Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- As the Buffalo Bills approached the 2012 regular season, there was a lot of talk about how they had one of the best defensive lines in all of football. Defensive tackle Kyle Wililams was coming off corrective surgery to his Achilles, former third overall pick Marcell Dareus showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season and they were compounded with the addition of free agent defensive end Mario Williams in March.
As opposed to how they looked on paper, the defensive results after 16 games weren't nearly as pretty. Big changes were ahead in the off-season, as the entire coaching staff was fired and the Bills brought in former New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to run their defense in 2013.
For the two men that reside in the middle of the defensive line, the results have been noticeable and they've finally gotten to the level as a pair that they always wanted.
"I told Kyle I want us to be the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL, and I'm pretty sure nobody is close," said Dareus boldly. "That's our goal."
The third-year player Dareus and his partner in crime Williams have tallied 98 total tackles, 12 sacks and two forced fumbles in their 11 games this season. When you look at the film, it's easy to see that they've been two of the best players on the Bills roster all throughout the year.
"I think both with he and Marcell, I really like those two guys. They're very active, very productive," head coach Doug Marrone remarked. "Our two inside guys are playing extremely well."
Both Dareus and Williams have had to battle their own individual demons to find their way to a superb 2013 season. Each have overcome exactly what has plagued them over the past two seasons to click within the scheme of Pettine's new defense.
For Williams, it was injuries. Well, it was the same injury that just so happened to affect both of his feet. After the 2011 season, Williams had to have a procedure done to help his left Achilles.
During the next year, the veteran defensive tackle then started feeling the same sort of pain in his right foot. Once the 2012 season completed, Williams had the same procedure to help his right Achilles.
With both now taken care of, he's regained his form from 2010 when he made it to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
"The last two years have been tough, long years trying to come back. I knew that I was going to to get better and I was only going to get better and not get worse," Williams said. "I'm feeling pretty good. Knowing that I still have some recovering to do, I'm still in the middle of that. I'm looking up and I'm excited about it."
He still has to take each Wednesday off from practice as a rest day, but is able to play each and every week at a high level.
As for his teammate Dareus, the battle within has been about finding a steady level of play as opposed to just showing flashes randomly throughout the season. The former first-round pick believes he's finally there.
"My whole thing, I was looking for the consistency level. Just being consistent, being a consistent baller," he said. "Just consistently going out making plays week in, week out, knowing I'm going to stop the run, knowing that I'm going to pressure the quarterback."
The results are evident, as Dareus has become the disruptive type of player the Bills envisioned when they selected him with the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Now that both he and Williams are humming in unison, the younger Dareus believes all that potential they both foresaw has finally been realized.
"It feels so surreal," he remarked. "I've found myself and he's back to himself. This is what I've always envisioned. A good defensive tackle next to me that I don't have to worry about between the snaps. I don't have to worry about him with a double team. Kyle is gonna do him, he's gonna make plays and I'm excited about it."
If the Bills have any thoughts of making it to the postseason, they'll need their two best defensive linemen to continue to set the table for the rest of the defense in the final five games. If they're able, perhaps Dareus' claim that they're the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL can start to gain some steam outside of Buffalo.