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Barnett: Wannstedt an easy buy-in

Posted Jan 5, 2012

 
For the good measure of respect Buffalo’s defensive players have for departed defensive coordinator George Edwards, the leaders on the Bills defense are just as excited about what lies ahead with newly appointed defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

The Assistant head coach is still going through personnel evaluations with the rest of the defensive staff with the regular season less than a week in the rearview mirror. But linebacker Nick Barnett has picked Wannstedt’s brain a bit the last day or so and likes what he hears. He also believes the players on his side of the ball will be quick to rally behind the veteran coach.

Having Wannstedt as his position coach this past season the inside linebacker already has a feel for how he operates.

“I think there will be some aspects of our day-to-day work that are fairly similar, but with Dave there will be some things changed as well,” said Barnett. “Maybe the way we practice and the way we meet as a defense. I’m sure Dave will want to change a little bit.”

Barnett knows what it’s like to have a new coordinator take over with a long resume in tow. He went through it just a few seasons ago with the Packers.

“It’s very similar to when Dom Capers came to Green Bay for me,” he said. “There was a change in defense in a big way, but when you have a proven track record as a coach coming in there it’s easy for guys to say, ‘I’m buying in.’ (Wannstedt) has done it before. Everyone has seen it and he’s won a lot of games so it’s a lot easier for guys to buy in.

“He’s coached a lot of successful teams and you look forward to that type of knowledge that we’re going to need to get to the next level. It’s just a different direction.”

Just how different is the question. With a defensive background rooted in 4-3 schemes most believe that’s the direction Wannstedt will take Buffalo’s defense. However, the new defensive coordinator wasn’t prepared to put a stamp on his defense soon after accepting the job earlier this week.

“We’ll evaluate our players and evaluate our scheme and take a look and see where we can improve,” Wannstedt said. “That will be the next step. We’ve got some good young players. We’ve got some good veteran players. I look forward to finding ways where we can start improving going forward.”

Though Barnett indicated that he knows what’s coming this fall, he wanted to remain general on what’s in store for next season.

“In talking to him I think they’ll be some differences in our defense from what we’re doing now and what we’re going to do with a lot of different tweaks in terms of emphasis,” he said. “I think our terminology will be the same. I don’t think we’ll run the same calls in certain downs and distances so there will be some different things.”

With Wannstedt in the fold this past season, the terminology of Buffalo’s defensive system is as familiar to him as it is to the players. Keeping that language intact is important for continuity, especially with a host of young players learning on the job this past season.

Still, Barnett is understandably hesitant to declare just what they’re going to be defensively under Wannstedt in 2012 for fear of playing Buffalo’s hand long before free agency and the draft roll around.

“I don’t want to show the hand of what we’re going to do to clue in our opponents,” he said. “I don’t want other teams to know if we’re looking at outside linebackers or defensive ends in the draft for example. There will be some similarities, but there are also some different things coming.”