Shep studying Zach Thomas tape

Posted by Chris Brown on June 6, 2012 – 10:57 am

He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time 1st Team All-Pro. Add in the fact that he played the same position in the same exact defensive scheme as Kelvin Sheppard will be in charge of and there are too many good reasons why Shep is going to be taking a closer look at Zach Thomas game tape very soon.

“I haven’t got around to all that yet,” said Sheppard in a Wednesday morning appearance on Bills flagship WGR Sportsradio 550. “I just checked out a couple of Zach Thomas tapes so far. When I go back home to Atlanta and I’m training down there I’ll have time to really go into detail with those things. I’m trying to get our own tape down first.”

Sheppard is hoping to gain some perspective on what made Thomas so effective in Wannstedt’s scheme besides the former linebacker’s talent.

“He was a middle linebacker that had a lot of success in this exact same scheme,” said Sheppard. “He was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro guy who had a lot of success. It’s not that I want to be Zach Thomas or duplicate what he did, but being around this game I know if a guy is having success and is doing things right for a long time you want to check out what they did, especially if they’re playing in the exact same scheme that you’re playing in.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

No excuses for Shep

Posted by Chris Brown on June 6, 2012 – 10:45 am

Whether it was being deprived of OTAs and minicamp practices last offseason due to the lockout or being thrust into the starting MLB role in Buffalo’s defense, Kelvin Sheppard refuses to have any excuses. He just wants to be ready to play and run Dave Wannstedt’s defense.

Appearing on Bills flagship WGR Sportsradio 550, Sheppard never wants to give himself an out for not performing or executing at his best. For that matter neither does his linebacker coach.

“Of course I’m a second-year player, but that gives me no excuses,” said Sheppard. “My linebackers coach Bob Sanders told me the first day of OTAs that he doesn’t care what everybody else says like, ‘I messed up, I’m a second-year player.’ That’s out the window. I’m the starting middle linebacker so my job is to know all of my assignments as well as those of my teammates. So I’m kind of the general on the field.”

Fortunately for Sheppard, the 4-3 defense he ran at LSU as their MLB is pretty similar to the one he’s now in charge of lining up in Buffalo.

“I’ve worked and played in this defense pretty much my whole career so I’m really familiar with the schemes,” he said.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

1 Bills DT that won’t lose weight

Posted by Chris Brown on June 5, 2012 – 8:32 am

As we profiled on the home page of this morning (Tuesday), there are a handful of Buffalo defensive tackles looking to lean up just a bit to play more effectively in Dave Wannstedt’s attacking 4-3 system. There’s one DT however, who is going to stay right where he is weight-wise.

That’s Kyle Williams. Williams has never been a behemoth defensive tackle in the 325 to 330 pound range. So the switch to the 4-3 system, which will demand that the defensive linemen get upfield and penetrate won’t affect the 2010 Pro Bowler.

“I’ve always played around 300 pounds,” Williams told “That’s where I’ve always been comfortable. So I intend to stay right around that weight for the season.”

In fact Wannstedt believes among the defensive tackles his system probably fits Williams the best.

Kyle Williams might be the beneficiary of this scheme in a positive way as much as anybody because he’s not a 320-pounder but he is as athletic as anybody as we have on the defensive line,” Wannstedt said. “I’m excited to see him once we get going. I think that he’s going to have a chance to make some plays and he will. He’s gone to the Pro Bowl. Hopefully we can give him an opportunity to make more plays.”

As we reported last week, Williams was sprinkled in for a handful of reps during team work in Thursday and Friday’s OTA sessions last week. We’ll see later today (Tuesday) if his reps increase again.

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Anderson’s burst an eye-catcher

Posted by Chris Brown on June 4, 2012 – 11:20 am

DE Mark Anderson is obviously a new addition to the roster. In one short week of OTAs he’s caught the eye of defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

“He’s got the quickest feet of any defensive linemen we’ve got,” Wannstedt said. “The guy’s got extremely quick feet. I think as an edge rusher we’ll see how it unfolds. He had a good first week. He’s really been interesting. I didn’t realize he has as good a first step which you’ve got to have to be a really good pass rusher. And he’s working to get better. He was out here hanging around with Kyle (Williams) and they were talking about techniques so I think his mindset’s right to have a big year and help us win.”

Anderson just likes the fact that the work ethic of his fellow defensive linemen matches his own business-like approach to the game.

“I just see everybody working hard,” he said. “I’m used to being around guys that work hard and trying to do all the little things it takes to get better. I’ve seen that in this group.”

Bills OTAs resume on Tuesday.

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Wannstedt: McKillop worth a look

Posted by Chris Brown on June 4, 2012 – 8:05 am

Bills LB Scott McKillop is looking to reclaim a pro career that was interrupted by ACL injuries. Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, who was his head coach in college, believes his former Pitt MLB is worth the investment.

“He called me and we were talking and he had gone to Atlanta, Pittsburgh… there were six teams trying to sign him,” Wannstedt told “Around that time was when Chan made the change and we were going to the 4-3 defense and he came up for a visit and we needed linebackers. It’s a great opportunity for him.”

