BY DAN BEGNOCHE
It took seven weeks, but frustrations surrounding the production of the Buffalo Bills' “new and improved” defense have finally spilled out of the locker room.
While coach Chan Gailey called the defensive effort a “Jekyll and Hyde situation” in an appearance on WGR 550 radio on Monday, defensive end Chris Kelsay leaned more toward the Jekyll side, calling out the group and claiming some were just straight slacking.
“You watch the film and not everybody was playing hard every snap and that’s unacceptable,” Kelsay told reporters Monday after the team's debilitating loss to the Titans. “Maybe as leaders some of us have let some things slide and we can’t do that. We’re not going to allow it.”
Starting with the 385-yard, 48-point egg the Bills' defense laid against the Jets on opening day (partial thanks to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the special teams), the group has been bad. Buffalo is currently last in the league in rushing defense and third-down defense. It is next-to-last in points allowed (32). It has by far given up the most 20-plus yard plays, and it is currently allowing teams a 76 percent success rate in the red zone.
“I feel like I’m giving my all out there,” defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said in defense of Kelsay's remarks. “I feel like I’m giving my all. I’m just playing the best that I can play. I take on double teams, I get no movement, and I do the best I can. I hustle to the play. I feel like I’m doing pretty good, but if they want me to give more, I’ll give more. I want to do the best I can on every play.”
Linebacker and defensive leader Nick Barnett pointed to a lack of execution after the game Sunday, saying the team was not beat, but gave up. Despite the performance of Titans running back Chris Johnson, who broke out for 195 yards on the ground Sunday against the porous front seven, Barnett simply stated, “We should have beat them — bad.”
So what's the problem? Is it the adaptation back into the 4-3? Is it the lack of familiarity with new teammates who have joined this year? Is it poor coaching?
Coach Chan Gailey addressed one of those questions Monday, illustrating his faith in defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt while also making it perfectly clear he wouldn't be making any leadership changes at this point in the season.
“There is no discussion here," Gailey said. "He (Wannstedt) is it and is going to be it.”
If the leadership isn't going to change, then the attitude surrounding the defense will certainly need to. Kelsay's comments may have started that movement in the right direction.
“You have to depend on the guy next to you, but at the same time you have to be able to tell them what you expect from them,” running back Fred Jackson said Monday. “If they’re not getting the job done, you got to let them know. But to do that, you have to look at what you’re doing on the field as well. I think guys are going to start pointing out things that need to be done right. That’s just what needs to be done.”
The path doesn't get any easier for the Bills after their bye week, traveling to Houston and New England in back-to-back weeks. So whatever needs to be done, it's going to have to be done soon. And as far as Gailey is concerned, the lack of production comes down to one word: consistency.
“That is the key—being consistent," he said. "That is the term I used with the players (Monday): being consistent and everybody being where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. Being more consistent—that is the key to the whole thing.”
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