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Bills counting on 3-4 defense to add up to wins

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)

A few days after linebacker Andra Davis joined the Buffalo Bills in free agency this spring, Paul Posluszny was impressed when he got a phone call from his new teammate, who wanted to break the ice.

If Posluszny, who plays the same position, was going to lose his defensive play-calling duties to the eight-year NFL veteran as Buffalo makes the switch to a 3-4 scheme, he was reassured by the all-in message Davis delivered.

''That was pretty special,'' Posluszny recalled. ''Just the fact that he wanted to reach out and say, `Hey, man, I'm excited to be part of the group. Let's get something going here,' that was great.''

It's hard enough for teams to make the switch to a 3-4 in one offseason. From Davis' perspective as a newcomer and someone familiar with the nuances of the system, the phone calls he made to several Bills players were the least he could do in a bid to start establishing trust and respect.

''We're a team,'' said Davis, who also reached out to linebacker Kawika Mitchell. ''It's not one guy bigger than the team. I just wanted them to know the type of guy I am.''

Ready or not after months of preparation and a few hiccups along the way, the Bills are set to unveil their new defense on Sunday, when they open the season at home against AFC East rival Miami.

Coach Chan Gailey is taking a wait-and-see approach.

''When you're new and you're putting in something, you're trying to develop it faster than it probably should,'' Gailey said this week. ''But you have to do that because the games start counting this week. So you had better be ready. We'll see how we do.''

Gailey prompted the switch after taking over as head coach in January. Gailey prefers the 3-4 style because of its aggressive approach and ability to keep opposing offenses guessing from where the pressure might be coming.

Although the strength of the Bills defense remains its deep and talented backfield, the unit's front seven has been transformed with numerous players at new positions.

Marcus Stroud makes the switch from tackle to end, and will play opposite Dwan Edwards, who joined Davis as the Bills only other significant offseason free-agent addition. The tackle spot will be anchored by Kyle Williams, a blue-collar player who at 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds is relatively undersized for the responsibility to plug the middle.

The linebacking corps has changed, too, with former defensive ends Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis and Aaron Maybin shifting to the outside positions.

What gives Gailey hope that the transition will go smoothly is Buffalo's veteran makeup. Of the 11 projected starters, 10 have three or more years of NFL experience. The other is free safety Jairus Byrd, who's coming off a rookie season in which he earned a Pro Bowl selection after finishing tied for the league lead with nine interceptions.

''Experience is vital,'' Gailey said. ''It's like a point guard who knows where the other nine guys are on the court. Good football players know where everybody is around them. We're fortunate.''

The Bills didn't expose much of their new scheme during the preseason in order to keep it under wraps for the regular season. Buffalo rarely blitzed in passing situations and also lined up in 4-3 formations, which the team will occasionally use.

It's expected that the Bills will display more exotic flavors once the season opens.

Concerns remain at how quickly the unit will find its chemistry. The starters proved particularly porous in allowing a combined 617 yards, 34 first downs and 56 points in the first halves of their first three preseason games.

But the defensive secondary continued to build on its turnover-generating reputation by forcing four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.

''Obviously, there were plays that we'd like to get back,'' Posluszny said. ''At least we've got a couple of days to get everything squared away, because obviously now everything counts. And we've got to be right.''

Stroud isn't overly concerned. He believes the defense is ahead of schedule in its development because of Davis calling the plays and his familiarity with the 3-4 scheme.

''I think we'd definitely be a little farther behind than we are now. He's definitely helped with the learning curve,'' Stroud said. ''I think we're going to be OK.''

Tagged: Bills, Marcus Stroud, Andra Davis, Paul Posluszny

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