The Bills have made a variety of moves in free agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Along with a shift from a Mike Pettine defense (base 3-4) to a Jim Schwartz defense (base 4-3), they also have dramatically changed the linebacking core. The Bills moved Kiko Alonso to WLB, got a MLB in Brandon Spikes, and got a SLB in Keith Rivers. Also Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson who under Pettine were an outside linebacking tandem, have now been moved into a hybrid role. The new depth chart looks like this:[table “6” not found /]
The new defense leaves a big hole at defensive end. Jerry Hughes is expected to be the starter at the moment but I do not feel very confident that he can carry the load. Expect DE to be an area addressed in the first three rounds. Also with Byrd flying south to New Orleans means that Duke Williams and Searcy will be competing for the Free Safety position. I believe this could be a good group as Searcy was serviceable while Byrd was injured but Duke is a big unknown. That means in the draft a safety will be a point of interest, at the very least for depth. The linebacker core is revamped with a greater emphasis on stopping the run. Moving Kiko to WLB means he is able to make plays in space where he is at his best and not get all banged up. In the secondary adding Corey Graham gives the Bills three solid corners and means Justin Rogers will never be thrust into the starting role.
Overall the new defense will add new wrinkles. There will be less blitzing and a greater emphasis on stopping the run. However it potentially won’t be radically different than the prior one. Head Coach Marrone said they will still keep some of the stuff from when Pettine was there and this possibly means a hybrid defense. That and including defensive minds like Pepper Johnson means maybe the Bills defense will just be the same defense in different clothing. But for now it looks radically different than one year prior.