Cornerback important in McDermott's defensive scheme

Posted Apr 20, 2017

The Bills have cornerback talent on the roster, but much of it is unproven. Adding one in the draft seems highly likely, but it must be the right fit.

It’s no secret that the complexion of Buffalo’s roster has changed considerably at the cornerback position this offseason. The departure of Stephone Gilmore in free agency, coupled with the release of Nickell Robey-Coleman has subtracted two of the top four cover men from the Bills roster last season. Buffalo also chose not to re-sign reserve CB Corey White, whose 24 career starts almost match the total combined starts of the three new corners signed by the Bills (25).

Yes, there are six corners on Buffalo’s current roster, but Ronald Darby is probably the only proven starter. It leaves a noticeable vacancy at the position.

Fortunately for the Bills this year’s draft class offers a bumper crop of cornerbacks that stretches into the fourth round with quality prospects.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott may have a defensive scheme that focuses less on press man and more on zone coverage schemes, but it doesn’t diminish the importance of having talented players on the boundary of his defense.

“Corner is an important position and you talk about affecting quarterbacks, right? I’m a big believer in trying to affect quarterbacks from the defensive side of the football, and cornerbacks are an important part of that in terms of that formula,” said McDermott. “That’s a position we’re looking hard at, just like the other positions. We’re taking a long time to detail our work and make sure we’ve got all the ‘I’s dotted and ‘T’s crossed.”

McDermott is all too familiar in relying on young defenders on the edges. In his last season as defensive coordinator for Carolina, he went through a similar circumstance to the one his Buffalo secondary faces now. They lost their best cornerback in Josh Norman after the club rescinded the franchise tag, and proceeded to selected three cornerbacks in the 2016 draft.

James Bradberry in the second round, Daryl Worley in the third round and Zack Sanchez in the fifth round.


Bradberry and Worley went on to start a combined 24 times as rookies under McDermott last season and got noticeably better as the season wore on.

“You want to find guys, especially in the first couple of rounds that can come in and contribute,” McDermott said. “Last year in Carolina, we were able to do that at the corner positions and so you go through, again, the makeup on the players and that’s part of the evaluation process. Are they mature enough to come in and execute at a high level early in their career? That’s what we’re going through now.”

McDermott, who emphasized the need to find players who are "scheme fits" has been very involved in the pre-draft process. General manager Doug Whaley and his scouting staff have had numerous meetings with the coaching staff to school them up on all the prospects in the class at all positions in addition to cornerback.

“I’m involved. Very involved, as everyone is,” said McDermott. “In order to make good, sound decisions, it’s not a one-person meeting. Everyone’s on board, everyone’s in the room. It’s open communication. At the end of the day, it’s not who came up with the idea. It’s that we came up with the right idea at the right time. No different with this draft, and no different with things on the field. We do certain things on the field, as a head coach, I want ideas. We’ve got to be out in front and be dynamic and forward thinking on things. When you do the right thing and you put the time in, you can do that.”