Buffalo Bills: Defensive line ranked third best in the NFL


Buffalo Bills: Defensive line ranked third best in the NFL

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As training camp has already shown, the Buffalo Bills have a lot of work to – albeit at some positions more than others. However, there is no arguing that the strongest group on the entire roster is the defensive line.

This leads to a more league-wide question of how good the D-line actually is, compared to the rest of the NFL? Well, we have a least one answer of sorts, courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

According to NFL writer Doug Farrar, the Bills have the third best defensive line in the NFL. Leading the way are the St Louis Rams, followed by – and this is gonna hurt – divisional rivals, the Miami Dolphins.

However, before any Bills fans get too bent out of shape, consider who’s behind them. Buffalo finished ahead of the NFC reigning champion Seattle Seahawks and another AFC East opponent, the New York Jets, with the teams being ranked fourth and fifth respectively.

(For what it’s worth, Farrar is a Seattle resident, so it does appear that at least he is being objective with his ratings. Although – in theory – this is what journalists are meant to be anyway, which sadly is often not the case.) 

Aug 28, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Lions beat the Bills 23-0. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Farrar makes some compelling arguments to back up his rankings. While being initially surprised to see the Rams at the top – I knew they were good, but not that good – it makes (some) sense, after further consideration.

The star for St Louis is Robert Quinn, arguably the most physically gifted outside pass rusher in the NFL, complimented by leader and run-stuffer Chris Long. Add AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald and 2012 first round pick Michael Brockers, and you begin to realise why even top-class quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson struggle at times against the Rams.

Turning to the Dolphins, we already knew they had an excellent defensive front, thanks to outside pass rushers Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. Now, throw in four-time First-team All-Pro Ndamukong Suh, the best 4-3 defensive tackle of this generation, and it’s almost not fair for opposing offenses.

Of course, all Bills fans will – quite rightly – care about, is what Farrar has to say about their line. He raves about how they are capable of causing havoc with fairly basic schemes and little diversity, and expects them to be even better in Rex Ryan’s advanced pressure packages.

Interestingly, Farrar doesn’t particularly gush over Marcell Dareus, despite the fact he is in negotiations with the Bills, to become one of the highest-paid players in NFL history. However, he does refer to Dareus as an adept run-stopper, capable of creating negative plays at a very impressive level.

Kyle Williams is referred to as the leader of the group, and the rare type of interior defender who seems to be getting better in his thirties. Farrar doesn’t say much about Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, other than he expects them both to produce in Ryan’s new 3-4 alignment. (Both will essentially play on the defensive line again, with the positions of end and outside linebacker often morphing into the same in Ryan’s defenses.)

Farrar does have one saving grace for any Bills fans still perturbed at only being rated as third best in the league. He finishes off by admitting that with Ryan’s playbook, this might be too low a ranking for the 2015 campaign.

Next: Do the Bills really need a new stadium?

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