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New Bills head coach Doug Marrone hired an experienced NFL assistant who knows the AFC East very well to help improve Buffalo’s defense by bringing in former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
For the past three seasons, the Bills have finished no better than 26th in points allowed and 22nd in total defense. The last time Buffalo trotted out a top-10 unit on defense was in 2004, also the last season they had a winning record. On the other hand, the Jets’ defense has ranked first, third, fifth and eighth in the four seasons with Pettine at the helm.
The main difference in philosophy will be seen in the aggressiveness of Pettine’s scheme. According to Pro Football Focus, Dave Wannstedt’s Bills defense blitzed only 17.8 percent of the time last season, compared to Pettine’s Jets “D,” which blitzed 39.9 percent of the time — quite a disparity.
“I think the fans will be excited about it because we’re going to be high energy and we are going to be an attacking style of defense,” Pettine said in a release put out by the Bills. “We’re going to dictate to the offense. We’re not going to sit back and let offenses dictate to us, so if you’re going beat us it’s because you’ve taken our best punch.”
That attacking-style defense would be a change of pace from the Bills’ 2012 defense. As far as the scheme, Pettine said the Bills would be a “multiple-front, multiple-coverage defense.” The Jets moved from a predominantly 3-4 defense to using more multiple fronts in 2012, though the Bills, who changed from 3-4 to 4-3 in 2012, have plenty of personnel that can play in both schemes.
One of Pettine’s orders of business will be analyzing the LB position, a position with some question marks. Some of Pettine’s former ’backers in New York, Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, could become available as potential cap casualties. MLB Kelvin Sheppard was a player we heard that internally, the Bills had high hopes for, but who did not live up to expectations in 2012, considering the struggles of the run defense. Pettine will be evaluating how Sheppard, WLB Nick Barnett and SLB Nigel Bradham would fit into his system. If the Bills plan to blitz more, that could change the personnel at that position based on the type of players Pettine needs to be more on the attack.