Despite a 4-12 record, the Bills made only one coaching change in the offseason — hiring former Bears and Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt to be the team's assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach.
In his first NFL training camp since 2004, Wannstedt is getting back into the swing of coaching in the NFL. "It's like riding a bike or jumping rope. It hasn't taken me long to get back into the NFL mode. I've loved every day of it," Wannstedt told PFW.
As assistant head coach, Wannstedt helps head coach Chan Gailey with a variety of things in addition to coaching the inside ’backers.
"I'm somebody he could use on and off the field, not necessarily just X's and O's, but other things head coaches deal with that I've been through," he explained.
Wannstedt inherits a unit partially responsible for the Bills finishing 32nd against the run last season. One of the problems with the front seven was the installation of a 3-4 scheme without the right personnel. Wannstedt plans to use both "30" and "40" fronts.
"The big thing last year was they went in and were 3-4, then shifted to the under 4-3 stuff. We're going to use both, and I believe wholeheartedly that you can use both," he said. "If you think you're going to put in the whole 3-4 package or the entire 4-3 and use it all, you're not going to be effective and you won't execute. It can be done as long as you're not doing too much, and that's what my focus has been on in the offseason."
The first step in improving the defense came in the draft when the Bills used the third overall pick to draft DE Marcell Dareus, then selected two inside 'backers, Kelvin Sheppard and Chris White. Wannstedt said he likes the sure-tackling rookie ILBs because of how productive they were in the SEC.
Another addition is Nick Barnett, whom the Bills signed after losing Paul Posluszny via free agency.
"Number one, you're bringing in someone who has experience," said Wannstedt, who was quick to point out that Barnett's injury that cost him most of 2011 was a wrist injury, not something that would affect his ability to run.
"That's what we're trying to do now — add some speed to our linebackers. (Barnett) can run and make plays, and you can never have enough of those guys," he added.
Wannstedt hopes the defense can make the improvements it needs to in order to get out of the AFC East cellar.
"Every year is a new year, and there are success stories written in the books every year."
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