Less than a week before the NFL Combine. Make sure you keep your laptop locked on Buffalobills.com for wall-to-wall coverage from Indy beginning on Thursday morning. Now to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net.
1 - Hey Chris,
My question is in regard to Kirk Morrison. I thought he was an above average to good NFL linebacker in Oakland, then what happened? That was only 2 years ago, he’s not even 30, and now he can’t sniff the field? And if it was the Bills system more than his level of play, why has he not been talked about at all as an option in the new 4-3 defense that is expected to be installed more often next season? I believe his contract is up, but I haven’t heard or read his name once.
CB: Morrison had a tough time getting on the field for a couple of reasons. First, he was signed days before the season opener so he had some catch up work to do. By the time he was fully adjusted to the scheme Kelvin Sheppard had begun to emerge and locked down the ILB spot alongside veteran Nick Barnett.
What’s going to be interesting is with the defense switching to the 4-3 I think he’s going to be a consideration for the strong side linebacker position. Talking to Coach Wannstedt he did express a desire to get Morrison re-signed. I think he’s capable of backing up Sheppard in the middle while also competing for a starting role at SLB.
2 - Hi Chris,
You do a good job covering the Bills. I do want to ask why the management wants to change from a 3-4 back to a 4-3 when they have spent two seasons drafting the personal for the 3-4? I do not see this as a step forward, but rather a waste of the investment in players they have taken the last two years. Shawne Merriman did not work out, but could be an answer to the pass rush problem.
As a coach I had to change my defense year to year because my players were not always suited to what I did the year before the current season. I made changes in how I played a defense to suit the players I had and schemed to make them more effective.
The Bills right now have players that could play both even and odd front looks effectively given the chance to develop and having all the players able to play. Maybe a more aggressive defense with
good technique containing the outside ( setting the edge ) and new wrinkles, which should come with our new defensive coordinator, will make it all work without a mid rebuilding change of plan.
A suffering fan in Arizona,
Max F. Stolzenberg, Jr.
CB: I think to characterize the defensive change as a prompt to rebuild is misguided quite frankly. The Bills played with four down linemen a good deal of the time, but I’ll let Dave Wannstedt explain.
“We played last year about 65-percent of our snaps in nickel personnel, where we actually had four down (linemen) in the game with their hand in the ground. No matter if we had five defensive backs or six defensive backs it didn’t matter,” said Wannstedt. “The point was, if you looked at us, we were doing a lot of things that there’s carry-over within the 4-3 scheme.”
I think there are a lot of players that offer scheme versatility on Buffalo’s defense. Chief among them are Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay. Williams and Kelsay have already played most of their careers in the 4-3 with the Bills. Merriman has never played in the 4-3 in the NFL, but might benefit from dropping into coverage less as a true rush end and is underrated as a run defender.
Torell Troup played defensive tackle in a 4-3 in college and Alex Carrington played defensive end in a 4-3 at the collegiate level. Spencer Johnson was signed in free agency by this team when they were still playing a 4-3 front under the previous coaching regime.
Sheppard played MLB in a 4-3 at LSU and Nick Barnett is more than capable of playing weakside LB in a 4-3. So I don’t really see a rebuilding plan here. I think most of the pieces are scheme versatile enough to hit the ground running with this scheme.
3 - Hey Chris,
I have a few questions about the 4-3 defense we may run under Wannstedt. If your remember that last time we were a full 4-3/cover 2 defense Byrd had 9 interceptions, now I was wondering how a 4-3 defense differs from a 3-4 as far as secondary scheme goes because in 09 it seemed like we had way more interceptions then in ’10 and ’11. Also i assume that we will target a nice pass rush DE in the draft and that Kelsay will move back to DE also but who will be the DT I also assume that it will be Dareus and Williams with Johnson and Troup that 3rd and 4th but where would guys like Carrington go?
Josh Hubert, Syracuse NY
CB: I think most of your assumptions are right, although Dwan Edwards might be the other defensive tackle alongside Troup in the rotation. I think a guy like Carrington has to prove he can put pressure on the passer at the end position. He did that at Arkansas State as an end in a 4-3 front (21.5 sacks). As far as the secondary is concerned not a whole lot changes going from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The coverages are largely the same, though the means by which they disguise some looks might be different.
I don’t know that you can tie Byrd’s success as a rookie to the scheme. Personally I think Byrd’s best season was 2011. I felt his all-around game was as good as I’ve seen it. He’s not just a takeaway guy, he’s shown he can be more than that.
4 - Hey Chris,
I remember you mentioning that one of the best things the current Bills management has done is to build the front lines. I was just wondering if the Bills found that the best player available in the first round was a DT like Devon Still from PSU, would they consider drafting him and moving Dareus to DE like Haloti Ngata has done at times for the Ravens? Do you think they would draft the DT to continue getting depth at DT? Or would they go to the next best player not at DT?
CB: The way the Bills operate is they take the best player on the board when they’re on the clock. If there are a couple of players of comparable value and one is at a position of need then they’ll take the player at the position of need.
Devon Still by the way is trumped at the DT position by some underclassmen. Most scouts I’ve spoken with maintain that Michael Brockers from LSU, Jerel Worthy from Michigan State and Dontari Poe from Memphis are all superior to Still.
5 - Chris:
I always enjoy your interviews and film breakdown with the coaches in your top 10 series. I was wondering if you see a time where Coach Gailey will turn over the play calling to Offensive Coordinator Curtis Modkins, and exactly how much is Coach Modkins involved with the game planning and game day decisions? What are your thoughts on Coach Bicknell being on the radar for other teams as Offensive Coordinator and eventually getting interviews for Head Coaching Positions? I believe he may be on many teams short list soon.
CB: Thanks for the kind words on our Top 10 Performances of 2011 Series. We enjoyed bringing it to you and for the dedicated fan it’s a great way to get some film room insight from Buffalo’s coaching staff. Our last installment of the series will run this Tuesday.
As for play calling duties Chan Gailey when he was hired did say he would eventually hand off those responsibilities to Curtis Modkins, but I don’t think he’s there yet. I think once Gailey feels as though his offense is a smooth running machine week in and week out, only then might he turn over the reins.
With respect to coach Bicknell, it would not shock me if he started drawing interest around the league for OC positions. Knowing he was a successful offensive coordinator in NFL Europe it would not surprise me at all.
Tags: 4-3 defense, Bob Bicknell, Chan Gailey, Curtis Modkins, Dave Wannstedt, Fan Friday, Kirk Morrison, Shawne Merriman, Top 10 Performances of 2011
Posted in Inside the Bills