Countdown to Bills Camp: The Defensive Line

July 21, 2018
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Derek Kramer
@DerekKramerWGR


The Buffalo Bills are quickly nearing the start of training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY. With camp starting on Thursday, we'll look into each of the main units of the offense and defense. 

Previously:

Next up:
 

THE DEFENSIVE LINE

The most maligned unit from last season has also been the most addressed on the defense from last season.

The defensive line was plagued last season by roster moves (trading Marcell Dareus), injury (Shaq Lawson ended up on injured reserve, played 11 games) or underperformance (Jerry Hughes and Lawson tied for the team lead with four sacks). Hughes and Lawson had a lot of extra attention after the Dareus trade, which had a role to play in the 27 sacks they accumulated, which was third worst in the league.

In addition to the poor pass rush, the defense was also getting torched in the running game that gave up the most rushing touchdowns last year and a 29th ranked run defense in yards allowed. Lawson, Hughes and Kyle Williams all return for the 2018 season, but now there are more names coming to aid a unit that had next to no capable depth last year.


NOTABLE DEPARTURES: 

The most notable departure happened mid-season in the Dareus trade, but after that, the Bills mostly lost depth pieces and bottom of the roster players.


NOTABLE ADDITIONS: 

This is where the defense will see the most new faces.

The Bills signed defensive end Trent Murphy to add to a rotation with Hughes and Lawson to attempt to bolster the pass rush. Owa Odighizuwa was also added to compete with the role players at defensive end.

At defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei was added to help out the struggling run defense. Lotulelei is superb at taking up blockers, which will free up the linebackers to get into running lanes, as well as help Hughes and Lawson get more one on one matchups.

With Kyle Williams nearing the end of his career, the team also drafted Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips in the third round. Phillips should factor into a rotation with Lotulelei, Williams and Adolphus Washington.


WHAT TO EXPECT: 

The defensive line has to be better, simply since it's hard to fathom how much worse it could have performed last season.

Of the 27 sacks last season, six were from players not on the defensive line. The defense wound up needing to rely on timely blitzing to help generate pressure on the pass rush. The addition of Murphy and Odighizawa should help, as well as what looks like a renewed focus from Lawson.

The run defense was putrid, especially after the trade of Dareus. Say what you will about the man, but Dareus was someone who needed extra attention in blocking schemes.

While his stat line won't show his true value, Lotulelei gives the defense a space eater who will free up defenders to make more plays. Lotulelei's presence also allows Williams to play more of his style in creating havoc and get Washington back to a rotational role. Phillips will be another energetic body for a healthy rotation in the middle of the line and has a burst off of the ball that is similar to Williams.


Up next: the offensive line.