The draft inches closer and closer and the Bills are finalizing their board. They have quite an important draft this year. The Bills have to fill some holes left by departures and by an all in approach led by Rex Ryan. The Bills must find defensive lineman that have the ability to play multiple positions if the Bills defense wants to be successful next season. Defensive stud Marcel Dareus isn’t going anywhere but Kyle Williams is going to be 33 years old and is coming off a leg injury. Corbin Bryant is on a one year deal and the Bills really have no guys behind them that have proven that they can be starters in this defense.
Defensive tackle Willie Henry from Michigan could come in and be a fantastic role player as an interior lineman but could be especially productive as a 3-4 defensive end. At Michigan he lined up all along the defensive line sometimes at the 5 tech, the 3 tech and 4i tech in their defense.
He has the ideal frame to play in a two gap system and room to grow as he is only 21 years old. He has the intelligence to diagnose run vs. pass quickly, nearly 11 inch arms to stack lineman and a good first step to attack versus the pass. He finished his career with 85 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 1 interception in 35 games, 22 of which he started. In 2015 Henry finished with 35 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 25 pressures and 33 run disruptions.
Henry is very good against the run because of his pad level and play recognition. He has shown a knack at reading lineman on gap and man concepts. On this play he is head up over the tackle, the tackle locks on to the overhang player, so his eyes move to the near TE. That player widens and he sees the guard pulling to him so he takes him on with the proper angle to keep the play inside. Henry doesn’t give up an inch.
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He does a great job firing out of his stance but keeping his pads low while he punches lineman.
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But he does have warts, at times his head dips when he tries to deliver the initial blow. This happens time to time when he is trying to bull rush opponents. He needs to strengthen his legs and backside to help him drive lineman back but keep his head up while doing to so he can see the play.
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The big guy is very similar to Corbin Bryant but better at two gapping. Henry has a good first step and could create some pressure from the interior position along the defensive line. Here he uses his burst and hands together quite well to put pressure on the QB.
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His most effective pass rush move is the bull rush. On this play Michigan is in an odd front and they slant Henry to the A gap. His burst and punch knock the guard off balance.
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But he will be the most effective when the Bills use him in games and stunts. He can be a great immediate threat in stunts because of his burst. He sets up the looping defensive ends/linebackers well when he is asked to jam the lineman. On this play he jams the tackle then gets skinny through the gap.
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New defensive line coach John Blake would love to get his hands on this player. Henry has some tools that can be fine tuned and improved upon. Blake is a pass rush specialist and he could definitely improve Henry’s pass rushing moves.
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In obvious passing downs the Wolverines loved widening him out to create pressure from the edge. On this play the tackle underestimates Henry’s quickness off the snap. Willie dips and then turns the corner for the pressure. He finished this game with 2 sacks, 5 tackles, 3 pressures and 4 run disruptions.
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Defensive lineman in two gap schemes must be able to not only diagnose run vs. pass quickly, but they must be able to read the screen game. Willie Henry shows that he can quickly read the linemans’ intentions all while keeping his head in the flow of the play.
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Willie Henry is a solid looking prospect as he stands, but if the coaches can teach him some finer points he could be a starter a couple years down the line. He is the cousin of former Michigan standout defensive lineman Frank Clark who currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks, so he knows what it is going to take to succeed in the league. The scouts visited Michigan on several occasions and I believe that the Bills are targeting him in round 4. A guy that they can groom long term to replace Kyle Williams but a player that is refined enough to challenge Bryant for playing time this year. Bryant played very well last year but this may be his last year in Buffalo and Henry is a much better fit in Rex’ scheme. Scouts compare him to Bennie Logan of the Eagles and if that is the case, Willie may find his niche in the Bills’ multiple defensive scheme for years to come.
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