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All-Time Team DL preview

Posted Mar 24, 2009

Visit every Monday for Bills All-Time Team celebrity picks, every Tuesday and Thursday for Bills All-Time Team positional previews, and every Saturday for Bills All-Time Team Season Ticket Holder spotlights.

It’s another long list of nominees for the Bills 50th Season All-Time Team as the defensive line begins the run of defensive candidates.

Three earned multiple AFL-All Star designations, five others earned Pro Bowl recognition, four made the Bills 25th Anniversary Team, three have their names on the Bills Wall of Fame and one will be enshrined in Canton this August.

Remember you can register to vote for the 50th Season All-Time Team online at Buffalobills.com. Voting opens for defensive and head coaching candidates on Wednesday.

Only three defensive linemen can be chosen as the Wall of Fame Committee chose to go with Buffalo’s 3-4 defensive front that was popular in the 80’s and 90’s.

Keep in mind that your defensive line choices are not mandated to include two defensive ends and a nose tackle, but you can only choose three total.

Here’s a preview of some of the better men that held the line for Buffalo’s defense over the past 50 years.

Jim Dunaway (1963-1971)
A former second-round pick in 1963, Dunaway proved to be the perfect complement to Tom Sestak in the middle of Buffalo’s vaunted AFL Championship defense.

Dunaway was a four-time AFL All-Star from 1965-1968 earning 1st team All-Pro honors in 1966. He also stands third all time in games played in a Bills uniform by a defensive tackle with 126, and holds the franchise record for most career fumble recoveries.

“Jimmy was a really strong guy,” said former Bills linebacker Harry Jacobs. “He was a big guy, bigger than Tom (Sestak). He was a solid mass in the middle.”

Phil Hansen (1991-2001)
A full-time starter by his second season on a Super Bowl contending team, Hansen was a dependable anchor on the left end of Buffalo’s 3-4 front.

Second in franchise history in tackles and third in sacks, Hansen was an all-around threat that could even kick inside to tackle on passing downs.

Hansen’s most memorable play came on Oct. 5, 1997 when Hansen broke a 13-13 tie with two minutes remaining in the game by dropping Detroit’s Barry Sanders for a safety in his own end zone in what wound up being a Bills 22-13 victory.

Ron McDole (1963-1970)
Another left defensive end stalwart, McDole was part of Buffalo’s renowned AFL Championship defenses that held opponents without a rushing touchdown for 17 straight games.

Blessed with uncommon athleticism for a man his size (265 pounds), McDole was instrumental in the 23-0 AFL Championship shutout of the high-octane San Diego Chargers as defensive coordinator Joe Collier had McDole drop into coverage while linebackers Mike Stratton and John Tracey blitzed.

A two-time AFL All-Star and 1st team All-Pro in 1966, McDole was also named to the Bills 25th Anniversary Team.

“Ron McDole was probably the best defensive end to go to the other side of the field to make a tackle,” said former teammate Harry Jacobs.

Aaron Schobel (2001-present)
The former second-round pick stepped into the starting lineup for the Bills as a rookie and did not miss a game in almost eight seasons playing in 117 straight games before a Lisfranc foot injury sidelined him in 2008.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Schobel led the Bills in sacks his first seven seasons in the league and earned two Pro Bowl designations in 2006 and 2007.

Second in team annals in sacks (68) and forced fumbles (18), Schobel is one of the more productive pass rushers in franchise history.

Tom Sestak (1962-1968)
Drafted out of college as a tight end, Sestak would go on to have one of the most prolific careers at defensive tackle in Bills history. An integral member of Buffalo’s AFL Championship defenses, Sestak was a dominant inside force.

A first team All-Pro three straight seasons and a four-time AFL All-Star, Sestak is also a member of the AFL All-Time Team and the AFL Hall of Fame. His name also graces the Bills Wall of Fame.

“He was just a super solid contributor on every play,” said Jacobs. “He came in as a tight end and who would ever think of a tight end becoming a defensive tackle. So solid, so strong and so able to make a difference in what was going on up front. Whenever he was called on he was able to get it done. He was just really good.”

Fred Smerlas (1979-1989)
One of the most dominant nose tackles of his era, Smerlas was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. An expert leverage player due to his wrestling background, Smerlas rarely gave up ground and was a consistent penetrator making numerous plays in the opponent’s backfield.

Second only to Bruce Smith in games played in a Buffalo uniform by a defensive lineman with 162, Smerlas’ most memorable play was when he blocked a game-winning Pat Leahy field goal attempt to force overtime and help clinch the AFC East title for the Bills in 1988.

Smerlas is a member of the Bills Wall of Fame and was also named to the Bills 25th Anniversary Team.

“Fred was a wrestler, unbelievable leverage, couldn’t knock him off his feet,” said Hall of Fame guard and former teammate Joe DeLamielleure. “Great pass rusher from the inside. He should be a Hall of Famer in my opinion. He made five Pro Bowls. There is no nose guard in the Hall of Fame, pure nose guard. Him and Joe Klecko should be in the Hall of Fame.”
 
Bruce Smith (1985-1999)
The NFL and franchise’s all-time sack leader, Bruce Smith was one of the most feared pass rushers in league history.

Manning the right defensive end position for 15 seasons, the former number one overall pick had 12 seasons of double digit sacks in his 15 years as a Bill.

An 11-time Pro Bowler, Smith was also named 1st team All-Pro eight times. A member of the Bills Wall of Fame, Smith will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August.

Ted Washington (1995-2000)
The prototype nose tackle of his era, Washington was an immovable object in Buffalo’s 3-4 defensive front.

One of the main cogs in Buffalo’s number one ranked defense in 1999, Washington was one of the league’s most dominant run defenders. Buffalo ranked fifth, fourth and sixth in the league against the run his last three seasons with the Bills (1998-2000).

Selected to three Pro Bowls in his time with Buffalo, Washington recorded a career-high 130 tackles in 1996. 

Ben Williams (1976-1985)
Williams was one of Buffalo’s primary pass rushers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The former third-round pick earned Pro Bowl honors in 1982.

Williams is also one of only five defensive linemen in Bills history to record a double digit sack season when he had 10 in 1983. He is also a member of the Bills 25th Anniversary team.

His most memorable play came in Dec. 13, 1981 when Williams sacked Matt Cavanaugh in the end zone for a safety in a Bills 19-10 win over New England.

“He was a great leader and great player,” said DeLamielleure. “He had extremely long arms. He was like a poor man’s Elvin Bethea, and he was a Hall of Famer. Just a step below that.”

Pat Williams (1997-2004)
A self made player, Williams went from undrafted rookie free agent to dominant defensive tackle as the Texas A&M product became a fixture on the defensive interior for the Bills in the new century.

Williams was an integral part of Buffalo’s number two ranked defense in 2004.

One of his more memorable plays was his 20-yard interception return for a touchdown in a Dec. 5, 2004 game at Miami to seal a 42-32 win over the Dolphins with 1:55 left in the game.