Safeties play a pivotal role in Sean McDermott’s defensive scheme. Their role in Buffalo, however, will ultimately depend on how he molds the defensive scheme to his new personnel.
One thing is certain: having played the position, McDermott expects a lot out of safeties. He likes well balanced players at that position, but not necessarily the most gifted athletes. His starting safeties in 2016, Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston, were some of the steadiest players on the Carolina Panthers defense.
Due to the type of scheme McDermott runs, which often leaves safeties manning center field, his ideal starting safeties must have range and must take proper angles.
Safeties in today’s NFL must be able to tackle, and that tackling ability is particularly important in McDermott’s scheme. He often uses his safeties in run fits and run gap responsibilities. That’s why Kurt Coleman finished third on the team with 74 tackles, 15 assists, and 22 stops. Boston was seventh on the team with 46 tackles, 2 assists, and 15 stops.
One of McDermott’s signature strengths is his ability to disguise. Specifically, he is very good at disguising blitzes and coverages. Last season, McDermott blitzed his safeties 34 times. This is something that he learned in Philadelphia with the late Jim Johnson, who loved to incorporate blitzes with his safeties Michael Lewis and Quentin Mikell.
One virtual certainty is that the Bills will have to add at least one safety this offseason in free agency and/or the draft. The Bills only have 3 safeties under contract in 2017, and safety was one of the positions that struggled to produce during this season.
Expect new Head Coach Sean McDermott to bring in guys that can do it all. They may not be the fastest or strongest athletes. But you can bet the players will be well rounded and they will be expected to contribute early and often.