It's been a practice of Kyle Williams for the better part of the last eight years. His ability to diagnose opponent protections and exploit the weaknesses is uncanny. In fact Williams is so effective that each of the last four coaching staffs, including the current one, let the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle call the pass rush games for Buffalo's defensive line on the field.
One of the biggest beneficiaries last year was Lorenzo Alexander, who in his first season with the Bills logged 12.5 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl. You can understand why Alexander was over the moon when Williams chose to return for a 12th NFL season.
Now in their second year as teammates, Alexander and Williams, whose birthdays are just 11 days apart in 1983, have an on-field chemistry that just seems to naturally flow.
"You just like playing with people that know the game and communicate well, who don't panic," said Alexander. "He's your ultimate pro. For me I really enjoy playing with guys like that."
For Williams, the success on the field is rooted in the preparation process.
"I think you can attribute that to communication and reps," he said. "This defense it's pretty clear. Feeling and playing off each other you know where you're going to be. That's really what it is. Communication and reps and preparation through the week."
The two 34-year olds might be considered old school, but their approach to the game is a perfect fit for what Sean McDermott wants on his roster.
The way the two can play off one another is expected to have even more success in this year's defensive scheme. Not that last year wasn't wholly productive. The duo combined for 128 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.
"They do have a great symmetry between them," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "They're on the same page in so many areas. Those guys are great leaders who really have a way of energizing their teammates. Their relationship is unlike any I've ever seen."
One example came last week in the win over the Jets. On a 3rd-and-4 play, Alexander playing left defensive end was given an inside rush lane as the right tackle overset on the pass play. As Alexander drove hard inside, Williams immediately recognized the right tackle doubling back to recover. Williams disengaged from the center and looped around to the left going behind Alexander and right around the right tackle to QB Josh McCown.
McCown stepped up in the pocket to avoid Williams and a certain sack and dumped the ball off to Robby Williams underneath. Williams, who never stopped running, then caught Anderson from behind and dropped him short of the first down marker to force a punt.
"Sean (McDermott) showed that play to the entire team," said Frazier. "It was a tremendous effort play. It was an example of what Kyle is as a player. He's one of those guys who is not only very talented, but puts forth the effort as well."
"There are a lot of things that go into that," Williams said. "In that scenario, the tackle came down. I was able to come free. I'm attacking his up-field shoulder and 99 percent of the time they end up going wide. But there ended up being a gap on the back side and Lorenzo runs straight through, so sometimes it works out perfectly. Some other times you just affect him and get him off his spot and maybe somebody else can get a sack. It all works together."
It's a play that demonstrate how quickly Williams can read Alexander's intentions as a play unfolds, and that ability to read one another goes both ways.
"Sometimes I'll naturally just run a tackle-end game where I'll let him go first and I'll go underneath just because he loves to get up the field," Alexander said. "But that's a feel thing. We just work well together. We talk and hang out. All that type of stuff works for us and then it comes together on the field. We have an understanding.
"Sometimes I'm not even paying attention to him, but he's telling me stuff that I can hear and I know it. I don't have to say, 'Huh? What?' I know what's going on. So, there's a trust factor there too."
But for only playing one season together, the speed at which they recognize what the other is doing just seems inherent.
"It's almost as if they're reading each other's minds when it comes to certain things that we're trying to do," said Frazier. "That's a special relationship between two veteran players that come from totally different backgrounds. But because of their experience in this league and the fact that they're tremendous character people as well, there's something unique about their relationship. It kind of blends with some of our other players."
A good example of how the two incorporate some of their other teammates came on the interception by Micah Hyde to seal the win against the Jets in the waning moments of the fourth quarter last Sunday.
Left to right the Bills defensive line was Alexander, Shaq Lawson, Williams and Jerry Hughes on a 1st-and-10 for the Jets. New York is in all-out pass mode down nine with under two minutes to play.
Williams called for Lawson to drive up the field and outside to draw attention from the right guard, while also cutting the right tackle out of the play.
Jerry Hughes drove hard inside to engage the left tackle and encourage help from the left guard. Meanwhile Williams drove up field quickly to engage the center, just long enough for Alexander to loop underneath Lawson and exploit the gap in the middle of the Jets protection.
As the center pulled away from Williams to stop Alexander, Williams looped around to his right, underneath Hughes, who had the left tackle and left guard completely tied up.
McCown was suddenly staring down the double barrel of an Alexander-Williams shotgun. He rushed to get the pass attempt off as Alexander and Williams almost made simultaneous contact on McCown. The fluttering ball was picked off by Hyde and the win was secured.
"He communicates, gets everybody lined up and you can win with those types of guys," said Alexander of Williams. "Obviously, he's also a hell of an athlete. He opened up a lot of stuff for me last year where he'd get guys off their spot and I would come in and clean up. Selfishly just better for me and better for our team."
"He's probably one of the couple of the guys in the league that I admire the most from an effort standpoint, from a perseverance standpoint and the way he is as a guy," said Williams of Alexander. "Then you couple all that with how he performs on the field. It's just a lot of fun to be around a guy like that every day."
"They feed off of that relationship between the two of them. It's unique," said Frazier. "It's good for our defense and good for our team."