.
What I’m really trying to say is the defensive line this year is going to wreak havoc on opposing offenses, and Dareus is going to benefit greatly from both a souped-up pass rush and the move to the interior in the new 4-3 scheme. We’ll see what happens when games start, but I think he could be highly regarded as a top talent at his position before the year is out.
Sheppard probably wouldn’t have been on this list a month or two ago, as he was only slowly making his way into my thought process. Then, as you probably know, Nick Barnett came out with some big statements about what type of player he is, and the potential that goes along with that. “I think he is going to improve and take that next step” Barnett said as well as “He’s a pretty big linebacker and he runs like a linebacker my size” and most glaringly “He potentially could be one of the best linebackers Buffalo’s ever seen.”
With that type of glaring review from a seasoned vet like Barnett, I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave him off this list. If he is as quick as Barnett says, he will be a valuable asset in the coming season… especially with the defensive front that the Bills now possess.
As a MLB, Sheppard will be asked to drop back into coverage some, but a lot of the time his job is to stop the run up the middle. At 6’2” and 244 lbs, and with the speed that Barnett says he has, he will definitely fit that role well, and is capable of turning runs that could be 4-6 yards into 1-3 yard gains which is a huge asset to a defense.
This could be anybody. We just need one CB to “breakout” and help shutdown the passing game. This could be as simple as McGee staying healthy all season, or McKelvin coming out strong in a contract year. I personally think it will be Aaron Williams starting to light it up, and keep balls out of the hands of receivers. You can even add Gilmore and Brooks to this list, but I don’t like using the word breakout when talking about rookies.
We all know that the pass rush will help the secondary in a huge way. Now if at least one of these guys comes out and plays phenomenal where you can leave him on an island with a receiver and he can win that battle it will add some major potency to a defense that was tough to watch at times last year.
In the end, what I am trying to say is that this defense has the potential to be in the top of the NFL ranks next season. We need a couple guys to step up or “break out” and they will stop the drives, and hold opposing offenses at bay.
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