It’s easy to call training camp a breeze from the sidelines, much less a couch. All challenges are relative. Such a claim should be especially dubious during a summer when each member of a defense must change his placement and role. But those whose exertion consists of watching highlights from Pittsford can be glad the Buffalo Bills are switching to a straightforward approach. Particularly, those who know their job is to attack on every play are hopefully finding installation less daunting than anticipated.
Last year’s ancient rituals have been discarded in favor of modern ways. Jim Schwartz employs a more open philosophy than seen during the era of mysterious alignments from way back in 2013. Instead of cloaking his intentions, he’s defined roles for the players at his disposal. The linemen just need to head well past where they start.
Without quite as many blitzes as last season, the front four cannot just be content to hold up blockers. Heading through the gap to cause chaos sounds as simple as it is fun. Even better, the men at each other’s shoulders have personal reasons to prove they can do this without a fifth rusher’s help.
Each player on the line has personal grudges to keep him going. Pros shouldn’t need more motivation than the simple desire to triumph, but they possess it just in case. Now, they should focus on taking out personal doubts on blockers.
Most notably, Marcell Dareus has had what a publicist would deem an eventful offseason. But none of the events have helped him dominate the interior. There’s an easy way to silence critics who think he’s content without earning a huge second contract. As a bonus, surging over the line of scrimmage would represent crossing into adulthood. Missing a few practices to address legal issues means he has no reason to feel anything less than refreshed. Focusing on football is just what his attitude needs.
Even linemen with less Shakespearean stories should use personal drama to get frenzied. Hamlet tragically never channeled his indecisiveness into sports. As for a lineman who’s never been fortune’s fool, Kyle Williams still seems to be fuming about being taken in the draft’s second half and plays like it. His furor over the lack of team success, despite his personal accomplishments, might finally help overcome the former.
Conversely, Mario Williams seems to have always been driven by the lack of respect extended to the first overall selection, and he should blame tight ends and right tackles for it. Fellow Wolf Pack member Manny Lawson is a first-rounder on his third pro team who spent his initial year as a Bill contributing in a hybrid role. Playing up front on a permanent basis means he won’t be concealed, but Lawson will get to challenge offenses right from the edge.
Similarly, Jerry Hughes has a chance to keep showing he’s no bust. It just took a trade to get him there. Beginning as a straightforward end should mean chances for him to again accumulate impressive stats. He gets to dispense with the charade of backing the line in favor of playing on it.
Former Seahawk Alan Branch left his old family just before Christmas, which should make him very angry when it comes to his turn in the rotation. Even a depth player such as Stefan Charles should be out to demonstrate that a raw but gifted Ontario native doesn’t have to settle for joining a team named the Roughriders. The Regina product could make himself at home in Buffalo, which is Canada’s favorite suburb.
It can be hard to directly measure a pass rush’s impact. The effort might seem nearly fruitless by the standard of tackling the quarterback, as it doesn’t happen that often by percentage. For example, teams attempted 18,136 passes last season compared to 1,295 sacks, but each one can ruin a passing game’s day. There are so few opportunities to change games that each one a defense adds can make a difference.
The numbers look even more minuscule for individuals. A player can average one sack per game and be seen as tremendously successful. You know something is elusive when one can do it 200 times and hold the official record. But players can be disruptive with or without statistical measurement. The Bills are determined to devastate by means of leaving behind offensive barriers. If nothing else, they have linemen who should be galvanized to embarrass doubters.