The Buffalo Bills defense will ideally be less of a 3-4 or 4-3 and more of a 7. It’s hard for offenses to prepare for an attack when they can’t be certain who’s attacking. Mike Pettine doesn’t have time to wait for some other team to set the tempo, so he’s just going to plan on sending steamrollers from undisclosed locations at an offense too baffled to avoid getting flattened. Controlling the game’s destiny doesn’t have to lie with the side that has the ball.
Complaining about last year’s wet paper towel defense is useful in the name of perspective, not to mention a fun coping mechanism. Merely being less Wannstedtian will be an improvement, as calling the erstwhile defensive coordinator’s bland schematic vanilla is an insult to that particular soothingly sweet extract. The virtual guarantee of rushing four guys every time had all the spice of ice cubes served on a dinner plate.
With months passed since a rough season, fans who were railing against a defense that was as predictable as a double-headed coin can feel sad to have seen the game have passed by the once-great coordinator. Unfortunately for Mister Wanny, defenses evolved while he was reaching stasis as a head coach. A properly stifling defense is no longer about just superior personnel but where they are placed.
An alignment is about more than merely getting good players on the field. Mario Williams getting paid a fortune to cover receivers wouldn’t work as anything but an absurd example. But cloaking the point from which he attacks quarterbacks will make his dedication to devastation easier.
And linebackers might get a full paycheck even though they don’t have to play every down. The nickel is the league’s new normal as offenses act like there’s a rule that they’re not allowed to touch the ball for an entire play. A defense’s broad willingness to embrace fluidity makes unconventional techniques feel natural. Spreading across to mark numerous receivers is only a problem for squads that are rigid to the verge of snapping.
With a phalanx of cornerbacks who aren’t old enough to qualify for car insurance discounts, Buffalo’s exuberance might not be enough to shut down opponents equipped with guile. But an assertively shifty pass rush could assist efforts to simultaneously shadow three receivers. It’s hard for a quarterback to choose from a plethora of options when he’s plagued with thoughts of his feet being two of the only body parts not touching the FieldTurf.
This team is off to a good start no matter how preliminary it may be. Reading too much into the preseason’s first game can cause anticipatory fans to spend mid-August thinking of excuses to skip work on Super Bowl parade day. But seeing defenders rapidly counteract the Colts despite a handful of miscues is a generally optimistic sign.
People can compensate for other deficiencies by at least being in the right place. Proper planning over the summer and in the week before games can help a defense with unanswered personnel questions. With spots to fill backing the line and at one corner, a good poker face could go aways toward concealing just how many face cards are face down.
And the Bills may get dealt more jacks than expected. Kiko Alonso’s precocious development could extend the linebackers’ overall range. And Leodis McKelvin’s drive to reach his potential will be aided if he can adjust to remembering that he should want the ball as badly as the wideout does.
We’re still waiting for Jairus Byrd to exercise his right to join his teammates, and his propensity for drawing in footballs like satellites could aid Buffalo’s effort to control gravity. In the meantime, Aaron Williams can finally find his proper pro role, namely as a cagey safety who possesses coverage principles.
And all of them can be aided by a mentality encouraging boldness. Lack of aggression runs counter to the spirit of football, and the most exciting prospect for Buffalo’s defense in 2013 is the chance to re-learn that blitzes aren’t merely theoretical.