ORCHARD PARK, NY -- Through two weeks of organized team activities, it's clear that the Buffalo Bills mean business on defense under new coordinator Mike Pettine.
One key development is how the former New York Jets defensive guru plans to develop depth and versatility, which are keys to his scheme. Labeled "cross-training," numerous players on defense are taking practice repetitions at more than one position.
Head coach Doug Marrone is also using the same philosophy on the offensive line, where multiple players are seeing time at guard and center, for example. The wide receivers are also being swapped around. One needs a roster handy to keep track of all the movement.
"I think when you look at us offensively you see a lot of cross-training at all the positions, not only the offensive line but also the receiver position," Marrone said Wednesday. "Not as much with the running backs or obviously the quarterbacks. But on defense you see a lot of cross-training with multiple positions.
"What cross-training does is it just gives you the ability to play the best players that are available. Then when you have injuries obviously you can plug people in rather than plug in the backup and the backup might not be better than the backup at another position and move people around. I've always been a big believer in cross-training."
So is Pettine, whose defense isn't easy to label. It's based on a 3-4 but can quickly resemble a 4-3 or even a 5-2.
"A big part of the NFL is identifying pre-snap in a game," Pettine told reporters. "We want to limit the amount of pre-snap information we're putting out to an offense. And that's why we look for guys that have that type of versatility."
So ends are practicing as tackles and tackles are practicing as ends. It's why linebackers can look like strong safeties. End Mario Williams created a buzz when he said, "There's times, you know, I couldn't tell you what position I play exactly, because I really don't know."
Buffalo's defense was dreadful under former coach Chan Gailey. His units allowed the second, third and fourth most points in team history. They allowed the first, fourth and fifth most yards.
Pettine's defensive scheme represents the Bills' third in three years. A major portion of the installation is now complete.
"It's all new, and I think they've done a good job of buying in," Pettine said. "We haven't given up a first down, a yard or a point. But I think we're off to a good start."
Pettine's Jets defenses ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed in each of the past four seasons.
There's cautious optimism he can work a miracle in Buffalo. The team will be extremely young at linebacker and Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd is sitting out workouts as the team attempts to bargain a new contract with the young star, who was hit with the franchise tag.
--Tight end Lee Smith, who was seen in a walking boot, suffered an undisclosed injury to his lower right leg while in the weight room, the team confirmed. He's expected to be fine in time for training camp in July.
Tight end Scott Chandler, coming off ACL surgery, is participating in individual drills for the first time this off-season as Week 2 of organized team activities continue. Chandler is to the point where he's running pass patterns and testing his knee.
His availability for the 2013 season hasn't been determined but it's clearly a good sign that he's progressed to this point.
This is the second consecutive off-season that Pro Bowl DT Kyle Williams isn't taking part in spring practices due to a foot injury. Williams had surgery in February to remove bone spurs in his right foot. He expects to be fully cleared to practice by training camp.
"As far as the structure standpoint, it's healed," Williams said. "It's all about getting the strength and the power back in it, and getting ready to go. And that's where we are right now.
By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: May 29, 2013 08:17:43 PM
Bills defense cross-training to perplex QBs
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