Bills Gamble With Defensive Line
By Jo E. Prout
The Bills released a slew of defensive players in their preseason, including cornerbacks Ryan Turnley and Jumal Rolle, but their choices may have been hasty; preseason injuries on both sides of the line have taken their toll on the team, including on left guard Doug Legursky and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The franchise said it wants to build a strong team, and showed its strategy for its offense by signing a long-term contract extension with center Eric Wood at the beginning of the season.
“This sort of symbolizes what we were talking about, being aggressive and trying to keep our draft picks and keep our core players long-term,” said Buffalo Bills President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon in August. “Obviously we’re thrilled to have Eric in the fold for many years to come. He embodies everything that we talk about. He’s tough, he’s aggressive, he’s a competitor and he’s a dynamic leader. That’s what we’re looking to build here in Buffalo.”
The Bills’ strategy for its defensive line lacks that confident drive Brandon is looking for. The line has suffered from both injury and design.
Cornerbacks Crezdon Butler and T.J. Heath did not impress coaching staff early in the season, and even after they had default time on the field in preseason games to show their talents, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and head coach Doug Marrone cut them from the team three days before deadline.
Should Marrone and his team have looked elsewhere as they trimmed their roster? With the reduced roster, the Bills must contend with Legursky’s damaged knee and Gilmore’s fractured wrist, as well as free safety Jairus Byrd’s sore foot and defensive end Mario Williams’s sore foot combined with his history of injury.
Butler analyzed his work after the 35-13 preseason loss to Detroit, and said, “We’re a good secondary, just have to show it and that’s all it was. It was breaking down and technique. Get a little tired, the technique started to go down a little bit. That’s all, came back in, re-grouped, went back out there and played.”
When asked if he had performed well enough, Butler’s response captured the essence of the NFL.
“When you evaluate yourself and you’re a competitor, you will never think you’ve done enough,” Butler said.
After the Detroit preseason game, Marrone said, “To upgrade your roster and get the best players you can…that’s what we’re committed to.”
Fans can only hope Marrone made the right decision.