The Buffalo Bills defense will have a new starting middle linebacker this season but the biggest change for this group probably is on the sidelines. The Bills' defensive coordinator since 2017 has been Leslie Frazier, however, he stepped away this offseason and it will now be Sean McDermott calling plays for this upcoming season.
McDermott has plenty of experience doing this as he was the defensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2016. The question for the team is how the play-calling might be different under McDermott than in previous years with Leslie Frazier.
There may not be a better player to ask than linebacker A.J. Klein. He was with McDermott in Carolina for four seasons from 2013 to 2016 and was primarily a backup but did have 23 starts. He would join McDermott in Buffalo in 2021 after signing as a free agent and return again midway through last season after he was claimed on waivers by Buffalo.
A.J. Klein expecting the Buffalo Bills defense to be much more aggressive
On Tuesday, A.J. Klein was on 'One Bills Live' and was asked how the defense was going to be different and he essentially had a one-word answer which was aggressive:
""If you go back and watch that tape, you are going to see an aggressive defense. That is his mindset""
From 2013 to 2016, the Panthers ranked in the Top 10 in sacks in three of those four seasons. In 2013, the Panthers actually led the league in sacks with 60, and then in 2016 finished second with 47.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Buffalo Bills have trended between 20-30% in terms of the number of blitzes on dropbacks under Leslie Frazier. It will be interesting to see if that increases under Sean McDermott's play calling this season.
The good news for McDermott, and this defense, is that outside of middle linebacker this is a pretty experienced group that has had at least a few years in this defense. There shouldn't be much of a learning curve for a veteran group and they should remain one of the best defenses in the league.