After surrendering more than 200 rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time in 20 seasons, the Bills decided a change had to be made in the heart of their defense. With Paul Posluszny?s broken arm still not cleared for contact, Buffalo?s staff will move weak side linebacker Kawika Mitchell to the middle.
?We need help in the middle,? said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. ?So I felt like that was plan ?B? if plan ?A? didn?t work, and plan ?A? wasn?t working so I had to go to plan ?B?.?
Mitchell (6?1? 253) is a stouter option for the ?mike? linebacker position than the man he replaces in first-year player Marcus Buggs (5?11? 225). Buggs has started the last three games at middle linebacker after Posluszny broke his forearm in the season opener. The defensive co-captain is excited about returning to his former position.
?It?s a natural position for me,? Mitchell said. ?I enjoy making the calls and the checks and all that. I?m excited about it and it?s not going to be that difficult of a move. I do take pride in the fact that I am (going) in there during a time that we?re having some problems. I have always felt that the ?mike? is the one that takes responsibility for all that so I?m excited to be that guy.?
The seven-year veteran played at middle linebacker during his first four NFL seasons with Kansas City. His most productive year was in 2005 when he recorded 135 tackles with two sacks an interception, a fumble recovery and 14 pass breakups.
?(He has) size, experience, command,? said Fewell. ?We missed that command on Sunday. There were a lot of mistakes that were made and we have to have somebody that can take control, run the defense and have confidence in what you?re doing and how to get it done. So I had to go with the person who I felt could do that.?
?I think he?ll do great,? said defensive end Chris Kelsay. ?Many times you?ll see one of the defensive captains be your ?mike? linebacker. Poz as the ?mike? before he got hurt, he was one of our captains, and now moving Kawika there, he?ll do a good job there. He can make the checks and get everybody aligned where he wants us and everybody should be able to hear him so that?s definitely good.?
Fewell was perturbed at the number of errors in last Sunday?s game with respect to the team?s fits on run plays and was not going to let it go by the board without changes being made.
?If you look at the tape and as I looked at it with the entire defense there were 26 plays and there was a mistake made on every play,? said Fewell. ?They did not do that in practice. For whatever reason, I don?t know, they didn?t fit it and didn?t get it done like we wanted to get it done and so I?m not going to stand there and say, ?Well that?s okay fellas, we?re going to put the same guys on the field and do the same thing again.? Bullcrap. We?re going to get it right.?
Palmer to man weak sideMeanwhile the defensive staff elected to fill Mitchell?s open weak side position with rookie Ashlee Palmer. The undrafted Ole Miss product was a pleasant surprise in training camp, but has played almost exclusively on special teams this season.
Known as a fleet-footed linebacker, Palmer is considered a sideline-to-sideline defender capable of chasing down plays even if they?re run away from him.
?He has good size,? said Fewell. ?I think he?ll give us the enthusiasm we want. I think he?ll run and hit for us. We just hope to keep it as simple as we can for him so he can have some success on Sunday.?
?I think he?s extremely athletic,? said Mitchell. ?He does some things? I like to call him ?acrobat.? He just does some crazy looking things sometimes. He?s definitely going to make an impact as long as he stays in it mentally which I think he will. I think he?ll do a great job.?
The new assignment caught Palmer a bit off guard, but he?s ready to make the most of his first career NFL start when the Bills host the Browns on Sunday.
?It?s a big opportunity to go out there and show them that I am a capable backup or I could be a capable starter,? said Palmer. ?So I?m basically just going to know what I?m supposed to do, my keys, my reads, my assignments with the offense and what they?re doing and just play hard. Just continue to play hard and things will go from there.?
Palmer says he?ll do his best to stay focused and not get overhyped about his role this weekend. He admits what will help is having the man ahead of him on the depth chart lined up next to him in the middle.
?I?ve been getting teaching from him in minicamp and training camp and most of the things he?s mentioned I?ve taken heed,? said Palmer. ?I?ll ask him a question about a certain thing or two and how he would play it. But Sunday I have to go out there and play it and that?s basically what it comes down to.?