Most observers don't notice a defensive lineman unless he's stuffing a back in the hole or dropping a quarterback for a sack. Marcell Dareus did both of those things in Sunday's loss to the Chargers as he tries to use the end of his first season as a springboard for 2012.
Just last week Dareus admitted he felt close to the so called "rookie wall." With college football seasons wrapped up until the bowl game schedule gets started NFL rookies are trying to plow through the last month of the regular season.
"Trying to stay fresh is tough," Dareus said. "Old injuries just keep recurring and your body just hurts."
Dareus looked pretty spry in Sunday's game registering five tackles, including two for loss, a pair of quarterback hits and a sack.
"Marcell was one of the bright spots," said head coach Chan Gailey. "He did some good things (Sunday), he really did. That was a plus coming out of the ball game."
The Bills top pick leads the team in sacks on the season with 4.5, which is the most by a Bills rookie since Aaron Schobel posted 6.5 in 2001. His sack came on the sixth play from scrimmage as Dareus looped in from the left side and wrestled Philip Rivers to the ground for an eight-yard loss.
In the second quarter Dareus got pressure on Rivers forcing an incomplete pass intended for Vincent Jackson that foiled a 3rd-and-10 attempt by San Diego and led to a punt.
Early in the second half Dareus stuffed Ryan Mathews for a one-yard loss on a 2nd-and-6 play at the Chargers 17. On the very next play Rivers pump faked, but the ball slipped out of his hands and rolled into the end zone where Bryan Scott pounced on it for Buffalo's only touchdown of the game. Dareus is now second on the team in tackles for loss this season (8) with only Nick Barnett in front of him (11).
What's impressed Buffalo's coaching staff the most however, has been his ability to maintain his level of play no matter where he's be lined up on the team's defensive front.
"He's played so many different positions, he played nose, he played tackle, he played end, he played all over the place," said Gailey. "I think he is comfortable at a lot of spots. Wherever he has been he's been good in there and he's created some problems and I think he'll continue to create problems."
With the postseason no longer part of the equation for Buffalo, Dareus is just trying to further develop his all-around game with the three games the Bills have left on their regular season schedule.
"I feel like I'm getting better and better each week," he said. "I've just got to keep on building on to it. I'm not satisfied. I still have things I want to do better, run fits, pass rush, everything I can do to get us better as a unit."
And knowing Dareus will have Kyle Williams back alongside him in 2012 has the coaching staff excited about the possibilities that never really came to pass this season due to Williams foot injury that placed him on injured reserve.
"I do believe we're on the right track and do believe we can get there," said Gailey. "We didn't get there this year, but I do believe we can get there. We've just got to keep building."