by Mario Granata
After examining the skill players that the Bills have to face on the offensive side of the ball in Bills Opponents: Offense Edition, obviously there was going to be a follow up for the defensive side, but with a little bit of a twist. While you will see the key additions and notables that will be in front of Greg Roman this season, also listed will be the defensive coordinators and their primary defensive alignment. This is key, because in trying to understand how to attack any defense, you have to go on tendencies. Check out the playmakers and shotcallers that the Bills will have to face in 2015 (as of right now).
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts
DC: Greg Manusky (3-4)
Edge Rushers: Robert Mathis, Trent Cole
Notables: D’Qwell Jackson, Vonte Davis
Manusky will be entering his 4th season with the Colts as their DC, and after presenting the Colts with a 3-4 scheme he didn’t see much use for Jerry Hughes. Thank you very much. With the uncertainty of Robert Mathis’ health, the Colts signed Trent Cole to man the outside. Eventually, when Mathis is healthy he will probably play opposite Cole, and give the Colts a formidable pass rush. However it doesn’t seem likely that the Bills will have to contend with both of them Week 1. D’Qwell Jackson, who had 140 tackles last season, returns as well as Vonte Davis in the secondary. Until this aging defense can get on the field together, they will have to rely on Andrew Luck and the offense outscoring opponents. How will the Bills offense stack up? Back in 2013, Greg Roman and the 49ers were only able to muster up 7 points on the Colts while committing 3 turnovers and giving up 3 sacks.
Week 2 & Week 11: New England Patriots
DC: Matt Patricia (4-3)
Ends: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones
Notables: Dominique Easley, Malcom Brown, Devin McCourty
Matt Patricia is also entering his 4th year as DC of the Patriots, and his 12th overall with the team. The Patriots look to solidify their front four by drafting Malcom Brown out of Texas and he will more than likely play next to their 2014 pick Dominique Easley. Those two combined with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich give the Patriots a solid front 4 who is equally as good at stopping the run and the pass. With the losses of Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Brandon Browner (Saints) the Pats are hoping that their front 7 will make up for the losses, thus placing more responsibility on Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty to clean up anything in the air. If the Bills can hold off the pass rush, they might be able to complete some passes and keep up with the Patriots offense.
Week 3 & Week 9: Miami Dolphins
DC: Kevin Coyle (4-3)
Key Additions: Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips
Notables: Cameron Wake, Brent Grimes
Without question the biggest free agent signings of 2015 was Ndamukong Suh with the Miami Dolphins. Kevin Coyle will have more options to play with this season as Miami also drafted Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma) which will sure up Cameron Wake on the outside. Who do you double team on this front? The odd man out will be Oliver Vernon who has accumulated 21.5 sacks in 3 seasons in Miami, so the pressure will be on the Buffalo offensive front early and often when they take on the Dolphins. After losing Dion Jordan for the year, the Dolphins will have a hole there to fill. Much like the Patriots, if the Bills can hold the line just long enough, their receivers can get open, even with Brent Grimes taking away one side of the field. So, what is the over/under of times that Suh and Richie Incognito get 15-yard late hit penalties? I’m setting it at 3.
Week 4: New York Giants
DC: Steve Spagnuolo (4-3)
Edge Rusher: Jason Pierre-Paul
Notables: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Landon Collins, Prince Amukamara
After having a lack luster Head Coaching career and presiding over a defense in New Orleans that was putrid, Steve Spagnuolo makes his return to New York where he won a Super Bowl. However, during that season, his defense was heavy up front, and didn’t leak huge plays on the back end. The Giants defense, on the surface, seems to be the opposite this year. JPP is the only real threat on the front 7, along with MLB Jon Beason, while the combination of Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara will man up on the outside, and the hard-hitting rookie Landon Collins will sure be the heart of this 4-3 look. The key for Buffalo will be to not to let Collins set the tone early and get the Giants going, or else it could be a long day at OBD.
