Orchard Park, NY -- Two years in to the Chan Gailey era it was painfully obvious that the Buffalo Bills needed to change something on the defensive side of the football.
With two seasons ranked near the bottom of the NFL in total defense, the Bills elected to jettison both their 3-4 defensive scheme as well as incumbent defensive coordinator George Edwards in favor of a new, more proven option.
Already with the team as the inside linebackers coach, former NFL defensive maven Dave Wannstedt agreed to take the reigns and fix what has been a porous defense for two years running.
A full off-season that has added many new toys in the defensive chest and one week of Organized Team Activities in the books, Wannstedt was encouraged by what he witnessed in the first three days of work.
"You know the coaches on defense have done a great job. We’ve spent a lot of time obviously going through this stuff and the players have been outstanding from being responsive to what we’re doing," the defensive coordinator said Friday. "We’ve got competition. It’s tough to really talk much about it because (without) pads and we’re not bangin’ or doing any of that. When we get the pads on at training camp, it’s obvious that we’ve got good speed on defense and the competition is a lot better on defense."
Armed with the likes of Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Marcell Dareus, Chris Kelsay and what they hope will be a rejuvenated Kyle Williams, Wannstedt believes the new defensive scheme will help benefit those players the most.
"It’s going to be a defensive-line friendly scheme, and by that I mean we’ll be as good as our guys up front play, and that’s how it was at Dallas, at Miami, every place where we’ve run this scheme," he said. "The guys up front, it all starts there. If we can get a good rotation going, keep some guys healthy, you know that kind of sets the foundation for what we’re trying to get done here."
The book has been written early on about the Mario Williams signing for the Buffalo Bills. But what about his fellow free agent signing at defensive end, Mark Anderson? Wannstedt was taken aback by some of the things the Alabama product could do.
"He's got the quickest feet of any defensive lineman we've got," the coach boasted. "I think as an edge rusher we'll see how it unfolds, but he's had a good first week."
Anderson chimed in about working under a coach with Wannstedt's pedigree.
"Very smart, very knowledgeable of the game," said the defensive end. "I like to surround myself with people very knowledgeable so I can take my game to another level."
"He's got a good first step which you've got to have to be a really good pass rusher. And he's working to get better," Wannstedt remarked as he went on about Anderson. "He was out here hanging around with Kyle and they were talking about techniques. I think his mindset's right to have a big year and help us win."
As the first-year Bills defensive coordinator pointed out, there isn't much the team can do to simulate the physicality aspect due to the new rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2011.
Instead, Wannstedt laid out what he's trying to get accomplished through the three weeks of OTAs at One Bills Drive.
"Every day we’re putting in something different. Every day it’s a different coverage, it’s a different front. It might be a different blitz and we’ve got it organized pretty good that I think when we get to about Day 11, 12, we’ll be about ready to play a game, really, to be honest with you. And then the key will be to come back in training camp and start over again."
The Bills get back to work for the second week of the voluntary sessions on Tuesday, June 5.