Just Leave Donte Alone

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Safety Donte Whitner #20 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills won 33-20. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

S Donte Whitner

Donte Whitner is rock solid.  As much as people want to debate Whitner’s merits after being selected 8th overall in 2006, I have been a steady supporter of Donte’s abilities.  His game against the Lions Sunday summed up what he means to this defense and this team.  He was everywhere today, nearly blocking a punt and breaking up three passes at critical moments in the game.  One breakup led to Dwan Edwards coming down with the football, while another knocked the ball out of a streaking Calvin Johnson’s hands.  Having a good three steps on his man, Calvin looked ready to go for 6 had Whitner not delivered a perfectly timed hit.

Donte moved all over against Detroit, lining up in the box and deep safety.  George Edwards essentially gave him the “playmaker role” today and Donte took full advantage of it.  When asked to stem and blitz, Whitner was very impressive today.  He wreaked havoc in the backfield when he blitzed.  When he didn’t, he did a great job of making Shaun Hill think he sure as heck was.  Donte would be as close to the line as he could get, only to hustle back and give help deep on Calvin before the snap.  I think I’m starting to see a correlation here: take advantage of Donte’s skill set, he plays well.  Wow, so when you give players an opportunity to play to their strengths they can be successful? Hmm…

The Tampa 2 hardly matched his skills.  He’s a quick, hard-hitting defender that has underrated tackling ability.  Whitner’s football intelligence and leadership qualities are also not talked about enough.  He’s the kind of guy that should be in the box and moved around.  In Perry’s system, he was asked to sit back more and/or jump up on the slot guy or tight end.  While I love his athleticism, Donte is 5-10.  Believe it or not, it’s tough to match up with a 6-5 6-6 tight end that has 40 pounds on him.  He also doesn’t have the best hands, “endearing” himself to many negative members of the Bills’ fan base.  Put all that together and many members have gone as far as to call him a wasted pick.

Donte has hardly been that.  I love guys that love to compete, and Whitner is just that.  He’s passionate about the game of football, unlike a surprising number of players out there today.  I feel the reason most get anxious for an opportunity to rip him is because of his draft status.  I understand both sides of the story.  From the 8th pick in the draft, one expects a difference maker that makes an annual trip to the Pro Bowl.  Whitner doesn’t consistently make a difference statistically, but he is a very good football player.  If he was a second round pick, everyone would call him solid.  In my opinion, there’s too much of an emphasis on draft status sometimes.  His impact will be missed if he isn’t re-signed next season, trust me on that one.

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