Bills tinker with defense in bid to stop the run
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)
The Buffalo Bills' newly introduced 3-4 defense is not adding up when it comes to stopping the run, leaving coach Chan Gailey little choice but to start plugging the unit's gaping holes.
Without saying he's abandoning the formation he introduced upon taking over in January, Gailey has been forced to bulk up the defense with an additional defensive lineman to see if that might work.
''We felt like we need to get some bigger people on the field to help us in that respect,'' Gailey said this week. ''So, to be honest with you, it's not a shift of philosophy. It's a shift in necessity.''
Something's got to change for a porous defense that's played a major role in contributing to the Bills (0-5) getting off to their worst start in 25 years. Buffalo's allowed 912 yards rushing already this season - which is 1 yard fewer than Buffalo gave up in 14 games in 1964 to establish a franchise record.
And the numbers are climbing out of control given that the Bills have allowed a combined 689 yards rushing in their past three games alone. That includes 216 in a 36-26 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, when the Bills went mostly with a 4-3 formation.
''It's ugly,'' defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. ''We've got to do a lot better.''
Rookie second-round draft pick Torrell Troup is the new man in, starting next to Williams, a move that's relegated outside linebacker Reggie Torbor to the bench.
The Bills will at least get an extra week to get the kinks out during their bye before preparing to travel to play another run-happy team in Baltimore on Oct. 24.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny wouldn't call the switch a setback, but said adjustments are required.
''I think in the grand scheme of things, we would like to say `We're a 3-4 team, and we're going to stay that way all year round,''' Posluszny said after practice Wednesday. ''But it's part of the deal. ... We'll continue to switch up fronts, switch up schemes to make it work for us.''
Except for adding more bulk, Posluszny explained the new system has similarities to the one the Bills had been using in terms of how players control gaps.
''There's a lot of carry-over between the two,'' he said. ''That's something we can definitely handle.''
The Bills are particularly getting burned on cutback runs and misdirections.
Gailey also hasn't ruled out using the 3-4 scheme against opponents who have pass-oriented offenses. And yet, the change in plan is not what was anticipated for a team that spent all of the offseason practicing the 3-4 defense.
The Bills are also open to being second-guessed for introducing the 3-4 without adding players - particularly a hulking run-stuffing nose tackle - best suited to play the positions.
Buffalo signed only three free agents - end Dwan Edwards and linebackers Torbor and Andra Davis - this offseason familiar with the 3-4, while relying on shuffling their existing personnel to new spots.
It didn't help that the Bills had little option but to release their top pass rusher, Aaron Schobel, in August after he couldn't make up his mind about retiring. And the defense has been hampered further because Schobel's projected replacement, Aaron Maybin, has failed to become a regular contributor.
Gailey had little good to say when asked to assess the play of Maybin, Buffalo's 2009 first-round draft pick.
''He's struggling to get on the field, and then when he gets his opportunities he's struggling to make plays,'' Gailey said. ''That's hard for him. It's hard for us. It's hard for everybody. He's got to step up his game.''
Upon reviewing film, defensive end Marcus Stroud called the Bills' mistakes ''very, very correctible.'' And he noted much of the problems have come in the third quarter, when opponents have capitalized by making halftime adjustments.
The Bills have been outscored 161-87 overall, and a glaring 63-14 in the third quarter.
Stroud said he and the Bills can only look forward.
''It's over with,'' Stroud said. ''It's not like we can go back and play those games again.''