Even with the poor record of 6-9, the Buffalo Bills defense under the leadership and defensive scheming of Mike Pettine has improved tenfold since last year. Coaching a hard hitting defense with strong defensive line play and a ball hawking secondary, Pettine has shown Buffalo he is the man for the job. One question the Buffalo organization should ask themselves going into the draft is how can we solidify this defense?
With Byrd’s future in Buffalo in question it makes zero sense for Pettine to concern themselves with the safety position, but the cornerback position is one that can always use improvement. In terms of the linebacking position, the Buffalo Bills have done a fantastic job containing the outside running game but still struggle with pass coverage and the outside rush of their line backing core. On the defensive line front it would be wise to add another young weapon to an already dominant defensive line; however this can be a project in the making as Pettine’s defense thrives on versatility. Drafting a defensive end who can also play outside in the linebacker role could be a smart investment, as one can draft such a player in the mid to late rounds.
The biggest issues with the defense this year, however, were the outside pass rush and inside run containment of the linebacking core. Kiko Alonso has exceeded expectations as he is in the running for rookie of the year honors; adding an additional linebacker who can cover and excel in assisting the defensive ends in rushing the quarterback can help the entire defense. Getting to the quarterback faster in more complex schemes means less time for the quarterback and more turnovers for the defense while giving the defensive backs less pressure to make the plays themselves.
Drafting a talented inside linebacker could be the missing piece for Pettine’s defense, two backers who can cover the field with their speed would vastly improve the defensive play of everyone. To be honest, the linebacking core is weak besides Kiko as Arthur Moats is getting older while Nigel Bradham is too busy smoking blunts and not reading coverages. The beautiful thing about Pettine’s defense is how much he was able to do working with players with specific talents while developing a defense using players from the old Wannstedt regime. With a year under his belt, Pettine’s defense can go from threatening to down right dominant.
Drafting a physical corner is always a smart move, while a speedy outside linebacker would only make our linebackers play better. There aren’t many holes to fill but the Buffalo Bills have to draft the best player available in their position in the draft. Considering the impact such a player can make on an already solid unit, this defense can become a top five defense within a year.