“He and I stayed in contact when I was gone for a little bit,” said McKillop. “I saw him around Pittsburgh with him being from there and me as well, and we stayed in touch last year.”

Wannstedt said McKillop was a victim of the lockout being unable to rehab with his NFL team at the time coming off ACL surgery last offseason.

“He had no offseason,” Wannstedt said. “That’s what got him. If there would’ve been a normal offseason he would’ve done all his rehab out with the 49ers. Instead he’s doing his rehab back in Pittsburgh last year coming off major knee surgery. He shows up in San Francisco with a new coaching staff off his own rehab. After a few practice he gets fluid on his knees. So they put him on PUP for three or four weeks and he doesn’t play. Then he gets back healthy and it’s too late and they don’t know who he is and don’t have a feel for him so they release him. So he spent the whole season in Pittsburgh training.”

But Wannstedt knows McKillop very well.

“He’s an exceptional player,” said the veteran coach. “He graduated in three and a half years so he’s a smart kid. He was a first team All-American. Led the nation in tackles. Tough guy that can play outside or inside. As a rookie he led the 49ers in tackles on special teams.”

McKillop still seems to be favoring his surgically repaired knee, which is understandable. We’ll be able to better assess his chances when the pads go on in training camp.

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For Wannstedt it’s about the D-line

Posted by Chris Brown on June 1, 2012 – 3:58 pm

As excited as defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is about the collection of defensive talent at all positions. In this league where passing is the rule and not the exception, he knows his guys closest to the quarterback at the snap will be the key to their defensive success.

“It’s going to be a defensive line friendly scheme,” said Wannstedt. “By that I mean we’ll be as good as our guys up front. That’s how it was at Dallas, at Miami and every place where we’ve run this scheme. The guys up front it all starts there. If we can get a good rotation going and keep some guys healthy that kind of sets the foundation for what we’re trying to get done here. There’s going to be some transitions, there’s no question about that. Those pre-season games will be very, very important to us because of getting some full speed live work.”

Wannstedt has a heck of a veteran group to work with, which will make for some very, very difficult roster decisions come the close of the preseason.

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Merriman going Benjamin Button?

Posted by Chris Brown on May 31, 2012 – 4:53 pm

When you’ve struggled with a persistent injury for the better part of three years, and you’ve finally reached the point where that injury has been effectively rectified you’re going to feel pretty darn good about your situation. That’s why Shawne Merriman, despite turning 28 last week, feels like he’s turning back the hands of time after returning to the practice field Thursday.

“I’m like Benjamin Button, man,” he said. “I’m going backwards.”

Merriman is referring to the movie character, Benjamin Button, who was “afflicted” with a reverse aging disease at age 70.

Having played in just eight games the past three years, one thing is certain, he’s got a lot less wear and tear on his body, so one could make the argument that Merriman is a ‘young 28.’

“I feel very young,” he said. “Anybody that will get a chance to watch me this year, I’m moving around as I did when I came into the league. Fortunately, that’s really all I had, the Achilles, over the last three years. Now that I’ve had that done, I’m a lot more confident.”

If Merriman continues to progress through OTAs and minicamp the Bills defensive line could be a downright terror for every offensive line in the league. They could come at teams in waves with pass rushers like Mario Williams, Merriman, Mark Anderson as well as interior pocket pushers like Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. To have more veteran talent like Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson and Chris Kelsay to boot has to have Dave Wannstedt giddy.

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The 4-3 appealing to Troup

Posted by Chris Brown on May 25, 2012 – 8:25 am

Torell Troup didn’t have a problem with Buffalo’s old 3-4 defense, but Dave Wannstedt’s new 4-3 scheme is particularly appealing to the defensive tackle.

Troup, who plans to be back on the field full go come training camp, played in a 4-3 system under George O’Leary at Central Florida and likes the playmaking opportunities for defensive linemen in Wannstedt’s scheme.

“The 4-3 is just more of a defensive line scheme,” Troup told “In a 3-4 you’re holding up guys and letting the linebackers shoot gaps. This 4-3 is going to be us getting off the ball and making plays. Whoever has the one-on-one has to win and to me that’s more suited for me and a lot of the guys we have on our defense. This is going to be a better suited defense for the scheme that we’re running.

“The biggest thing is that first step. If you beat that guy when he hikes that ball and get a step on that guy… and I have a great first step and I feel like I’d be able to use that to my advantage this year.”

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Sapp likes Bills D-line

Posted by Chris Brown on May 21, 2012 – 3:28 pm

I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that a former perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Warren Sapp really likes the Bills defensive line, but when asked for his biggest story line in the AFC East this offseason, Sapp picked Buffalo’s defensive coordinator and what he’s got to work with up front.

An NFL Network studio analyst, Sapp pointed chiefly to Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams as the main reason for him believing that Buffalo’s defense will be able to do some damage, and right now there’s no arguing with that point.

