Despite growing pains the future is bright for the Bills defense

I know that many of the members of Bills nation don’t want to speak optimistically about the future right now, after all they’ve been doing it for the past 12 years, but maybe it’s time to put some rose colors on those glasses.  The bills defense has been dismal so far this year but thanks to what looks like a much needed and long overdue loaded draft class the future finally looks bright.

Let’s start with #3 overall pick Marcell Dareus.  The Alabama alum was quick to fit into the Bills hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense because Alabama ran an almost identical defense.  Dareus was blowing up offensive linemen for the first few weeks of the season.  It looked like he was going to make quite the formidable duo with Pro Bowl Nose Tackle Kyle Williams but big Kyle’s season ended after 6 games and Dareus was kicked inside to the Nose.  He’s been playing out of position, and has been the focal point of opposing offensive linemen, but Dareus is learning at the school of Hard Knocks and will be battle tested once Kyle Williams is ready to return to the line-up in 2012 and return to his natural DE position.  It was a no-brainer pick for the Bills back in April but one that should set the front line of the defense up for years to come.

Next up was the 2nd overall pick in round #2, Aaron Williams, a cornerback out of Texas.  I have to admit I love this kid.  I love his attitude and his personality but he’s had a tough year.  He’s been thrown into the lineup because of injuries, been carted off the field himself in a big game against the Patriots, and had to wait out the injury while the Bills struggled to stay in contention.  Williams returned to the lineup two weeks ago against the Dolphins to immediate significant playing time.  This past week Williams was matched up with former Super Bowl M.V.P. Santonio Holmes and his play was absolutely sterling.  He blanketed him for most of the day, including a nice pass break up in the end zone.  In the end Holmes had too much time to run around as Mark Sanchez ran around in the pocket with no pressure being put on him and Williams lost him in the end zone for the game winning touchdown.  You live and you learn but there is no doubt in my mind that Aaron Williams will be a player in this league.

The Bills went linebacker in the third round taking Kelvin Sheppard, a veteran of Les Miles’ defensive system at L.S.U.  Sheppard has brought energy to the field since day 1 with the Bills defense.  Sheppard quickly supplanted starter and captain Andra Davis in the lineup a month into the season and quickly made an impact, crushing Michael Vick and forcing and interception and ensuing touchdown by fellow middle linebacker Nick Barnett.  Sheppard has been prone to the big play, recording a safety against the Dolphins in Miami a few weeks ago.  I’d like to see the Bills blitz Sheppard more and that will come as the defense is filled out.  As it stands it looks like Buddy Nix and co. went 3 for 3 as far as opening day 2012 starters go for the defense at the top of the 2011 draft.

Nix didn’t quit there.  He added to his special teams by drafting safety Da’Norris Searcy out of North Carolina in Round 4 and Linebacker Chris White in round 6.  Searcy has started the last two games for injured captain George Wilson and has filled in admirably.  He may well be starter #4 in a few years time.  Overall it was an excellent job by Nix and his scouting staff.  This is a draft for the defense that the Bills have been sorely lacking for years.  You could probably go back to 2001, when Nate Clements and Aaron Schobel were both drafted in the first two rounds, to find this type of prospective long term production for the Bills.  If these guys can live up to their potential, 5-2 might not turn into 8-8 next time around.

Twitter @ErikVenskus