Bills early free agent additions fortify defensive line

Posted Mar 16, 2018

Buffalo's front office took two big steps in strengthening their defensive line with proven players who can either stop the run or rush the passer.

Photo Credit: Scott Boehm/Associated Press 

Bringing back Kyle Williams was significant, but the 13-year vet alone wasn’t going to improve the performance of Buffalo’s defensive line in 2018 all by himself. The Bills knew after finishing near the bottom of the league in run defense and sacks that they needed to add to the talent base.

In the early stages of free agency GM Brandon Beane made a concerted effort to address Buffalo’s defensive front, signing DT Star Lotulelei and DE Trent Murphy, effectively reshaping the front four.

“I think you saw how we did in Carolina: we believe that’s the way it works,” said Beane. “I want to be strong up front and Sean (McDermott) does as well. Our staff all understands what we’re looking for. We’re looking to protect on the offensive line and wreak havoc on the defensive line. That was the moves with Star [Lotulelei] and adding Trent Murphy.”

Lotulelei has been part of Carolina defenses that have finished in the top six in the league in run defense four of the last five years, including a ranking of third in 2017. A lot of that success is due to Lotulelei’s efforts down in the trenches where he typically occupies two offensive linemen at once.

“If doing what I do helps others be great at what they do, that’s fine,” Lotulelei said. “I was part of a front that had some real good players in Carolina. I helped them, but at the same time they helped me. I think we’re going to do the same thing here. Everybody is going to help each other.”

Murphy meanwhile brings a power rusher off the edge. At 6-6 and 260 pounds he’ll remind older Bills fans of Wall of Famer Phil Hansen. Murphy is so long and strong that offensive tackles often can’t get their hands into his chest. Before they know it the Stanford product is in the quarterback’s face.

“I think that their biggest goal was to help the guys that are here already be more disruptive and disrupt the passer, [and] disrupt the backfield,” said Murphy of Buffalo’s free agency plan. “I think when you can get after the quarterback and get (tackles for loss) and do your job from that standpoint, stop the run and put pressure on the passer – you’re talking about winning games from that standpoint. I think in the scheme and what he wants me to do, I’m excited to compete for a job and find a way on the field and help out the team any way I can.”

Beane believes the defensive front is much improved, but said they’re not done building it. Depth will be needed and that’s likely to come in a draft where there is good depth this year at defensive tackle.

But knowing the defensive front offers pass rushing talent like Murphy, Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson with Lorenzo Alexander a flex pass rush option from the linebacker position. And run stuffing talent like Lotulelei, Williams and Adolphus Washington, it’s easy for the players themselves to get excited about the kind of lineup they’ll be able to put on the field.  

“I’m excited man. I had an opportunity to play with some real great players in Carolina, so to come here and be part of this defensive front is exciting for me. A guy like Kyle Williams, I’ve been a big fan of his. Getting a chance to come in here and having an opportunity to learn from him and play alongside will be great.”

“You almost can’t help but to start salivating, knowing who you’re working with,” Murphy said. “The type of mentality those guys have, their work ethic….Lorenzo [Alexander] was already in the weight room grinding it out this morning, so knowing that that’s the expectation, that’s what I’m coming in to, these guys are going to want to work, find new ways to pass rush, new ways to beat guys, I couldn’t be happier about it. As an individual, yeah you want to push yourself, but when you have guys that are going to push you too, you can push them and work together, that’s what it’s all about.”