The power and attraction of sports is found in the lack of a script. We go into every season with a pre-conceived notion of what we expect to happen, knowing full well that predictions at the start of the season usually fall foolishly to the way side by week three or so.
Even with this knowledge in hand, no one could have predicted the Buffalo Bills would have the poor excuse for a defense that they do. A defense that was the focal point of vigorous off-season upgrades, including a $100 Million investment in Mario Williams that has yielded 3.5 sacks and a very inconsistent pass rush. A switch was made to a 4-3 with two pro bowl caliber players in the middle, and Mark Anderson (probably the best defensive player on the Patriots last year) was stolen from a division rival. A solid line-backing core and a high pick used on a corner gave Bills fans not just hope, not just optimism, but virtual assurance that the defense would be one of the best in the AFC.
The sad reality is that through seven games the Bills don’t just have the worst defense in the AFC, they have the worst defense in the NFL. They are dead last against the run, 20th against the pass, and have given up the second most points in football. A pass rush that was supposed to give Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez nightmares has instead served as a dream come true. Mark Sanchez has been awful against every team except the Bills. Tom Brady and company dropped 52 in Orchard Park. The Bills did something I have never seen before in a 45-3 loss to San Francisco. They succeeded in giving up 300 passing and 300 rushing yards. The Buffalo Bills have gone past being a defense with flaws and has turned into a bad joke with no merciful punch line in sight.
The most frustrating component in this mistake of a defensive effort is that it is not for a lack of talent. We know the ability of Mario Williams. Kyle Williams has been to the Pro Bowl and Marcel Dareus was able to lead the team in sacks last year. Nick Barnett has proven himself as a respectable pro time and time again. Jarius Byrd is one of the best young safeties and we have seen certain flashes of greatness from Stephon Gilmore. From the defensive line to the secondary there is talent everywhere that is captained by David Wannstedt at defensive coordinator who we all remember as the coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2001-2004.
This is not a column where I offer suggestions for ways to improve a defense that is struggling. This is merely a rant. Congrats to the Bills, you guys really got me on this one. I have no feasible idea why this defense is as bad as they are. None. The talent exists at virtually every position and with the exception of Mark Anderson everyone has been able to stay healthy (except for Mario Williams complaining about his wrist). Chris Kelsey doesn’t think everyone is playing as hard as they can be. It’s hard while watching a game on TV to gauge effort on every play. That being said, I am fresh out of ideas for what could be wrong with this defense. All I know is that if effort is the problem that doesn’t just fall on the players. It falls on Wannstedt, Chan Gailey and the entire coaching staff.
The Buffalo economy has been on a downward slide since 1960, money is not flying around the way it is in other cities. Bills fans still sell out Ralph Wilson with remarkable consistency. They deserve better. Actually, deserving better might be the understatement of the year.
For a respected member of the Bills locker room like Kelsey toeven think of questioning the effort of defensive players on this team is insulting. Mario Williams just signed a $100 Million contract and all he has really done in Buffalo is complain about a wrist injury that ended up getting the Bills fined $20,000 for not disclosing it. The only thing I have seen Aaron Williams do this season is get beat deep, then proceed to celebrate when the ball gets over thrown like his guy wasn’t open by multiple steps. Although Stephon Gilmore has occasionally shown signs of life, he has also had awful games mixed in. I don’t think anyone in the secondary likes hitting people a whole lot, and the linebackers? They are great… at being occupied by blocks and sort of just existing on the field.
So you get it. The Buffalo Bills have a bad defense when they shouldn’t. I wish I could now give you a multitude of reasons that this slump is nothing more then that. Some optimistic points that can be taken away from the tragedy that has been the first seven weeks of the season: If it is an effort issue, that is a question of mental strength. Mental strength can be fixed at any time (I think? That sounds like more of a psychology question). All we can really do is pray that Mario Williams stops making excuses, Shawn Merrimen part three works better then the first two acts, and Stephon Gilmore is able to find some consistency. If not, I guess we’ll just have to hope that C.J. Spiller keeps on putting up Jim Brown type numbers. If not, the fall and winter look to be long in Buffalo.