by Mario Granata
Don't let pictures fool you, Rex Ryan knows precisely what he is doing in Buffalo. In order to make history, sometimes one has to repeat it. The 2015 Bills have a familiar flare that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, until I went and did some digging into the NFL archives. Well, I knew this team, from a defensive standpoint, reminded me of another team: the 2006 Baltimore Ravens. Now, on the surface, this might seem like a crazy comparison, but when one takes a closer look at the players that are being assembled on the defense for the Bills, it is pretty scary when it is broken down.
Oh, and by the way, that 2006 Ravens team had two more interesting comparisons to the 2015 Bills: Dennis Thurman and Greg Roman were assistants on the 2006 Ravens and are all together again in Buffalo. Coincidence? I think not.
2006 Ravens – Trevor Pryce, 6’5” 295
2015 Bills – Mario Williams, 6’6” 292
The obvious size comparison is evident, but both Pryce and Williams were former first round picks for another team before they joined the Ravens and Bills respectively. The Broncos drafted Pryce and the Texans drafted Williams. Both had double-digit sack totals with their drafted teams before joining the Ravens and Bills, and Pryce was able to tally 13 sacks in 2006. The Bills are hoping that Williams could approach that number as well.
2006 Ravens – Haloti Ngata, 6’4” 335
2015 Bills – Marcell Dareus, 6’3” 331
Talk about having some beef in the middle, the Ravens selected Ngata in the first round of 2006, while Dareus will be entering his 5th season with the Bills, and he as also a former first rounder. These players have been compared to one another in some circles, and did what all great defensive tackles have to; they occupy space and disrupt the middle.
2006 Ravens – Kelly Gregg, 6’ 310
2015 Bills – Kyle Williams 6’1” 303
The Ravens selecting Gregg, who was unheralded coming out of college, in the 6th round and Williams was selected in the 5th for the Bills. While Williams sack total is higher than Greggs prior to their respective seasons, they coupled together with Ngata and Dareus provide the stable front that allows the second level players to make plays, which is crucial for an interior defensive lineman.
2006 Ravens – Terrell Suggs, 6’3” 260
2015 Bills – Jerry Hughes, 6’2” 254
It is no coincidence that these two players wear #55 and they reek havoc on the outside and have to be accounted for on every play. Where Suggs would get in trouble with his mouth, Hughes can’t seem to stay onsides, but we will give him a pass on that one. Both of these first round picks averaged 10 sacks with their respective clubs prior to the 2006 and 2015 seasons. (Suggs had 30.5 in 3 seasons, while Hughes had 20 in 2 seasons). Suggs made the Pro Bowl with 9.5 sacks in 2006, and if Hughes keeps his production up, he will likely be there as well at the end of the season.
2006 Ravens – Ray Lewis, 6’1” 245
2015 Bills – Preston Brown, 6’1” 251
Okay, let me just begin by saying that there is only one Ray Lewis, and to even be mentioned in the same breath is a tremendous honor, but Brown has to be compared to someone. While their comparisons in draft position and years played are on opposite ends of the spectrum, the #52 and how they play the inside linebacker position is what is the true comparison here. Both are sure tacklers who can be the solidifying force in the middle of the defense. Time will tell if Brown can be elite, but if he continues to build on his rookie season, he might be the guy that Rex Ryan banks on to be the man in the middle.
2006 Ravens – Bart Scott, 6’2” 235
2015 Bills – Nigel Bradham, 6’2” 241
In the 3-4 alignment that the Bills will run, look for Ryan and Thurman to look for Bradham to play next to Brown. While Brown and Lewis were the stabilizing forces in the middle, expect Bradham to assume the Scott role of moving around and using his athleticism to make plays. Scott was all over the field in 2006 with 100+ tackles, 9.5 sacks, a pair of interceptions and 9 passes defensed. With the ceiling of Bradham, he can put up those numbers without a doubt.
2006 Ravens – Adalius Thomas, 6’2” 270
2015 Bills – Manny Lawson, 6’5” 245
Now, if there ever was a glaring difference in player from each defense it would be Thomas and Lawson. However, they are both freaks in their own right. I mean, how many times do you hear of a player being a linebacker at 270? Likewise, with the sheer freakish ability that Lawson possesses, he can fly all around the field to give the Bills that added element of playmaking ability. Will Lawson match the All-Pro stats of Thomas of 11 sacks and 83 tackles? Bills fans hope so.
2006 Ravens – Chris McAlister, 6’1” 206
2015 Bills – Stephon Gilmore, 6’1” 190
Once again we see similar players who were selected in the first round by the Ravens and Bills. While McAlister never had more than 5 interceptions in the seasons leading up to the 2006 season, he saw his fair share of passes that led to multiple pass break-ups. Likewise, Gilmore hasn’t put up eye popping interception numbers, but in 39 career games has 32 pass break-ups, and that number will climb as he will certainly be tested in 2015. Will he match McAlister’s total of 22 pass break-ups? He will have his fair share to try.
2006 Ravens – Samari Rolle, 6’ 175
2015 Bills – Leodis McKelvin, 5’11” 190
In 2006 Rolle, playing as the #2 corner managed 11 pass break-ups and 3 interceptions to go along with his 1 and only sack on the year. If you wanted to draw a comparison as to what McKelvin can do in a “Rex Ryan” defense, in 2013 he had 20 pass break ups in that same role with only 1 interception. Look for McKelvin’s numbers to mirror what he did that season, or even get better. Both of these players aren’t asked to tackle and support the run, so taking away the 2nd most dangerous passing threat will be their only job. With Percy Harvin coming in to take over return duties, expect a more focused McKelvin come 2015.
2006 Ravens – Dawan Landry, 6’1” 215
2015 Bills – Aaron Williams, 6’ 200
During the 2006 season, the rookie 24-year old Landry was all over the field grabbing 5 interceptions, breaking up 11 passes and tallying 3 sacks while finishing 4th on the team in tackles. Hmm, a safety that plays multiple positions and is all over the field? Sounds like Aaron Williams to me. Then again, Landry had his fair share of chances as teams were looking to avoid Ed Reed, so in the system that Ryan would like to run, expect Williams to have his share as well.
2006 Ravens – Ed Reed, 5’11” 200
2015 Bills – Bacarri Rambo, 6’ 211
On a previous article on Hashtag Sports titles From Reed to Rambo a comparison was made as to the athletic ability and college history of both of these players. This may be a surprising twist, and this comparison might be slanted toward the Brown and Lewis variety, but if one focuses on the role of the player, both can be productive with the system that they are in. Now Lewis and Reed are arguably the considered two of the best in the game at their positions, so it would be unreasonable for Brown and Rambo to even broach being compared to them, but again with the system that Thurman and Ryan hope to implement, they can make plays and be effective.
Now, some of these comparisons might seem outlandish, crazy or downright foolish, but when you take a look at the type of players that are being assembled, maybe this was the reason that Ryan was so eager to come to Buffalo. He might have seen something on the defensive side of the ball that reminded him of a team who led the league in 2006 only surrendering 12.6 points per game and a 13-3 record.
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