by Mario Granata
Continuing from the previous article about the players who will more than likely be on the offensive side of the ball 2015 Buffalo Bills Roster: Offense, it’s only fitting that we take care of what will be the driving force behind the Bills success in 2015: the Defense. Now, many may question the decision or the cuts that I have here. Rosters are currently at 90 so that means that the Bills are going to have to make some tough decisions and there might be some names let go that you didn’t expect. Lets take a look at who made the roster according to Hashtag Sports.
Defense: (Starters in Bold)
Defensive Line (7) – Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Alex Carrington, Stephan Charles, Corbin Bryant, Jarius Wynn
Now much has been made about the defensive alignment that Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman will be running in 2015. Will it be mainly a Base 3-4 or 4-3 look, or some type of hybrid? Well, if anyone has been following the career of Ryan, he throws a ton of looks at opposing offenses, but they all stem off of the 3-4 package. The next question that arises is who will be the OLB in this look. Many have Mario Williams pegged in this position, but due to the pressure that Williams is able to generate with his hand in the dirt, he will more than likely be considered a defensive lineman with Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus in the base package. A comparison has been made back to 2013 when Mike Pettine was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo, and in that season Mario Williams played 87% of the snaps, while Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus played 82% and 72% respectively. Look for Thurman to do the same, and while I have 7 making the 53-man roster, if there is going to be a cut, it might be Wynn.
Cap Number: $37,320,000
Linebackers (7) – Jerry Hughes, Preston Brown, Nigel Bradham, Manny Lawson, Ty Powell, Tony Steward, Randell Johnson
Continuing the discussion of the Base 3-4 alignment, look for Hughes to play up on the line and while he will be listed as an OLB, he will not be asked to cover very much. Looking back again to 2013 Manny Lawson started 15 games to Hughes’ 1 during that season. Look for a change to be made, as Lawson will play on the same side of Mario Williams, giving them a formidable side that teams will have to deal with. Bradham will make the shift from OLB to ILB in a place where he might be more of a force and even make people forget about Kiko Alonso (who played 100% of the snaps in 2013). Brown will be a stabilizing force in the middle and will be somewhere near that 100% of snaps if he stays healthy.
Cap Number: $13,210,246
Cornerbacks (5) – Leodis McKelvin, Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey, Ross Cockrell
In 2013 the combination of Gilmore of McKelvin accounted for a total of 30 pass breakups, and that was with Gilmore missing 5 games. Look for that number to rise, as Ryan and Thurman place a lot of pressure on their secondary with the aggressive philosophy that they implore. With the addition of Harvin, and the uncertainty of Thigpen and Goodwin (one of them will be gone) McKelvin can focus his attention solely on the defensive side of the ball and not worry about returning kicks. Look for the progression of Ronald Darby, as he will likely be the deciding factor if Robey makes the 53-man roster. I know that is an unpopular decision, but just from a size standpoint, he brings more to the table if the Bills go to a nickel package.
Cap Number: $10,790,032
Safeties (4) – Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Duke Williams, Bacarri Rambo
As highlighted on many Hashtag Sports episodes, the shift of Corey Graham back to safety was almost a consensus certainty going into 2015. Much like many offensive tackles will shift to guard when they look to extend their careers, cornerbacks shift over to safety to extend theirs as well. (Google Charles Woodson). This gives the Bills options because Graham has played corner as did Aaron Williams, so essentially if the Bills are “caught” in a base package and they don’t have the numbers to cover opposing wide receivers, they will have 4 “cornerbacks” on the field. I know many people have Duke Williams as the starter opposite Aaron Williams, but both of their playing styles are very similar, and if you have looked through the history of a Rex Ryan defense, on the back end he always has one safety who supports the run while the other plays centerfield. Look for Williams to support the run while Graham will play centerfield.
Cap Number: $9,637,563
Specialists (4) – Dan Carpenter, Colton Schmidt, Jordan Gay, Garrison Sanborn
Going with a kick off specialist? I guess it could work. Dan Carpenter gives the Bills a very unique scoring threat (if there was such a thing in the NFL when talking about kickers) but whenever the Bills happen to make it to the opposing teams 40, they know they have points. That is a very nice safety net to have with an offense that has a lot of young players, new pieces, and developing chemistry.
Cap Number: $4,430,000
Total Defensive Players: 23
Total Offensive Players: 26 (from 2015 Buffalo Bills Roster: Offense)
Cap Number: $124,877,054
By trimming the roster in this way, with the players that are on the 53-man team, the Bills are able to have some rollover cap to extend into next season, which will come in handy with the contracts of Marcel Dareus and Cordy Glenn coming up. If you want a homework assignment, look at what the Seattle Seahawks have done the past 4-5 years with their cap rollover space. This is the reason why they are able to sign a number of their top stars to lucrative contracts that have everyone else in the league scratching their heads.
Whether you agree or disagree with the final 53-man roster that I have presented, there are changes that could be made due to injury that always come up. Is this the Bills team that will end the 15-year playoff drought? I sure hope so.