Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- The Bills offense was a train wreck throughout preseason, but the defense did a pretty good job. They got hit for a big play or two, but Jim Schwartz seems to have the starters playing at a high level.
Schwartz was behind right away thanks to Kiko Alonso’s training injury. The second year linebacker was moving to the outside because Brandon Spikes came over from New England. Nigel Bradham has been pushed into action and had a pretty nice training camp.
It all becomes real this Sunday in Chicago and Manny Lawson likes what he’s seen, be he feels they can always get better, “Its already different as far as our game of play and our style, we're attacking. We've got to be more disciplined, more consistent because we can stop the run. We've just got to do it every play, instead of taking off time here and there, but the guys are hungry. We've still got some improvements to make and we're going to get them corrected.”
I’ve noticed this both on and off the field this summer, the Bills defense seems to have an attitude. I don’t sense it’s cocky, but I do sense they’re confident. Lawson feels attitude is key, “If you don't have an attitude, if you don't have pride about then it's kind of hard to play this game and respect the game because you are happy and proud to be here.”
Last year Mike Pettine got a lot of credit for having this super defense. They did many things well including sacking the quarterback and causing turnovers. Those are very important parts of the game, but last year’s team was horrendous against the run, especially the big plays. The question I had and still do have is if Pettine, Alonso, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus and Mario Williams are all so good, who were third string runningbacks ripping off 80 yard runs against them? I could tell it still frustrates Lawson, “Yeah, they did happen. We can't take them away, but it's in the past now and if you take some plays away, things would be different.”
So what needs to be done to improve the run defense? They can’t win consistently if it doesn’t improve a lot. Lawson said, “It takes trust. It takes a lot of trust. You have to trust the player beside you and all the players around you to do their job. And you do your job and not try to overcompensate. If a run does squirt out then it's happened. That's a good play by the offense, but don't say, 'Okay, now I'm just going to do this,' and neglect your own job.”
In the new defense, Mario Williams doesn’t feel much changes for the linemen. He feels the changes happen behind him “Well, I can say for the defensive line at least, we've got a pretty good grasp of what's going on. I think the biggest change will probably be as far as the linebackers go. We've got a lot of new faces at the linebacker position and then those guys have to learn the system. They have to learn a lot because our linebackers, they have to know everything. Up front, I think we're doing pretty good at grasping things. I don't sit in the linebackers room during meetings, so I couldn't speak to that, but up front we're doing pretty good.”
Bradham seems to be a better football player. He got in trouble with the law last year and despite charges being dropped, he’s suspended one game by the NFL. Bradham knows that if he’s going to contribute this season, he has to be more accountable, “Most definitely. I'm a lot more mature and I know my decisions determine my destiny. That's one thing I learned last year after the incident.”
Bradham wants to be a big part of this defense and he feels his summer has shown it, “It definitely was a good camp for me. I feel like I've been getting better every day and that's the main focus point. I have my focus and I know my potential and it's up to me to reach it. It's one of those things, I just wanted to come out here and get better. Hopefully I end up starting and hopefully we have a great season.”
So as Buffalo walks into Chicago, it has a good enough defense to win the game. The question is, how will the offense react?