Bills’ high-priced D-Line has dominating start

Giggling uncontrollably, Marcell Dareus was still having a

difficult time containing his excitement Sunday, a day after

getting a first glimpse of the Buffalo Bills’ revamped, high-priced

defensive line’s potential.

There’s no question, Mario Williams and Co. looked impressive in

their first practice in shoulder pads Saturday, three days into


”Shut your mouth,” Dareus, the second-year defensive tackle

said, before bursting into a fit of laughter. ”There’s really not

much I can say except, what you see is what you get. I don’t think

we’re over-rated. I don’t think we’re under-rated. I think we’re

right where we’re supposed to be.”

And that could well spell trouble for opposing offenses after

the Bills spent considerable time and money upgrading what had been

a porous line that also had difficulty generating a pass rush.

None of the problems of the past were evident in a practice that

left coach Chan Gailey calling his defense’s performance


No surprise, Williams – the Bills’ newly signed $100-million

defensive end – was in the thick of creating much of the havoc.

He and tackle Kyle Williams disrupted a running play so quickly

that Fred Jackson barely got the handoff when Mario Williams

stopped him in his tracks by grabbing him by the shoulder pad.

Jackson was so surprised that he went up to quarterback Ryan

Fitzpatrick and joked: ”I think Mario could’ve taken the handoff

before I did.”

And that was just one of numerous highlights.

A few plays later, Williams wasn’t fooled by a misdirection

play, staying to his left and forcing Fitzpatrick to throw the ball


Then Williams and Dareus teamed up by bursting into the

backfield to get what would’ve been a sure sack.

Kyle Williams was cautiously impressed, noting this was only one


”We’re still building, but you know it’s always nice to have

good days,” he said. ”We’ve talked about what it looks like by

just looking at the names written down. Sure that looks good. But

can we take it and put it on the field? And that’s what we’re

trying to do now.”

The list of names are easily recognizable on a starting line

made up of the two Williams, Dareus and Mark Anderson, another free

agent addition, who’s penciled in on the right side. And then

there’s a solid group of established veterans filling backup

positions such as defensive ends Shawne Merriman, Chris Kelsay and

Spencer Johnson, and tackle Dwan Edwards.

Kelsay considers both the line and defense as a whole as the

most talented and depth-laden the Bills have had since he arrived

in 2003.

And that’s saying something considering the Bills finished

ranked second in the NFL both 2003 and 2004 with a defense that

included tackles Pat Williams and Sam Adams, pass-rusher Aaron

Schobel, linebackers Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher and a

defensive backfield that featured Nate Clements and Lawyer


”We had a good defense then, but I think depth-wise, that’s

what’s really going to push us over the edge,” Kelsay said.

”First day, we are encouraged. We know we have great potential.

But it’s all for naught if you don’t put the work in.”

The Bills’ defenders have plenty to shoot for in a bid to

improve on last year’s dreadful numbers. Buffalo allowed a

franchise-worst 5,938 yards, managed just 29 sacks – 10 of which

came in one game – and gave up an average 27 points a game in

contributing to the team’s 6-10 finish.

The lack of a pass-rush has been a familiar problem. Buffalo

hasn’t averaged more than two sacks per game in a season since

2006, when they had 40.

Mario Williams, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL’s

defensive rookie of the year in 2006, and Anderson were brought in

to help provide pressure.

At 6-foot-6 and 292 pounds, Williams’ size and speed have wowed

his teammates.

”He’s a man-child,” Jackson said.

And Williams’ presence is what has Dareus giggling.

”He has to be the strongest guy I’ve ever met in my life,”

Dareus said. ”Phenomenal football player, hands, feet. It’s crazy.

We’re going to have fun this year, hee, hee, hee.”