Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bills' D-line pressure a key factor under Schwartz


In a scheme that blitzed more than most last season, the Buffalo Bills' defensive line under Mike Pettine wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Under newly hired defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, however, those opportunities may have to be more individually established.

While talking shop with colleague and Bills beat writer Mike Rodak, ESPN's Detroit Lions writer Michael Rothstein filled in the Bills faithful on what to expect from their new acquisition, particularly when it comes to creating pressure in the backfield.

"The front line did a decent job of generating pressure, but didn't actually register quarterback sacks all that much," Rothstein said Tuesday, via ESPN.com. "Toward the end of the season, Detroit began to blitz some more with linebackers and safeties, but if Schwartz thinks he has the talent up front to generate pressure, he'll use the front four to try and dominate the game."

There's certainly plenty of talent to go around on Buffalo's line. Both Mario Williams and Kyle Williams hit double-digit sack totals last year, with Mario nearly eclipsing his career high of 14 and Kyle doubling his personal best with 10.5. That, combined with third-year tackle Marcell Dareus's 71 tackles and 7.5 sacks, created an uphill battle for most every offensive line the Bills faced.

Buffalo's D-line tallied 43 of the team's 57 sacks last season, a far cry from the 25 sacks Detroit's front four yielded. And while Pettine and his crew were fairly successful in their stunt and overload schemes, much of Detroit's success, according to Rothstein, came from one-on-one opportunities, created largely by blitzing linebacker or defensive back.

Then there's also the issue of blitz frequency. If Detroit's blitz rate of 19.6 percent last year -- third-least, according to Rothstein -- is any indication of things to come, that pressure in Buffalo next year will have to be created by more of an individual effort.

One thing Buffalo won't have to worry about, at least this season, is retaining any of that front-end talent. All four of the Bills' defensive line starters are signed heading into the 2014 season, including veteran Alan Branch, who signed a three-year contract extension just before Christmas. While the 29-year-old had the least amount of sacks among his counterparts, he more than made up for it against the run, where he ranked near the top of the league for defensive ends. He's scheduled to earn $1.8 million this season.

Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily