The Buffalo Bills have added some new pieces to the NFL’s 2021 number one defense. So, what do these changes mean for the Bills’ defense heading into 2022?
There was little in the Buffalo Bills’ first depth chart for the offense that surprised people. A small shakeup on the offensive line and a well-earned slot for McKenzie was about all the news to report. However, the defense is different. There are a few roster decisions on the defensive line and linebacking core that have us raising our eyebrows. We know not to question the process, but some names have popped up that I’m not so sure Bills fans were expecting to see. Let’s take a closer look at the first defense depth chart and see if we can make sense of it.
Bills Defensive Line
I don’t think anyone is shocked to see Von Miller listed as a starter on this defense, what is interesting though is seeing him listed at right defensive end. Typically, Miller is listed as an outside linebacker but has featured as an edge rusher his entire career. This official transition should put all opposing quarterbacks on alert.
Gregory Rosseau and Ed Oliver are both getting the starts at left defensive end and tackle respectively. This brings up the questionable move of placing DaQuan Jones as the starter at right defensive tackle over another recent signee, Tim Settle. Jones is an eight-year veteran who hasn’t put up much in the way of stats over his career and Settle, while only having played for four years, hasn’t fared much better.
Boogie Basham, Jordan Phillips, and AJ Epenesa who all started at one point last year are listed on the second string and Shaq Lawson is listed on third behind Epenesa. To me, this says there are still some questions by the coaching staff as to who will get that final starting job at tackle.
With Von Miller being listed on the defensive line this opens a spot in the linebacking core. Milano has typically played as a weak side linebacker but now has worked his way to the strong side. The strong side is reserved usually for your bigger stronger linebackers or your most talented, which is where Milano (who was also listed recently as a top ten linebacker) finds himself.
This leaves Tremaine Edmunds in the middle and a surprising pick of Tyrel Dodson as a weak side linebacker. The Bills currently have nine linebackers listed with only two of them guaranteed spots on the roster (Edmunds and Milano). This means Dodson will have to keep working hard to earn his place as he competes with recent draft picks, Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector, as well as veterans like Tyler Matakevich. Don’t be surprised to see the weak side linebacker roster spot shuffle around a few times this season.
Bills Defensive Backs
Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde (when both healthy) are the best safety tandem in the league, so it’s no revelation to see them listed as the first string. It’s also not a shock to see Tre’Davious White listed as the number one cornerback. White has been injured all off-season but assuming he’s healthy come September he should be back to his old tricks.
Kaiir Elam is officially being listed as cornerback number two at this point. Typically, coaching staffs resist the urge to list rookies as starters, especially in the first depth chart. Elam’s placement means the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in not just his playing ability but his professionalism and mentality. Elam is listed above Bills favorites Taron Johnson and Dane Jackson who have both proven themselves as capable corners. This is good news for the Bills’ defense as their secondary is loaded with talent. Conversely, this is bad news for the opposing receiving corps as it just got a lot harder to pass against this team.
Bills Special Teams
A lot of hype was made about Matt Araiza, the “Wing Eating, Punt Yeating, Buffalo Bills Phenomenon” this off-season. That said, he’s currently listed as number two behind veteran Matt Haack. Araiza obviously has the leg strength, but his accuracy and hangtime still need to be worked on. McKenzie still holds the primary kick return spot with new signee Tavon Austin being listed as a punt returner. I would expect to see those positions shift as the year goes on and draft picks like James Cook and Khalil Shakir will likely fill in throughout the season.
The roster will continue to evolve up to opening day and past that as the season progresses and some players step up where others start to slip. The hype is building, and I can’t think of a fanbase that has more to look forward to than the Buffalo Bills. Just when we thought they couldn’t get much better they go and have an incredible off-season where they somehow managed to pack even more talent onto an already talented roster. The season hasn’t started yet, and this depth chart is far from final. It will be interesting to see who earns their place on the team as the Bills look to take home the Lombardi trophy.
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