The Bills’ needs on the defensive side of the ball this offseason are simple. They begin and end with stopping the run. After finishing last in the league and allowing almost 170 rushing yards per game Buffalo needs to add talent and beef to their front seven. Two possible options made their presence felt at the Senior Bowl.
Playing on Chan Gailey’s South Team, Clemson defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins and Baylor DT Phil Taylor made their presence felt early and often during the week of practices. They also became fast friends lined up next to one another on the South Team’s defensive front.
“We established a relationship and held each other accountable and trusting each other and pushing the pocket to make it easier for the ends and the linebackers,” said Jenkins. “That’s what me and Phil (Taylor) are doing.”
“Yeah we’re real cool now,” said Taylor.
The two interior defensive linemen were so dominant inside in the Senior Bowl that the North Team’s average yards per carry was zero. The North Team had 19 carries and gained just 34 yards (1.8 avg.), but they also lost 34 yards in the game to finish with a net total of zero.
A pair of sacks accounted for a loss of 21 of those yards, but even if you remove the two sack plays, the North Team had 17 carries for 28 yards (1.65 avg.).
Though the two run stuffers weren’t in on a lot of tackles, Jenkins and Taylor forced run plays wide allowing the linebackers to clean things up on the edges or disrupted the blocking schemes altogether.
“I was just going out there to compete,” said Taylor. “The guys out there are the best in the country and the best on their team and I’m just wanted to show what I could do.”
“I don’t mind the dirty work, as long as we’re winning that’s all that matters,” said Jenkins whose only tackle went for a loss. “As long as we’re winning games I’m happy.”
Gailey’s South Team won handily (24-10) as his defense had the North Team’s ground game stymied all day. For Jenkins he’s accustomed to freeing up teammates to make plays. He did it for three years with teammate and top rated pass rusher Da’Quan Bowers at Clemson.
“I got the recognition I deserved for pushing the pocket and getting him single blocks,” said Jenkins. “People notice that stuff. When a guy has 17 sacks you wonder how does a guy like Da’Quan get single-teamed and you analyze the whole defensive line and you see that the two inside guys are causing the single blocks. I get good recognition. I’m not the kind of guy that likes attention, but if you give me attention I’m going to take it.”
Jenkins (6’4”, 309) was widely considered a late second or early third-round prospect, but his week in Mobile likely boosted his draft stock heading into the NFL Combine.
Much the same can be said for Taylor, who along with Cal’s Cameron Jordan was one of the two most dominant defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl.
“He’s probably not the most high profile guy that’s ever walked down the pike,” said Gailey. “He’s a force. I know that. He did a good job and worked hard. It’s a lot of fun to watch those guys play and see what they can do.”
Taylor (6’3 ½”, 337), whose background will require some further examination after a transfer from Penn State to Baylor, is forecast as a second-round pick. He was allegedly a part of a fraternity fight that got him suspended and eventually dismissed from the football team. Provided the questions on him are answered he could be closer to the top of that round than the bottom.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” said Taylor. “I let some things slip past me, but when I got down to Baylor I made it right.”
After a senior season in which he had 62 tackles, including seven for loss, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble, Taylor should convince NFL teams that he can be a run stuffing answer.
“It’s all about showing them what I can do,” said Taylor. “And how great a player I am.”
Knowing Buffalo’s desire to add reinforcements to their defensive line it wouldn’t be surprising if each of the big men got long looks from the Bills.
“Obviously you’ve got to have a big nose tackle,” said Bills GM Buddy Nix. “We drafted one last year. We’re happy with (Torell) Troup. We’re happy with (Alex) Carrington. We just need a couple of more now.”