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18 - 5 defensive playmakers to look for at camp

Posted Jul 10, 2017

Here are the five defensive players to keep an eye on at training camp.

Camp Countdown presented by M&T Bank will examine some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We’ll address these subjects one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully probe for some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 27th and the Sept. 10th opener at New Era Field against the New York Jets.

The Bills next stop in the offseason tour will be training camp. Here are five defensive playmakers to keep an eye on once camp is underway.

Jerry Hughes
Buffalo Bills sack artist, Jerry Hughes, is back for his fifth year with the organization. Upon arriving in 2013, Hughes quickly made his name known when he registered 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons.

2015 is when he made a slight change in position. Under former head coach Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme, Hughes was used as an OLB in a 3-4 base. With that scheme, he was asked to drop into coverage more and had fewer opportunities to rush the quarterback.

With new head coach, Sean McDermott, he is back playing his more natural defensive end position in a 4-3 scheme much as he did in 2013 and 2014. With the switch, even teammates have taken notice.

“It gives him the opportunity to put his hand on the ground a little bit more and go. But, Jerry is a good football player. Jerry is effective in any scheme that he plays in. I think this might just play to his strengths a little bit more.” said Kyle Williams.

Ronald Darby
Buffalo Bills cornerback, Ronald Darby, is headed into his third year in the league. With Stephon Gilmore headed to the New England Patriots, Darby moved to the top of the team’s cornerback depth chart. With that, Darby may be asked to cover more prominent receivers than he has had to in the past.

The cornerback is not worried about the challenge.

“You know, I feel like a veteran in the secondary. We got a lot of new guys and young guys, so I feel like it’s… I have a huge role here. So I do feel like, you know, like a vet now, a vet vet.” Darby said.

Like Hughes, Darby is also going through a scheme change and his role may be a little different.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“A huge difference, you know, we’re not in cover one every play. We could mix it up a lot. You know – a lot of different coverages to help you keep your eyes on the quarterback to make plays on the ball.” said Darby.

Micah Hyde
During the offseason, the Bills went out and signed free agent safety, Micah Hyde, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. In his time there, Hyde filled a prominent role on the defense where he accumulated 227 tackles, eight interceptions, four sacks, and one touchdown in four years. The safety also showed his versatility by being able to contribute on special teams as a returner.

With that, the Bills should be able to use him in different ways for him to make a contribution on the team.

“Micah had a very good career in Green Bay. He had a ton of ball production, so to add him to our roster is a big [catch] for us. We think he has a chance to really make a difference as far as taking the ball away and then – I’m sure Danny [Crossman] will talk about this when he gets to special teams – his punt return ability as well,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

He’s a versatile guy in the secondary. He can tackle, but he can cover tight ends and running backs – he’s just a very versatile player who has provided great production with the ball so that was a big get for us this offseason.”

Marcell Dareus
Bills veteran defensive tackle, Marcell Dareus, is headed into his seventh year with the team. The tackle has shown that he can do it all at the next level. He has earned two Pro Bowl nods in 2013 and 2014 and also earned first team All-Pro honors in 2014. It’s important to mention that during those years, Dareus was playing under a 4-3 system. Similar to Hughes, this scheme may better fit his ability.

With that, throughout the entire offseason program, Dareus has been here and getting better.

“I did my fair share and I want to continue to do my best I can. I just wanted to show leadership and you know show them the right things to do. Learn from mistakes and at the same time, we’re here to win a championship. Coach has this playoff caliber everywhere but its championship caliber and we’re all really shooting for it. We’re doing the best we can.” Dareus said. 

Shaq Lawson
The Bills selected DE Shaq Lawson in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Unfortunately Lawson did not get his pro career off to the start that he had hoped for. Early in the offseason program, Lawson underwent shoulder surgery and was then put on the Reserve/PUP list. The prospect was activated in mid October where he finished the season with 13 combined tackles and two sacks.

Similar to Hughes and Dareus, Lawson may be better fit for a 4-3. The scheme that coach McDermott has brought over from Carolina. Lawson has experience there at Clemson University where he excelled. With a full offseason and a system he has experience with, the sky is the limit for the young talent.

“The biggest difference for me, is basically tackling now. Not really anything. The defense is simple,” Lawson said. “It’s the same (scheme) I ran at Clemson. I picked it up a lot faster and I’m very comfortable right now and I’m ready to play ball.”