Marcell Dareus is a large man, and in the Buffalo Bills defense a large man is important to the overall success of the unit. So far in 2013 Dareus has been successful and then some. His play has been a big reason why other individual players (Kiko Alonso, Aaron Williams, and Mario Williams) have been able to make game-turning plays and bigger impacts. Dareus is in a thankless position, but looking deeper should give you a deeper appreciation for the type of season he’s having.
Now in his third season, the former third overall draft pick is starting to show signs that match the expectations the Buffalo Bills had for him back in 2011 when they drafted him out of Alabama. Back in 2011 Dareus showed signs of promise, which was deflated early in 2012 with the passing of his brother that carried over him, and his play, like a black cloud. With all of that behind him Marcell Dareus is looking like the impact player he should be.
This past offseason brought a lot of changes for the Bills and Dareus. First was the new scheme the Bills installed when they hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine away from the New York Jets. Pettine installed his blitz-happy hybrid 3-4 defense. The new scheme slid him back into his more natural nose tackle role, instead of the gap control tackle he played in 2012. It was a defense that Dareus excelled at back in college at Alabama.
So far this year Dareus tops the Bills defensive linemen in tackles with 16 and is second in sacks with four. His ability to create penetration and get off blocks to make tackles has made an immediate impact not only with the pass rush, but also on the run defense.
In fact, the Bills have cut their rushing yards allowed from 145 per game in 2012 to 124 this year. The run defense is ranked 28th in the league. The difference between the top team and the Bills is 46 yards per game, but the bright side is that Bills give up 28 less yards on the ground per game than the last ranked Jaguars (152).
No matter how you look at it, any improvement over last year’s 31st ranked unit has been helpful and Dareus’ play has had a direct impact on those numbers. His ability to clog up lineman has allowed blitzing backers, like Kiko Alonso, free range to make stops in the backfield before they turn into huge gains.
If this behemoth of a defender continues on this pace he will be setting some new career highs that would rival his totals from his combined first two years. In year one and two Dareus totaled 11 sacks and 58 tackles. His current pace would garner him with 42 tackles and 10.5 sacks, again all season career highs.
The Bills defense has improved in many areas this year; some of that is attributed to the new defensive scheme, the rest is from improved individual play. Dareus is at the center of that improved play. By clogging running lanes and pushing quarterbacks backwards into pass rush specialists like Mario Williams, others have been allowed to step up.
As a whole, Dareus is becoming Ndamukong Suh-like this season and for the Bills it’s a welcomed sight.