Week 5: @ Tennessee Titans
DC: Ray Horton (3-4)
Additions: Brian Orakpo, Da’Norris Searcy, Perrish Cox
Notables: Michael Griffin, Wesley Woodyard, Jason McCourty
Much like the Giants, the strength of the Titans defense lies in the secondary. With the addition of Perrish Cox (49ers) and Da’Norris Searcy (Bills) to join McCourty and Griffin, the Titans have a pretty stable back end. Orakpo will be the key in Horton’s 3-4 front as he seems to be acquiring players that fit the mold of those Pittsburgh Steeler teams that he was with for 8 seasons. Often referred to as “Bills South” Buffalo cannot simply look past this defense if they are to be victorious. They have some playmakers who can be disruptive.
Week 6: Cincinnati Bengals
DC: Paul Guenther (4-3)
Secondary: Adam Jones, Leon Hall, George Iloka
Notables: Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict, Ray Maualuga
Because the Bengals are loaded with 1st round talent on the defensive side of the ball, they went with a more offensive approach in the 2015 NFL Draft. Although the Bengals were 3rd in the league in interceptions in 2014, they were dead last when it came to getting to the quarterback. While this puts enormous pressure on the secondary, they seem very well equipped to handle a heavy load. Jones and Hall are getting older so do be surprised to see 2014 1st rounder Darqueze Dennard play a larger role in Week 6. Also under the radar is George Iloka, who’s 6’4” frame likens him to Kam Chancellor, but hasn’t enjoyed the success of the Legion of Boom Captain. If the Bills can keep from turning the ball over, they should be given enough time to complete passes and move the ball.
Week 7: @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London)
DC: Bob Babich (4-3)
Key Additions: Davon House, Sergio Brown, Dan Skuta, Jared Odrick
Notables: Chris Clemons, Dante Fowler Jr. (Inj)
What do you do when you are 54 million dollars under the cap for the 2015 season? You start throwing money at everyone you can get. With the additions that the Jags have made this off-season, and with the selection of Dante Fowler Jr., Jacksonville seemed to be turning the corner defensively. However, Fowler needed surgery for a torn ACL and is lost for the season. Even with Fowler out, the Jags have some players who cannot be overlooked. House and Brown look to solidify the secondary, and Skuta and Odrick appear to be a force up front, and even with their dismal 2014 season, the Jags were 6th in the league in sacks. Look for them to be competitive this season, even without Fowler, and if the Bills think that the trip to London is a vacation, they might be on the flight home scratching their heads on how they lost.
Week 10 & 17: New York Jets
DC: Kacy Rodgers (3-4)
Key Additions: Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Leonard Williams, Marcus Gilchrist
Notables: Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Davis Harris
The reunion of Revis and Cromartie isn’t the only one that happened in New York this off-season, as Todd Bowles reunites with Kacy Rodgers, whom both coached with the Dolphins in 2010 and 2011. Where most teams will have a gap either in the secondary or the front line, the Jets will be, on paper, one of the toughest matchups for the Bills in 2015. Along with the additions in the secondary is Marcus Gilchrist (San Diego), and is the only non-first rounder in the secondary (2nd round, 50th overall). Wilkerson and Richardson have proven to be a handful and with the addition of Leonard Williams taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Jets are going to give the Bills all they can handle. As mentioned in the previous article, if the combined point total for both of these games is over 40, I will be very surprised.
Week 12: @ Kansas City Chiefs
DC: Bob Sutton (3-4)
Key Addition: Marcus Peters
Notables: Dontari Poe, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali
Don’t expect there to be too many surprises in this matchup as Sutton spent 4 years in New York under Rex Ryan, so the Bills should be very accustomed to seeing many of the same things that they do in practice when they come into this matchup. Although the Chiefs were 7th in yards allowed per game last season, they were tied with the Jets and Jaguars with 6 total interceptions (all tied for last), which is probably why they drafted Marcus Peters. Peters will serve to be a shut down corner in Sutton’s 3-4 scheme. Houtson, Poe and Hali can be very disruptive, but the Bills seemed to handle them very well in their last contest. Look for some trick plays to play off the aggression of the Chiefs early in this game to get the Bills on the board.
