Mario "Game" Granata
As highlighted on some previous articles, the Buffalo Bills and Doug Whaley are turning the corner and making moves for that are hopefully going to pull the franchise out of the basement of the NFL. They are drafting well, added some depth, and have defenders on this team that are going to be impact players in the league. Here are a few points of the recent moves by the Bills.
In recent years, the Buffalo Bills have not had the drafting power that the Bills faithful could gravitate to, but with Doug Whaley in the two previous drafts, he has made a splash, and both ends, picking players. In the past, the Bills would try to draft 'projects' and move players even to different sides of the ball, but Whaley understands what it takes to put a winning team together, and a team that is deep at all positions. Here are a few of the recent moves that have taken place.
Preston Brown: The Bills have Brandon Spikes in the middle of Jim Schwartz's defense, true, but they only signed Spikes to a one year deal. That isn't a long term solution by any means, but more of a band-aid that the Bills are using to solve their problems in their run defense. Spikes has stated that he wants to be a 3 Down linebacker, but if history teaches us anything, it's that players rarely change significantly at the pro level. Could Spikes be a 3 down player? Sure, if the Bills are in 3rd and short throughout the year. But what if they are in passing situations? Enter Preston Brown. With drafting Brown (who came to Louisville as a defensive back) the Bills are both adding depth at a position and gaining a player that could be a contributor in the pass game. Prior to the draft, the general consensus was to move Kiko Alonso to the middle on passing downs, which would leave a void at weak side linebacker. With drafting Brown, the Bills have a middle linebacker who can stop the run, and defend the pass, and more importantly, leave Alonso on the outside. Now, will Alonso see some time in the middle this year? Well, he was a middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in Oregon, but by picking up Brown, the Bills don't have to juggle their defensive scheme too much, something that Schwartz isn't known for.
Manny Lawson: What slips through the cracks of even the most devout follower of the Bills, is that Lawson was converted to linebacker because of his speed, but coming out of the combine he was a defensive end...one that played opposite of Mario Williams at NC State. Another fact that gets lost, is that Lawson's combine numbers are on par with Clay Matthews. The last time that Lawson and Williams played opposite of each other in college, in 12 games they accounted for 120 tackles, 43.5 tackles for loss, and 25 sacks. Ask any Bills fan, and they would take that any day of the week. Also, former 1st round pick Jerry Hughes, who accounted for 10+ sacks last season, could be used to spell Lawson on passing downs, thus providing more depth at the position, a need that the Bills had to fill. Hughes, who many remember was acquired by the Bills for former 3rd rounder Kelvin Sheppard. And, if Schwartz is so daring, the Bills could drop Lawson off the line and give opposing teams a 3-4 look without losing an advantage in their scheme.
Seantrel Henderson: Moving over to the other side of the ball, the Bills took Henderson in the 7th round. He is a true monster, there is no getting around that, and although he had some off-the-field problems, players like that are all over the NFL. He had some positive drug tests for marijuana, but there was another former University of Miami player who had similiar problems, who is now in the Hall of Fame, by the name of Warren Sapp. When Sapp came to the Bucs, he was straightened out by Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, and with the veteran leadership on the offensive line, and with Doug Marrone working with that group, he will have plenty of stability if he wants to erase the ghosts of Miami past. Remember when Kiko Alonso had some off-the-field questions about him when the Bills drafted him last year? Yeah, all in the rear view, and hopefully Henderson will follow suit.
All in all, the Bills, under the Architect that is Doug Whaley, are adding depth to their team, improving a defense that is going to rely heavily on the Front 7, and making significant moves in the draft to pull a team that has been the doormat of the NFL, out of the darkness and into the limelight. Will these moves prove to be successful? Well, if the moves from 2013 were any indication of this team's direction, 2014 should be very bright.