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How the 3-4 fits the Bills' roster

By Mark Gaughan

The hiring of New York Jets aide Mike Pettine signals another shift in scheme for the Buffalo Bills’ defense.

Pettine has run a 3-4 defense throughout his career. Obviously, against teams that spread the field, like the Bills and New England Patriots, the Jets played a lot of four-man defensive fronts. Nevertheless, Pettine's track record says he will want to use more 3-4 in his base defense.

Here’s how the key front-seven players under contract in Buffalo may fit:

DE Mario Williams. He can play outside linebacker in the 3-4. He did it in Houston in 2011 and had five sacks in five games before going down for the season to injury.

DT Marcell Dareus. He fits well in the 3-4 as nose tackle or end.

DT Kyle Williams. He’s not an ideal fit as a 3-4 nose tackle but he did it in 2010 and 2011. And he made the Pro Bowl in 2010. He’s a good football player who can adapt to any scheme. The Jets do not play a head-up, two-gap 3-4 most of the time, anyway. (Williams is not a two-gapper.) But his snaps probably would go down some in a 3-4 rotation.  

DE Mark Anderson. He’s a 4-3 rush end. Hard to see him playing OLB. However, he certainly could be a key contributor in passing situations, playing 50 percent of the snaps, as he did in New England in 2011.

DT Alex Carrington. He was drafted to be a 3-4 end. Played well in spot duty as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Fits pretty well at end. Good enough to start? That’s up to Marrone and Pettine.

DT Torell Troup. He was drafted to play nose tackle in the 3-4. He fits well if he can get healthy and get on the field.
DE Chris Kelsay. He can play in the 3-4 but he fits better in 4-3. His future is uncertain.

LB Kelvin Sheppard. He fits as an inside linebacker in the 3-4.

LB Nick Barnett. He played inside linebacker in the 3-4 in Green Bay in 2009 and 2010. But his future is uncertain in the 3-4.

LB Nigel Bradham. He was drafted as a 4-3 outside linebacker but likely would have to move inside in the 3-4 because he doesn’t offer an edge rush.

LB Chris White. He was drafted as an inside linebacker in the 3-4. He would hope to win a reserve job inside.

Kyle Moore, Spencer Johnson, Bryan Scott and Shawne Merriman all are set to become free agents. 

Bottom line: The Bills could use another defensive lineman who fits the 3-4 and need some more linebacker candidates, especially outside. They needed more linebacker candidates in the 4-3, anyway.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |