BY DAN BEGNOCHE
The Buffalo Bills' defense, now ranked 27th in the league, hasn't started off the season quite like it had hoped. But that doesn't mean everyone on the squad is struggling.
Second-year defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has been making strides on the inside of the Bills' defensive front, and people are starting to notice.
“(Dareus) is maybe the most powerful, athletic tackle in the game,” San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of the former first-round draft pick when talking to reporters Wednesday. “And he doesn’t come out ever. He’s in there on the pass rush downs as well. Big, 330 (-pound) plus guy that can move. It’s impressive when you watch the film, the end-zone shot of him lined up in there. He’s a big powerful man that can run.”
Dareus has tallied two sacks in his first four games, and coach Chan Gailey acknowledged Monday that that the former Alabama product has shown good production thus far, despite all that he has taken on so far this season.
Aside from a new defensive coach and new scheme, Dareus has been dealing with the loss of his brother, who was shot and killed in Alabama in September. Despite the tragedy, Dareus has not missed any game time, and Gailey has seen a difference in him from a year ago.
“I think he has become a lot better football player than he was last year. I really do," Gailey said. "He had lapses (Sunday), just like a lot of people had lapses (Sunday). We have to get everybody at that high level every snap. That goes back to what I was alluding to earlier, a sense of urgency every snap of every game.”
Dareus and the Bills' defense will certainly need that sense of urgency this week as they prepare to take on a 49ers team with the third-ranked rushing attack in the league. Behind the tandem of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, San Francisco has averaged more than 5 yards per carry and 167 yards per game.
If Buffalo can somehow stifle that attack, however, Dareus may have a decent opportunity to add to his sack total. San Fran's offensive line has already allowed 12 sacks this season, fourth most in the league, and is giving up quarterback hits once every four passing plays. Dareus acknowledged the physicality of San Francisco's style of play on Wednesday and said he and his crew was ready for the challenge.
“Well you know I am a tough guy and guys around me play tough," Dareus said. "I rise to the challenge. I don’t care whatever they got. We are going to do the best we can to be ready for them.”
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