Perhaps the Bills’ best and most consistent defensive player, Williams had a strong season with 46 tackles and five sacks in 2012. His numbers have a chance of improving under Pettine as extra players blitzing could give Williams more sack opportunities. Regardless of his sack output, Williams will be one of Buffalo’s top players in 2013. At age 30, Williams has not shown any signs of slowing down. He (along with Jairus Byrd) has been the Bills’ defensive MVP in recent seasons.
Dareus is coming off of a disappointing 2012 campaign, but his head was not completely in the game: Dareus’ brother was killed in a triple homicide in September 2012.
“It’s really tough to come back and think about work when every time you turn around you lose someone that’s close to you,” Dareus told BuffaloBills.com. “And you really don’t have a mother or father to fall back on and talk to. It took a toll on me last year. I just had to be a man and finish the season hard and suck it all up.”
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal recently stated that Dareus was fighting for his starting job, but it would be a big surprise if he wasn’t starting in week one. Dareus has the potential to be a disruptive force in the middle of Buffalo’s defense for years and he’ll have no better opportunity to prove it than this season under Pettine. Look for Dareus to break out in 2013.
Carrington deserves to be the first guy off the bench to spell Williams or Dareus. Carrington was phenomenal in 2012. His strong play led to him being named the Bills’ “Secret Superstar” over at Pro Football Focus.
Although it was in a limited capacity, 2012 was Carrington’s breakout season. Now he may be the NFL’s best defensive tackle to not be starting in 2013. If he continues his strong play this year, Pettine will find a way to insert Carrington into the lineup multiple times a game.
I was a bit surprised when Buffalo added Branch. While extremely talented, defensive tackle wasn’t a weakness for the Bills. Branch had a bit of a down season in 2012, but he was graded as the NFL’s sixth-best defensive tackle in 2011 by PFF (Subscription Required).
Branch plays very well against the run and should receive his fair share of playing time this season. When you consider that Branch is Buffalo’s fourth option, the potential of Buffalo’s defensive tackles is actually quite scary.
The Battle to be the Bills’ Fifth Defensive Tackle
There is no guarantee that Buffalo will carry five defensive tackles on the 53-man roster, but if they do there will be five players vying for the spot.
Troup has plenty of talent, but unfortunately he has had back issues that have prevented him from seeing the field since the middle of the 2011 season. Going into training camp, Troup says he is healthier than he has been in two years, and he even released a video of him lifting weights on BuffaloBills.com to prove it.
Lifting weights is nice, but Troup will have to play well in training camp to prove he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster. Considering what he’s gone through, I’m rooting for him to succeed, but playing time will be hard to come by even if he makes the roster.
There’s no doubt that Ross is an underdog to Troup, but Ross will be an obstacle to overcome nonetheless. Ross is a capable defensive tackle, but a step down talent-wise compared to the Bills’ top four defensive tackles.His best chance of making the roster will be if an injury occurs at training camp.
Ross faces long odds, but there’s usually one or two surprises on the final 53-man roster.
Jarron Gilbert/Aaron Tipoti/Corbin Bryant
Of the three players, Gilbert is the most talented but his claim to fame is jumping out of a pool. Very impressive, but not 53-man roster impressive.
Tipoti and Bryant are just casualties of the numbers game. Both are young and could be claimed elsewhere or placed on the team’s practice squad. Either way, these three are long shots of making the Bills’ final roster.
Additional Positional Previews:
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Tags: Aaron Tipoti, Alan Branch, Alex Carrington, Corbin Bryant, Defensive Line, Izaan Cross, Jamie Blatnick, Jarron Gilbert, Jay Ross, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Positional Previews, Torell Troup, Training Camp