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.