by Anthony Stampone
Every season we are seeing more and more young talented players, even some of them are viewed as the best of the best, elite, All-Pro or whatever adjective you would like to insert for their immense talent. This past year has been no different. We have watched players like Justin Blackmon, Aldon Smith, Josh Gordon, and many others but more importantly one of our own, Marcell Dareus come under some scrutiny for their off-season exploits. These very young but very talented football players have all but thrown away their careers or put them under a microscope going forward and the uncertainty of their future has both the fan base and the franchise questioning their long term commitment.
Marcell Dareus is one of the best young defensive tackles in the entire NFL. Don’t think so? Just ask his peers and counter parts who voted him the 62nd best player in the entire NFL in just his 3rd NFL season. Marcell achieved these accolades while playing under his 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 seasons and many people forget that he is at the tender age of 24. On the field, there is no question that he has lived up to his 3rd overall selection. The maturation and growth of one of the cornerstones of the Bills defense, Dareus has shown that he can play anywhere in the front 4 and be effective. His presence makes the players around him better. What more can one ask from a defensive tackle?
When one examines the off-the-field behavior of Dareus, fans, players and the organization have come to question his commitment to all three. Dareus began to show some disregard for everyone but himself by showing up to team meetings late repeatedly to the point that Head Coach Marrone suspended him for the first half of a game against our teams biggest most hated rivals. Following his suspension, he began to become more and more resistant to cleaning up his act as the off-season went on.
On May 5th of this year, just one week after the Bills announced they were picking up Dareus’s 5th year option on his rookie contract, he was arrested for possession of synthetic marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Both charges are felonies although it appears the state of Alabama is willing to allow Dareus go through some counseling and other things to basically rid him of the charges. Just four weeks after being arrested and charged with felonies, Dareus was arrested again, this time here in Western New York on several misdemeanor charges including illegal street racing. Dareus is scheduled for trial for these charges on September 9th, just two days after the Bills first game against Chicago. Unless Marcell has a checkered driving past most of these charges will be reduced if not dropped and little to nothing will be done to him on a legal level. Money, accolades, and talent aside what lies beneath all of that is an immature individual who still has some growing up to do. This leaves everyone wondering if its his age, feeling of entitlement, his disregard for the law or his place in society or his upbringing that leads to his immaturity. What is the real reason for his actions?
Whatever the reason for his actions, Dareus has to do what we all have to do, learn from his mistakes, if he wants his teammates, fans and the organization to believe that he is truly committed to being here in Buffalo. Add on the fact that after all that he failed his physical and running test when he came back to the team. (Yes, I know he passed it a week later but the point is still remains). The bottom line here is Dareus has sent ‘red flags’ to the organization. First and foremost the biggest question of all; will he be suspended by the league for his legal issues? As it stands now, Dareus could face up to a four game suspension for his legal issues. A suspension of that length would be devastating to a defense that has a new coordinator, and a young stable of talent on the offensive side of the ball that is still trying to find its way. Focusing on the defensive aspect for the Bills in 2014, the philosophy of Schwartz and his “Wide 9” 4-3 base defense, the front 7, and especially the front 4 are heavily relied upon to stop the run and create pressure up the middle on passing downs. Dareus has the skills, experience, athleticism, and talent to help the Bills transition into yet another new defensive approach under Schwartz, the question is not his ability but rather his desire and maturity. Let’s hope for our team and for ourselves Marcell is really ready to turn the corner and become not only the dominate player we know he is and can continue to be but also that he becomes the person he needs to be to remain a member of this team and this league for years to come