If the Buffalo Bills defense was vanilla for their first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, then I can’t wait to see the full playbook in the regular season. New coordinator Mike Pettine showed a couple of wrinkles, bringing in the blitz from corners, safeties and linebackers (which is unusual for preseason) but a welcomed sight to behold after the travesty of the defensive simplicity that since-fired coordinator Dave Wannstedt ran in Buffalo a year ago.
First the unit brought pressure through multiple lanes using a multitude of players. Though the base formation was simply the three down linemen, Pettine used shifts and different players in different spots to create pressure. One of the players used was defensive end Mario Williams. Williams played on both sides of the line as either a standing outside linebacker or a hand in the ground defensive end. In fact, Williams’ sack came when he beat the left tackle as a rush standing linebacker. After Williams went off after the second series Jerry Hughes was able to fill the role and provide consistent pressure, though he was not able to earn a sack.
In the secondary there were bright spots and some question marks. Though the unit played solidly as a whole, only giving up one touchdown pass, there were still some individual plays that were questionable or discouraging.
One encouraging sign was converted cornerback Aaron Williams playing comfortably in his new role as a safety. Williams was not tested deep, but he did break up a pass by reading the quarterback and made a perfect hit on the receiver, separating him from the ball.
Another player doing well was Crezdon Butler. Butler was able to show that practice isn’t everything as he has often been a name brought up about poor play and scrums. Butler was able to show good coverage ability making a couple pass break ups, an interception, and two tackles while running with the second and third team defense.
The same couldn’t be said about his direct competition at corner. Ron Brooks started with the first unit and was up and down during his time. Brooks was able to force a fumble with a hard hit, but he also gave up the lone touchdown pass, getting burned by Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton. Brooks started opposite of Stephon Gilmore because expected starter Leodis McKelvin sat out the game with an injury. This was a perfect opportunity for him to lock down the third, or even possibly the second, cornerback spot. Now, if anything, the competition has further opened up.
As a whole, the defense looked better in getting pressure on the quarterback and against the run. The secondary is about the same as it was last year with questions, though the player that shall not be named still has not reported. When this player does join his team, this will ultimately help the defensive backfield and strengthen the unit as a whole.