Here's the Bills news of note for Oct. 30th.
**1 - Dareus makes his debut
**It’s been an awfully long wait for Bills fans to see Marcell Dareus lining up in Buffalo’s defense. That wait has finally come to an end. The talented defensive tackle will be on the field in today’s pivotal division matchup with New England. Though the Bills defensive front was holding its own for the most part through the first half of the season, the run defense faltered badly last week in Miami. Knowing Dareus’ presence in the middle of that front would’ve helped only increased the desire of defensive coaches and teammates to get him back in the lineup.
“We’ve been anxious and excited to get him back,” said Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. “It looks like he’s ready to play.”
Dareus looked ready to play three weeks ago until he pulled his hamstring in the Friday practice before the game against the Rams in Week 5, sidelining him for three additional games.
Frustrated by the circumstances Dareus fully committed to the rehab plan.
“Whatever our trainers requested of me, whatever our strength coaches felt was best, I stuck to a strict plan,” said Dareus. “Hopefully this time it works because I can’t have any more minor setbacks. I’m ready to play man. Sitting on the bench isn’t fun.”
How much of a workload is given to Dareus is what bears watching today. Will he see a full game of action, or does the athletic training staff not want to tax his recovered hamstring too much?
New England is also known to turn up the tempo between plays. Dareus, however is confident in the fitness level he brings with him back to the field. A fitness level that even his coaches can believe in.
“I feel pretty good about it,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “He did a cartwheel out there (at practice Friday), so I’d say he feels pretty good.”
2 - Whaley: Trade market could pick up Monday There has been a lot of media speculation about players on the trade block in the NFL. It’s no secret that the Bills could use some help at wide receiver with all their injuries at the position. Greg Salas and Sammy Watkins are on injured reserve and Marcus Easley and Kolby Listenbee are both on Reserve lists with little to no chance of returning this season. Robert Woods is trying to play through a foot injury and Marquise Goodwin is in the concussion protocol.
In an interview on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 late this week, Bills GM Doug Whaley said they’re open to opportunities to improve their roster via trade.
“We’re looking at everything. Obviously our phones are always open,” Whaley said. “You’ve got to pick up the phone and listen and see what’s out there. So we have until Tuesday. So we’ll keep working the phones and if something comes that we think will help us down the road or in the immediate future as you know we wouldn’t hesitate to make a trade.”
Whaley is referencing the league’s 4 pm trade deadline on Nov. 1st. The Bills personnel boss said things have been rather quiet across the league in terms of a trade market, but he believes that could change early this week.
“I’m sure it’s going to pick up after Sunday,” Whaley said. “A lot of teams might think they have an excess and then two guys go down in a certain position and you don’t have an excess anymore. I think if anything in the league goes down it’ll probably be after this weekend’s games.”
3 - Safety by committee Aaron Williams is out this week with a neck injury. Rex Ryan admitted that there are long term concerns about Williams’ return this season knowing this is his second neck injury in as many seasons. That leaves the Bills in a difficult spot today facing the Patriots’ dynamic tight end combination of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
No NFL team has really come up with a good answer for both Gronkowski and Bennett. With both 6-5 and better than 255 pounds, they’re an automatic mismatch in terms of size. Couple that with their athleticism and a pinpoint accurate passer in Tom Brady and it’s a formidable challenge for any defense.
“I think they are both Pro Bowl tight ends, so that’s one thing,” said Ryan. “They both have great ability as blockers, and then they can be vertical receivers, or possession receivers and they’re huge. They just have a massive catching radius, they can run after the catch, they are competitive. It’s difficult.”
Aaron Williams has routinely been one of the primary coverage players assigned to Gronkowski over the years. That was the case in the Week 4 game with Gronkowski and Bennett. Zach Brown also had some coverage assignments in handling the Patriots tight ends.
So what’s the approach absent Williams?
It’s expected that Buffalo will do some of what they did the first two weeks of the season when the Bills were still trying to get Williams re-acclimated to game action after he missed most of the preseason with a concussion suffered in training camp.
They rotated in all of their safeties, who got time alongside veteran Corey Graham. Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams all rotated through against Baltimore and the Jets in Weeks 1 and 2.
When Williams exited last week’s game in Miami, the rolled the safeties through alongside Graham again. Ryan gave indication that approach would resurface this week with Aaron Williams out.
“Kind of like last week. We’ll play all those guys,” said Ryan.
Look for Graham and Zach Brown to be the primary coverage players on Gronkowski and Bennett. Duke Williams and Meeks have the physicality and the speed to run with Gronkowski. Bennett runs a bit better and needs a player that has speed covering him, which might prove to be a better fit for Blanton.
How the Bills defensive coaches divide up the playing time and the assignments will be a chess match worth monitoring.