Buffalo Bills fans, here's your chance to win a bet against anyone who still thinks the Bills are doomed to be AFC East bottom-feeders. The team's defensive line is perfectly poised to leapfrog into the top tier of all D-lines in the league. In fact, there's good reason to think that this Bills D-line might have what it takes to be one of the very best fielded by any team in 2012. Doubters are going to end up eating crow.
Not that the skepticism isn't understandable. Let's face it, the Bills' defense was one of the NFL's worst by the time the season came to a close. The team's secondary might have led the league in interceptions early on, humiliating Tom Brady at the Ralph, but the overall numbers don't paint a pretty picture.
Last year, the Bills' defense was ranked 30th in points allowed with 434. The front seven allowed 2,224 rushing yards, ranking them 28th in the league. It might like too much to ask for the Bills D to make much progress, but they also had 29 sacks last year, they were ranked 19th overall, and that tally is most definitely going up this year.
A big part of last year's pass rush (literally and figuratively) was Marcell Dareus, racking up a team-leading 5.5 in an excellent rookie season. Dareus really came into his own when he switched to NT midway through the year when Kyle Williams was injured. With Kyle Williams lining up alongside Dareus as the Bills return to a 4-3 defensive scheme, double-coverage on Dareus won't be an easy option for the Bills' opponents. Besides, it's a good bet that Dareus will be even better in his second year after going pro.
Of course, Dareus will be flanked by the other Williams on the D-line, a guy by the name of Mario Williams lined up on the outside. Plenty has been said about the addition of Mario and the price that was paid to bring him to Buffalo. Not much needs to be added about just what he brings to this team except to remind the naysayers (again) that he'll be lined up next to a 2x pro-bowler in Kyle Williams and a No. 3 overall pick in Marcell Dareus.
It might be easy to forget that Mark Anderson completes the Bills' starting front four. While playing with the New England Patriots last year, Anderson ended the season with 10 sacks, tying Andre Carter for team lead. If you're not a Buffalo Bills fan, you should be scared by now.
It's also worth noting that the Bills have excellent D-line depth this year. Shawne Merriman is officially listed as a second DE. There's also Dwan Edwards, Chris Kelsay, Spencer Johnson, and Alex Carrington in the mix.
Don't forget that the Bills FO has essentially cleaned the slate by swapping out defensive coordinator George Edwards for Dave Wannstedt. Edwards was largely responsible for trying to shoe-horn the team's 4-3 cover 2 defense into a hybrid 3-4 scheme that never quite worked. Thankfully, the 'stache is switching back to the 4-3, a scheme that will make the most of the team's added pass-rush potential this year. Make no mistake, no offense in the league will enjoy facing Buffalo this year. You can bet on it.
Taurus Londono grew up in Buffalo, NY, where he saw the Buffalo Bills go to four consecutive Super Bowls. He is a lifelong fan of the team.