Reed can teach the young players how to be professionals, and the veterans how to prolong a career in this scheme.
A lot has been made about the hiring of Ed Reed. I love the hire and think he will no doubt help the Bills secondary in the film room, on game days, as professionals and as men. Believe it or not Rex is trying to change the losing atmosphere in a tough, stubborn City named Buffalo. Bringing in guys like Reed, someone who was a talent on the field, a leader and the supreme professional will show these young players how it should be done. More importantly Reed will command the respect of the veterans, and show them how to become all around players on and off the field. Reed can vouch for this scheme, he has shown that the veterans are the key to this scheme being successful.
Rex Ryan led quite the charge entering the 2015 season. He rallied the City of Buffalo, he convinced everyone that 2015 would be the year we finally get back into the playoffs. Those expectations were followed by absolute disappointment once the Bills were finally eliminated from playoff contention. But the biggest disappointment aside from the 8-8 record, was that the weakness of the team was Rex’ defense. The defense finished the year 19th overall with not many bright spots to brag about.
The defensive scheme has been the center of attention since Rex came to town. It was a main talking point week in and week out. Inexperienced and veteran players alike, showed their frustration with the complexity of the scheme. This is where Ed Reed comes in. He may only be the assistant defensive back coach, but his presence will be felt on every level of the defense.
In 2013 Ed Reed was released by the Houston Texans and was signed by the Rex Ryan led Jets after he cleared waivers. Reed at 35 years old was signed on a Thursday and got playing time against our Buffalo Bills the following Sunday. He played, but in a limited role, mainly because his physical talents were obviously diminished at this point in his career, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t be an asset on and off the field to the Jets secondary. At that point in time, the Jets defense was 22nd in the league at interceptions with 13 and were ranked 24th against the pass. Reed went on to play in 375 snaps from that week 10 on and his statistics were nothing to write home about. According to ESPN.com he finished the year with 22 tackles, 4 passes defended and 3 interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF) 15 of those tackles and the 3 interceptions occurred when he was in NY. That kind of production at his age should be noted by veteran players on the Bills roster.
Ed Reed showed that if you study film and commit to your craft you can be productive in this defense. This defense definitely needs play makers, but most of all it needs smart, savvy veterans. Guys that know the game, study the game and can put all of that together on the field. Not many young players can start in this scheme, especially at the linebacker and secondary positions. Yes, there are exceptions but there is a reason why Rex brought so many former Raven players to the Jets when he began as a head coach. Veteran players become just as important to this scheme as the young up and comers.
Take a look at the veterans that have played in this defense towards the end of their careers:
In 2009 the Jets were the number one ranked defense. Defensive end Shaun Ellis played in 723 snaps at age 32. He was 2nd on the team in sacks with 7 and 4th on the team in stops according to PFF. Stops are solo defensive tackles that constitute a loss and they include sacks. Ellis was obviously a key contributor and leader for that defense. Marques Douglas, another defensive lineman played in 497 snaps and added 29 solo defensive tackles from the 5 tech defensive end. Douglas was a player that had played on Rex’ all time great defenses in Baltimore.
The Jets defense was 3rd in the league in 2010 and it had contributions by some very good players. Jason Taylor in his second to last season of his hall of fame career, joined the Jets and played in 735 snaps. His versatility was a great weapon in Rex’ scheme and it led to Taylor tying for the 2nd most sacks on the team. Taylor was also 2nd in total QB pressures (Sacks+QB hits+QB hurries) with 23, Shaun Ellis led with 38. Bryan Thomas was also a key contributor in that department at age 31, he had 21 total QB pressures and 25 solo tackles.
Sione Pouha and Donald Strickland were two of the older players on the 2011 Jets team. Pouha, a defensive lineman had 41 solo tackles and an amazing 37 stops. Strickland, a veteran defensive back, came in and in his final year in the NFL produced 27 solo tackles in 330 snaps.
In 2012, the New York Jets defense finished the season 8th overall. Two of the biggest contributors were ILB Bart Scott and safety Yeremiah Bell. In Scott’s final year in the league, Scott played in 582 snaps. He did everything that year, he had 45 solo tackles, 36 stops, 4 sacks, 6 QB hurries and 3 QB hits. The guy filled the box score week in and week out. The 2012 season was Bell’s only season in the Rex Ryan defense and he produced! Bell was third on the team with 76 solo tackles, 17 stops and 1 sack.
Ed Reed at the ripened age of 35 tied the for the team lead in interceptions in 2013. He had three, which tied CBs Dee Milliner and CB Antonio Cromartie. In Ed Reed’s final three years he had 90 solo tackles and 7 INTs.Thirty one year old Dawan Landry, a player that played with Reed in Baltimore ended the season with 76 solo tackles and 21 stops and 7 passes deflected.
In Rex’ last year in New York he managed to get production out of two 34 year old pass rushers. The Jets were ranked 6th overall on defense and 6th in total sacks with 45 in 2014. Thirty four year old linebacker Pace was third on the team in sacks and 4th in total pressures. Babin played in 470 snaps and was third on the team in total pressures and pitched in 3 sacks.
When Rex Ryan took over the Jets in 2009, he inherited a pretty talented roster, one that had played in a hybrid scheme under Eric Mangini. Rex didn’t just rely on those players, he brought in players that he had in Baltimore with him. Why? The coach knew that he would need his guys to make the transition work. Bart Scott, Jim Leonard and Marques Douglas all followed Rex to NY. A player at every level of the defense. Players that could teach and translate the system to the “new-comers” in the scheme. You can quantify the stats of Scott, Douglas and Leonard when they were with the Jets, but you can not measure how much they boosted other players’ abilities and statistics, heck some of their careers. The importance of those moves goes unnoticed. Those players made the transition flawless and the defense went from 16th overall to number 1 in Rex’ first year in the big city!
The Bills 2015 defense did have some players that played in this scheme before. Defensive lineman TJ Barnes, LB Ik Enemkpali have played for Rex while in New York, in fact Rex helped draft those guys. Corey Graham has played in a similar system but not his exact scheme. Graham played in Baltimore from 2012-2013 and played under defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who worked in New England. So, Graham has played in a multi-faceted complex system. Just not this scheme.
The hiring of Reed may be just as important to Graham’s career than anyone else. When you look at the statistics from 2015 you can conclude Graham had a great season. But Graham really struggled against the pass. He allowed 39 receptions for 549 yards and 6 touchdowns. The yards gained against him were the third most in the league, and Graham allowed the 3rd most touchdowns by a safety. So Reed may just improve and extend Graham’s playing career.
There is no doubt that this Bills defense has some great players. Players that struggled in this scheme. They struggled not because of their physical abilities, but because of their inability to comprehend the system. A system that when executed properly has proven to frustrate some of the best quarterbacks in the league. The veterans make or break this scheme. Their intelligence and game experience are what make this defense successful.
Coach Reed, will assuredly make an impact on this team. The impact will be felt by the young play-makers but more importantly the wily veterans. The guys that are crucial for this defense to succeed. If anyone knows how well this scheme can operate, it is Ed Reed, he built a hall of fame career playing in it.