Breaking Down New Buffalo Bills LB Michael Buchanan’s Fit In Rex Ryan’s Defense

Last week, the Buffalo Bills signed Michael Buchanan, a hybrid defensive end/ strong-side linebacker to a two-year, $1.285 million deal that’s non-guaranteed. Buchanan had a productive career at Illinois, recording 121 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, six pass breakups and forced two fumbles over his final two seasons. The 24-year old was selected in the seventh-round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, where he appeared in 18 games, notching two sacks and five QB hits in his 147 defensive snaps.

From a physical standpoint, Buchanan is an intriguing player that projects well to Rex Ryan’s multiple defense. He stands 6’5” and weighs 255 pounds, possessing great length (34.5” arms) that fits the prototypical “SAM” linebacker that will be responsible for rushing the passer, setting the edge against the run and occasionally dropping into coverage.

Pass Rush

Here, you can see how Buchanan takes advantage of his length, getting his hands inside the pads of the tackle, while maintaining distance between the two. He then uses his hands to get off the block and deliver a blow to the quarterback, who’s forced to throw the ball away.

Buchanan has an explosive first step and shows the ability to turn the corner and play to the whistle, as you can see in the following play that results in a sack on Geno Smith of the New York Jets.

Buchanan’s athleticism and burst off the snap made him a terror for opposing linemen that were defending him throughout his collegiate career. The following clip shows him used on two separate stunts-one resulted in a QB Hit, and the other a sack.

Run Defense

Buchanan has some nice potential as a pass rusher, but he’ll need to improve on his ability to defend the run against NFL linemen. While he’s got exceptional size, he doesn’t have the functional strength necessary to consistently set the edge or force runs back inside. In the next clip, Buchanan is trapped by Ohio State’s tight end Jeff Heuerman, who is pulling across the formation. Buchanan is unable to shed the block and the Buckeyes find the endzone.

Buchanan’s relentlessness as a player proved costly at times, as he’d take himself out of plays by overpursuing against the run and find himself behind the pocket.

Defending the option, Buchanan executes his assignment well, playing contain and forcing Braxton Miller to keep the ball inside.

Overall, Michael Buchanan is an intriguing player for the Bills to get a close look at in training camp. The team doesn’t have much depth at the edge positions behind Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, and Buchanan has all of the physical attributes coveted for the defensive scheme that Rex Ryan operates.

Ryan is creative with his exotic blitz schemes, and found ways to generate production out of his reserve defenders. A 36-year-old Jason Taylor picked up 5 sacks in 2011, while Aaron Maybin notched six sacks and forced four fumbles in 2012 after recording just 14 tackles in his first two pro seasons.

Now, Buchanan may not even see the field for the Bills in 2015, but considering all the factors- he’s just 24 years old, an exceptional athlete and with his primary competition being Manny Lawson and Randell Johnson, there’s a chance that Buchanan could surprise some people this summer.