Niagara Gazette

Sports

June 11, 2006

NFL: Bills plotting new defensive scheme?

Defensive system won’t be overhauled, coordinator says

ORCHARD PARK — There’s perception, and then there’s reality regarding the Buffalo Bills defense.

After ranking second in the NFL in total yards allowed two years in a row, the Bills perceived themselves to be one of the best defenses of all-time heading into 2005. Linebacker Takeo Spikes even predicted that the unit would play to the level of the legendary ’85 Bears.

In reality, Buffalo was 29th in the league in yards allowed last season. With and without Spikes — who tore his Achilles tendon in September — the Bills defense struggled to get off the field and keep teams out of the end zone.

Going into this offseason, most observers thought the team needed to acquire a mammoth interior lineman to replace the departed Pat Williams and improve a run defense that was second-worst in the league, statistically, in ’05. This school of thought led to mock drafts predicting that Buffalo would select a defensive tackle, Haloti Ngata in most cases, with the eighth pick in the draft.

Yet on draft day, the Bills selected a safety, Donte Whitner, with their first pick, and then traded back into the bottom of the first round to draft John McCargo, a quick, penetrating defensive tackle. His skill set is similar to Larry Tripplet, the Bills biggest free-agency signing.

Coupled with the subtraction of two slowing veterans — Sam Adams and Lawyer Milloy — these additions signal that the Bills are putting together a roster suited to play the Cover 2 defense variation known as the Tampa 2.

New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell last worked in Chicago under Lovie Smith, a disciple of the Tampa 2’s originator, Tony Dungy. Most assume Fewell will install this defensive scheme in Buffalo.

But, according to Fewell: “That’s perception more than reality.”

Speaking on Thursday after the Bills concluded their last organized team activity of the spring, Fewell indicated that his defensive game plans this season will not exclusively employ the Tampa 2.

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