The Bills are expected to play both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts, so I have included depth chart possibilities for both defensive alignments.
4-3 Defensive Line
LDE: Mario Williams DT: Marcell Dareus DT: Kyle Williams RDE: Mark Anderson
DE-3: Jerry Hughes DT-3 (DE-4): Alex Carrington DT-4: Alan Branch DE-5: Jamie Blatnick
Mario Williams should retain his starting role at left defensive end while Dareus and Kyle Williams played interchangeably inside in the four-man front last season. Anderson is better suited to be a situational pass-rusher, but may be the team’s best option to start opposite Mario Williams.
Carrington is a versatile defensive lineman who can play both outside and inside but is best suited to play tackle. Hughes and Branch should be rotational players in the four-man front, while Blatnick could earn one of the last roster spots for defensive end depth.
MLB: Kiko Alonso WLB (MLB-2): Nigel Bradham SLB: Manny Lawson
OLB-3: Arthur Moats MLB-3: Bryan Scott
OLB-4: Marcus Dowtin OLB-5: Keith Pough
Alonso was drafted to replace Kelvin Sheppard at middle linebacker and has taken first-team repetitions throughout the spring, according to BuffaloBills.com. Bradham is likely to shift from strongside to weakside linebacker in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense, while Lawson should take over at strongside linebacker.
Moats, Dowtin and Pough are versatile linebackers who can play multiple spots at linebacker and could also project as situational defensive ends in four-man fronts. Scott can provide veteran depth at middle linebacker.
3-4 Defensive Line
NT: Marcell Dareus LDE: Alan Branch RDE: Kyle Williams
DE-3: Alex Carrington
Dareus, Branch and Kyle Williams are somewhat interchangeable in the three-man front, as all three have experience at both nose tackle and defensive end, and have the size and quickness to play either position. Carrington is a good fit off the bench as a rotational 5-technique defensive end and inside pass-rusher.
MLB: Kiko Alonso WLB (MLB-2): Nigel Bradham SLB: Mario Williams RLB: Mark Anderson
WLB-2: Arthur Moats SLB-2: Manny Lawson RLB-2: Jerry Hughes
MLB-3: Bryan Scott WLB-3: Keith Pough SLB-3: Jamie Blatnick RLB-3: Marcus Dowtin
Mario Williams is not a natural fit to play in the 3-4 defensive front, but he worked as a first-team outside linebacker in minicamp according to WGR’s Joe Buscaglia. Mario Williams is better suited to play strongside linebacker than he is as a “joker” rush linebacker, where Anderson and Hughes should take most of the snaps.
Lawson could also contend for a starting spot, while Dowtin worked opposite Mario Williams as a first-teamer according to Buscaglia. Blatnick also projects as a strongside linebacker in the 3-4 look, while the inside linebackers should retain similar positions as they would in a 4-3 scheme.
CB-1: Stephon Gilmore CB-2: Leodis McKelvin FS: Jairus Byrd SS: Da’Norris Searcy NCB: Ron Brooks
FS-2(CB-4): Aaron Williams NCB-2: Nickell Robey
CB6: Justin Rogers SS-2(FS-3/CB-7): Duke Williams SS-3: Jonathan Meeks
Gilmore and McKelvin should return as starters at cornerback. Byrd remains unsigned on a franchise tag, but should return as the team’s starting free safety if he signs in time for the start of the season. Searcy is in line to take over at strong safety following the team’s release of George WIlson this offseason.
Brooks should start as the slot cornerback, while Robey could be a great backup nickel slot cornerback and see the field in dime packages. Aaron Williams was moved to safety this offseason, but can also step in at outside cornerback if injuries occur.
Rookies Duke Williams and Meeks can provide depth at safety, but will likely spend most of their time on special teams as rookies.
K: Dustin Hopkins P: Shawn Powell LS: Garrison Sanborn
The Bills would not have drafted a kicker for the second consecutive year, and certainly not in the sixth round, if they were satisfied with incumbent Rian Lindell. Hopkins is a strong-legged kicker who can be an upgrade on kickoffs and give the team more field goal range. He should be able to beat out Lindell to form an all-Florida State specialists unit.