As the Buffalo Bills get back to practice after their bye, they have a litany of issues that must be worked through. However, there's no doubt the most pressing problem is the woeful defense, which is on pace to have the worst statistical season in franchise history despite supposed personnel upgrades in the offseason.
Coach Chan Gailey said he has complete confidence in defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt's ability to get things turned around, and he scoffed at suggestions that he should replace Wannstedt over the bye week. Instead, Gailey said the staff spent the week trying to figure out what has gone wrong and what can be done to fix it.
"Well, you cannot make major changes," Gailey said. "It's tweaks more than it is major changes. You make tweaks in personnel. You tweak things that are not going well that you need to change. You cannot make wholesale changes now. That is not possible."
Gailey would not elaborate on what tweaks in personnel were forthcoming. The Bills have made a couple of changes already, benching strong-side linebacker Arthur Moats in favor of rookie Nigel Bradham, and benching nickel back Leodis McKelvin in favor of Justin Rogers, but neither move has made much of a difference. Defensive end Kyle Moore is playing in place of injured Mark Anderson on passing downs, while Chris Kelsay is also getting time at that position.
What Gailey is really looking for his consistency.
"They run the same run four times, and we stop it three and let it get out for a big one on the fourth one; you can't do that," he said. "You have to be consistent every time, and I think that is the term that we are talking with our players about and making a big deal about. Be able to create consistency play after play and be accountable to each other."
The Bills have been horrific in run defense. They rank last in the league, allowing 176.9 yards per game. In the past four games, the average is an unfathomable 234.3 yards per game.
"It's all about playing fast," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "You can look to some of the best defenses in the league, and what are they doing? They are lining up, they know where they are supposed to be, and they play fast."
The Bills haven't been a whole lot better in pass defense, ranking 22nd with an average yield of 247 yards per game. That has been a double-edged sword because the pass rush, which was supposed to be so much better with the addition of Mario Williams, has just 17 sacks and hasn't generated nearly enough pressure. In turn, that has exposed a secondary that is not strong in coverage and has some obvious weak links, most notably second-year cornerback Aaron Williams, who has been burned for five touchdowns in seven games.
Kelsay was so irritated following a 35-34 loss to the Tennessee Titans, he openly questioned the effort of his teammates. That raised some eyebrows in the locker room, though no one came out and took an opposing view.
"It's just more of what we are not doing than what other teams are doing to us," Kelsay said. "I know you guys are tired of hearing that. We are tired of saying it, obviously. Some way, somehow we have to understand what accountability means across the board, playing hard every play. You watch the film, and not everybody was playing hard every snap. That is unacceptable."
Things don't figure to get much better for the reeling Bills. Their next two games are on the road, at division leaders Houston and New England. The Patriots lead the NFL in scoring at 32.8 points per game, and the Texans are second at 30.9.