Week 13: Houston Texans
DC: Romeo Crennel (3-4)
Key Additions: Vince Wilfork, Rahim Moore, Benardrick McKinney
Notables: JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing
If the Titans are “Bills South” than the Texans could be considered “Patriots South” as many of the coaching staff and players, like Wilfork, have made the journey to Texas. The Texans, on paper, look to have a very strong team and might mirror the Bills somewhat in their approach. With Wilfork, Watt and Clowney anchoring the “pit” there aren’t enough double teams to go around. Which of those three would you choose to double or chip with a back? Whoever you do, the other two are going to wreak havoc. Moore coming over from Denver and drafting McKinney to play along side Cushing, gives the Texans a front seven that Crennel hasn’t had since the glory days in New England. If the Bills can get time to throw, they should find some open spots in the secondary. If not, the equipment manager of the Bills is going to have a busy Monday morning washing the back of the quarterbacks jersey.
Week 14: @ Philadelphia Eagles
DC: Billy Davis (3-4)
Key Additions: Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, Eric Rowe
Notables: Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox, DeMeco Ryans
When people think about the Eagles, they used to think about a tough, imposing defense. Jim Johnson (no not the one from Dallas) patrolled the sidelines from 1999-2008 and could be considered one of the founding fathers of the 4-3. Fast forward to 2015, where Billy Davis, an unlikely ‘defensive’ coordinator enters his 3rd year with Philadelphia. Unlikely in the fact that Davis was a quarterback and wide receiver in college. This could be the reason why the Eagles haven’t had much luck stopping anyone recently. Chip Kelly, quarterback drama, and everything else aside, the Eagles focused their efforts to be a force on defense in 2015. Acquiring Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, as well as drafting Eric Rowe, the Eagles seem poised to up their game on the defensive side of the ball.
Week 15 @ Washington Redskins
DC: Joe Barry (3-4)
Key Additions: Stephen Paea, Chris Culliver, Dashon Goldson, Jeron Johnson
Notables: Ryan Kerrigan
Joe Barry enters his first year as defensive coordinator for the Redskins after serving as San Diego’s linebackers coach the previous 4 seasons. For much of this coaching career he has followed his father-in-law Rod Marinelli around serving as his defensive coordinator in Detroit in 2007 and 2008 where the Lions defense was last in practically every statistical category during those seasons. He does have a lot of new toys to play with in the form of Stephen Paea (Bears), Chris Culliver (49ers), Dashon Goldson (Buccaneers) and Jeron Johnson (Seahawks). If he can get this collection of players to gel, the Redskins could make some noise this year, but in all likely hood it will be a tough sell for them to make any significant impact in 2015.
Week 16: Dallas Cowboys
DC: Rod Marinelli (4-3)
Key Additions: Greg Hardy, Byron Jones, Randy Gregory
Notables: Sean Lee, Rolando McClain
Marinelli has a collection of characters to say the least. With the drama that has been in the secondary, the injury prone Sean Lee, and the duel accident waiting to happen in Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory, Marinelli has probably been spending his offseason coming up with Plan B’s and even some Plan C’s for 2015. Talent has never been an issue with the Cowboys, and due to their running game in 2014, they were on the field 5th fewest in terms of total plays. With only McFadden (at this point) on the roster as the starter, that number could jump. That being said, who better than the Cowboys to handle both Hardy and Gregory since they have experience handling Dez Bryant the past few years? If Hardy and Gregory are still ‘active’ in Week 16, look for them to make an impact, but if not, the Bills should be in a good spot.
If you read the previous article Bills Opponents: Offense Edition, you will see that the defense for Buffalo has a much taller task than the offense. When you take into account that of the 16 opponents that the Bills have to face, 8 of their games are teams with coordinators that have been with their respective teams for 2 or fewer years (Jets, Redskins, Giants, Texans, Titans, Bengals, Cowboys) and 4 of them are with coordinators making their first stint with their respective teams (Jets, Redskins, Giants). Roman should have a smooth transition given the explosive players he has to work with in 2015, but time will tell if he himself has the correct ‘shotcaller’ taking the snaps.