The impact of trading DT Marcell Dareus


One of the many storylines surrounding the Buffalo Bills the last couple weeks, QB controversy aside, has been the defense’s inability to stop opposing run games. The Bills have surrendered 194 yards to the Jets, 298 yards to the Saints and 146 yards to the Chargers the past three weeks. Opposing coordinators have been able to scheme up runs that re-establish the line of scrimmage with a physical brand of football.


Defensive coordinator Leslie Frasier has been unable to come up with a plan to stop teams from running it down the Bills’ throats, and it has prompted them to bring back Deandre Coleman and cut Jerel Worthy, but the transaction that has really hurt them was when they traded away Marcell Dareus. Check out how the Jaguars’ defense has fared since obtaining Mr. Big Stuff for a 6th round pick.


Sure, it’s box score scouting at its finest, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to it. I think anyone who has watched the Bills’ defense the last few weeks can see that they miss Dareus along that defensive line. You don’t need stats to hammer it home at this point, but there still has to be context.


After watching all of his snaps for Buffalo this season, then checking out his last game versus the Browns, you really can’t blame the Bills for trading away a player with his bloated contract, and several run ins with the law and the league. You also can’t forget how he is still limited on the field.

At this point in his career, Dareus, for some reason or another, is simply a run defender. He’s one that the Bills could really use at this moment, but that was simply not good enough to keep long-term, in the eyes of GM Brandon Beane. According to Pro Football Focus, he has a 20.9 run stop percentage, which is the 2nd-highest among defensive tackles, including seven tackles and six stops against the run. The sample is small, as he has only been in on 29 total run snaps in three games with the Jags, but that efficiency against the run isn’t surprising. Coleman, whom the Bills just brought back, has a 14.3 run stop percentage in 14 run snaps this season, which ranks 4th. I am not comparing the both, because there is no comparison rather showing their values.


In Jacksonville Dareus isn’t a starter. Instead, Abry Jones is the starting nose tackle, while Marcell rotates in at both interior defensive line positions. On early downs the Jags like to use both of their beefy nose tackles to stop the run, so they trot out the 6’4″ 318 pound Jones and the 6’3″ 331 pound Dareus. Dareus will typically align as the 3 technique defensive tackle with Jones as the nose tackle, so running the ball proves to be very difficult.

The Browns try getting the double on Dareus at the point of attack with a power run. He is able to occupy two offensive linemen and anchor to hold the point. On these kinds of run plays one of those offensive linemen is supposed to climb and block the backside linebacker, Myles Jack (#44), but they are unable to because of Dareus.


Dareus consistently helps keep his linebackers clean, which, in the Jags’ scheme, is dangerous. They are all athletic, fast flowing, gap-shooting linebackers.


He’s a very good rotational player for the Jags, especially when teams want to attack them with weak side runs. Here, the Browns run zone weak, and the Jags execute a gap exchange.


With the ball flowing to the defense’s left, Dareus quickly diagnoses the run blocking as zone and flows left.


As all of the gaps are moving horizontally, he must leverage the backside A-gap. He does perfectly by stacking and disengaging as the running back makes the cutback.


The Browns utilized 12 and 13 personnel looks on early downs in week 11. These personnel groupings almost always brought in Dareus and Jones, so the Browns attempted to exploit the defensive package with passes, and they had decent success.


That’s because Dareus’s pass rush productivity is still limited right now. So far this season, Dareus has only registered one sack, one QB hit, and three QB hurries, and only one QB hit and one QB hurry were registered since arriving in Jacksonville. His pass rush productivity rate of 4.7 ranks him 56th among all defensive tackles.

He doesn’t possess the same quickness off the snap or hunter’s mentality that Bills fans were used to seeing. That’s why the Jaguars take him out on third downs and replace him with Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson. There was a time when you would never leave Dareus alone 1-on-1 with a guard.


But he lacks the explosiveness, lateral burst, hand skills, and overall pass rush plan to beat offensive linemen.


The Alabama product is really a shell of his former self; he isn’t the same player that the Bills drafted third overall. Here, he appears to be utilized as a contain rusher, a player asked to occupy two blockers to help others win their matchups. Kizer pulls it down and runs at Dareus, but he isn’t able to bring the QB down. Everything just looks slow and laborious with him.


With all of that said, could the Bills’ defense use him? Absolutely, but you can also see that the role he was playing in Buffalo as a run stuffer hasn’t changed. The Bills didn’t want to move forward with a player that is one wrong move from a lengthy suspension, a one dimensional player who was averaging 41.12% of the snaps when they traded him, and more importantly a player with his fat, long term contract.

The trade of Marcell Dareus appears to have played a major role in the Bills’ run defense struggles so far this season, but it is one that, when analyzed, makes a ton of sense.


For more All 22 clips of Dareus vs. the Browns: