WGR reported today that not only is former Colt Bob Sanders visiting, but former St. Louis Ram O.J. Atogwe is as well. Sanders makes a lot of sense with the departure of Donte Whitner appearing to be closing in on “imminent” status. I feel that Bob could be an even better fit in the 3-4 than in the Cover Two scheme he previously played in, a point I’ve been beating to death in previous posts this week.
Atogwe has played free safety in St.Louis, however. At 5-11 205, he’s not ideally built to be an in-the-box defender. He’s best when he’s the defense’s center fielder, who can sit back and make plays on the ball. He has the ball skills to go with it, as evidenced by his 22 career picks (including an 8-pick 2007). He’s also a durable player that has only missed four starts since taking over as the starter in 2006. The Bills relatively conservative defense probably wouldn’t be too much different with a strong safety whose strong suit is in coverage as opposed to playing the run.
Not to stir the pot, but what could this mean for current FS Jairus Byrd? He’s a very good player, but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to be as productive in this defense as in our old base defense. Byrd has great instincts and soft hands, but he lacks top-end speed (which was the reason he had to shift over from corner when he was drafted).
When we were in our base Cover Two his rookie season, Byrd was only responsible for 50% of the back secondary. In this defense, there are more situations where the free safety is asked to cover much more ground. As a result, there were plays this season where he struggled to get to the ball in time and the pass sailed right by him. Unfortunately, I feel the only way that Jairus will be able to match his productive 2009 will be to find himself in that scheme again (possibly with his dad in Chicago, where he would be a good fit). He can still be a solid starter in any defense because he’s that talented, but he’s not a great fit in our new scheme like he was our last. He’s such a great guy, I hate that he took so much criticism last year for his lack of production. I have a sick feeling that he won’t be able to appease the stat-hungry fans that are already calling him a “one-year wonder.”
If we go with Atogwe, I would want to keep him at free safety and move Jairus to strong. Byrd is a solid run defender and could also line up as the nickel back in some packages. It will be very interesting to see how all of these visits work out.
Can’t we just keep Jairus and Donte? I’d miss them both.