With run defense a problem in terms of keeping players in their proper gaps Bills defensive coordinator needed more consistency from his linebacking corps. But that was hard to come by with youth dominating the position group. That along with injury were the main reasons why Buffalo sought out an additional veteran presence in free agent Chris Draft.
Sitting at home during the season was something new for Draft after he was released by the Rams Sept. 10. But after signing with the Bills two weeks ago, Draft was able to cram a month's work of installation done in training camp by the rest of the roster into a week, and it gave him an opportunity to start this past Sunday against Carolina.
"You want the phone to ring," said Draft a 10-year NFL vet. "But it definitely takes a lot of work to be able to be ready to go out there. History helps, but it takes a little while to be comfortable in the defense."
All indications so far are that Draft is going to be just fine. He was used sparingly in his first week with the team against the Jets in Week 6 with all of four days to prepare, but on his first play for Buffalo Draft dropped Mark Sanchez for a sack and 16-yard loss to set up a third and long and eventually a New York punt.
One week later he was starting on the strong side against the team he once played for in the Carolina Panthers, with Keith Ellison moving to the weak side. And on Sunday Draft delivered as well teaming up with fellow linebacker Paul Posluszny for a tackle for loss on a key 4th-and-1 play at the Bills 13-yard line.
The two linebackers stoned Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart for a two-yard loss forcing a turnover on downs and preserving Buffalo's 7-2 lead in the third quarter.
"That's one of the things you want to be able to do," said Draft. "Two weeks ago with one play being able to get a sack and then this past week being able to be involved in the short yardage play, it's important to be able to do that. This league is about results and making plays and you always want to be able to say that I contributed to the game."
"I really like Chris Draft," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's a very smart veteran. He brings additional leadership and we don't lack leadership at the linebacker position. And he's a very savvy player so there's a great comfort with him on the field."
Draft's insertion into the starting lineup coincided with an improved performance by Buffalo's run defense. After surrendering a season high 318 rushing yards the week before, Draft helped to tie things down as Carolina's eighth-ranked running game was held 18 yards under their season average (132).
"It's a huge step," said Draft. "You're talking about over 300 yards the week before and this past Sunday we were down around 110 (114). That was real big when you consider its one of the top two running back duos in the league, on top of the fact that it was clear they made up their mind that in that game they were going to run the ball. They were able to put some yards up, but in general when you come away with them only getting one touchdown that's a real good thing. We still have to gets the yards down though."
Draft is hopeful his performance Sunday will keep him in the starting lineup. He's still getting adjusted, but credits the players and coaches in helping him adapt to a new scheme and new teammates.
"This team and this organization have made it very easy," he said. "When you're talking about coming to a new team there's nothing easy about it, but it's been fairly easy in being able to come in and learn and catch up."
Catching up hasn't been a problem for Draft. He's quickly convinced Buffalo's staff he can be a reliable performer, and playing again has the 10-year veteran hungry and looking forward to the next matchup.
"We have a game this week that's huge," he said. "The Houston Texans have been playing well. We need to go get this game and then get to this bye week and get people healthy."