The Buffalo Bills were able to sneak into the NFL playoffs last year but they managed to do so with one of the league’s worst defenses. Leslie Frazier’s unit ranked No. 26 in total defense, allowing 22.4 points-per-game (18th). The Bills’ defense was truly an embodiment of the phrase ‘bend but don’t break’ as the team limited big plays, forcing opponents to methodically drive downfield. It was clear that the defense needed a makeover and that will start up front with defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Buffalo’s new-look secondary was a major surprise in 2017, as it was the strength of the defense. Rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White is already beginning to be recognized as one of the top players at his position. Fellow cornerback E.J. Gaines played well after being acquired in a trade while free agent acquisitions Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde may be one of the NFL’s best safety tandems.
However, while the secondary dominated, the Bills’ front seven was atrocious following the trade of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
Far too often, the Bills’ defensive coverages simply couldn’t hold up due to a lack of pass rush. Without Dareus pushing the pocket, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams and Shaq Lawson at times struggled to get after the quarterback. Opposing passers were given clean pockets that allowed them to step up and scan the field as Buffalo’s defensive ends were often pushed wide of their rush lane.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”22″] But now if you have a push up the middle where they can’t step up, now Jerry (Hughes) really comes alive as a pass rusher. DC Frazier [/perfectpullquote]
According to Football Outsiders, the Bills’ defense only created pressure 27-percent of their defensive plays, the second-worst rate in the NFL.
They weren’t any better against the run, either. The Bills allowed a whopping 124.5 rushing yards-per-game (29th) and 22 scores on the ground (32nd). Without a defender capable of plugging the middle, opponents gashed Buffalo week in and week out. They gave up 62 10-plus yard rushes and 17 were right down the middle.
But the regime didn’t sit on their hands. Brandon Beane recognized the issue and signed a familiar face upon the start of the 2018 NFL Free Agency period, Star Lotulelei. Sean McDermott groomed Lotulelei in Carolina so he knows best how to utilize his skill set, which should benefit the defense as a whole.
Star Lotulelei’s impact on the Bills’ defense.