Fellow analyst concurred with Sapp’s assessment saying the way you make headway in the AFC East is by neutralizing Tom Brady, and he believes the Bills went a long way in arming themselves with the ability to do that.

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Chan, Wannstedt meet Gilmore

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2012 – 10:54 am

Bills first-round pick Stephon Gilmore is making his way through the offices at One Bills Drive. Here’s a look at who he’s meeting.







Here’s Chan Gailey meeting Stephon upon his arrival at One Bills Drive. They had met before on Gilmore’s pre-draft visit. Behind them is defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Gilmore had just finished talking defense with Wannstedt for about 15 minutes.

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Anderson’s arrival

Posted by Chris Brown on March 20, 2012 – 7:07 pm

Here is free agent DE Mark Anderson arriving in Buffalo this evening (Tuesday) as he meets defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt with assistant defensive line coach William Inge right behind. His free agent visit is scheduled to carry into Wednesday.

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Barnett back in town

Posted by Chris Brown on March 20, 2012 – 11:23 am

Bills LB Nick Barnett was back at One Bills Drive Tuesday.

Barnett was back at the team facility getting a workout in. After talking to defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt yesterday it’s clear that Barnett will have a high impact role in the new defensive scheme.

Wannstedt sees Barnett as a good blitzer, so it sounds as if he’ll be utilized in that role from time to time. Hopefully if the front four gets the pressure most believe it will be able to generate on a down in, down out basis, Barnett will only be called upon 20 to 30 percent of the passing down snaps this coming season.

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Mario didn’t mind flying private

Posted by Chris Brown on March 15, 2012 – 11:16 pm

The Bills pulled out all the stops to get Mario Williams signature on a contract with the club and succeeded. The private plane they used to pick him up in his native North Carolina didn’t hurt.

In a one-on-one interview with Williams, the six-year vet told his initial reaction when informed that the Bills were flying down to pick him up and take him back to Buffalo.

“It was huge. I had no idea,” he said. “I thought I had to get on Continental or something and get my own flights out to places. When I heard they were coming I was ecstatic. I was really excited and then on the plane I was like, ‘What am I going to sit here and say.’ It felt like I was back in college or high school and being recruited, but it felt great to have them there when I got to the airport.”

GM Buddy Nix, Dave Wannstedt and defensive line coach Giff Smith all made the trip.

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What Wannstedt can offer Williams

Posted by Chris Brown on March 13, 2012 – 5:40 pm

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt in conversing with free agent Mario Williams at dinner Tuesday evening in downtown Buffalo with other members of the Bills brass has a lot to offer the prized pass rusher. Here’s a small sampling.

First, he has a proven track record as a successful defensive coordinator including a Super Bowl with Dallas. In his time in Miami, he may also want to point to Jason Taylor’s track record playing in the same position that Williams would play with the Bills in Buffalo were he to sign. Here are Taylor’s stats under Wannstedt.

Year  Tm  Gm Starts Sacks
1999  Mia    15    15          2.5
2000  Mia   16    16         14.5 
2001  Mia   16    16          8.5  
2002  Mia   16    16          18.5 
2003  Mia   16    16          13.0 
2004  Mia   16    16          9.5

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Carrington optimistic about ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on February 17, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Bills DL Alex Carrington is looking forward to the defensive switch they’re making for the 2012 season.

Carrington, who played DE in a 4-3 at Arkansas State, had 21.5 sacks in his college career. He spoke to defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt recently, but didn’t get too many specifics on where he’ll be lining up.

“Not too in depth. I’ll still be on the line of course, but he didn’t go into detail about it,” Carrington told “I talked to him a little bit about the defense and the kind of things they would entail. I’m optimistic about it and I’m ready to start the offseason and get into the swing of the new defense.”

One thing that Carrington is sure of is how aggressive they’re going to be off the edge.

“We’ll be able to play a lot faster,” he said. “They’re going to cut us loose up front a little bit more. I’m anxious to see how this thing plays out.”

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Fan Friday 2-17

Posted by Chris Brown on February 17, 2012 – 1:58 pm

Less than a week before the NFL Combine. Make sure you keep your laptop locked on for wall-to-wall coverage from Indy beginning on Thursday morning. Now to your questions from

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. 

Thanks again,
Fredonia, NY
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?

Thanks Chris,
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.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Where does Moats fit?

Posted by Chris Brown on February 17, 2012 – 11:23 am

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt provided some details as to where some of his players will fit into his new 4-3 scheme. Kelvin Sheppard will be his MLB and Nick Barnett is going to be on the weak side. So who are the candidates for the strong side. One of them appears to be Arthur Moats.

At 6’0″ 252 pounds, one might think he could serve as a backup to Sheppard in the middle, but that’s not where Moats expects to line up initially come May OTAs.

“We briefly talked and mainly he told me what position I’d be looking towards. It’ll be more on the outside,” said Moats. “When I talked to him it was more in the direction of strong side linebacker. It’s pretty similar to what we were doing (last year) just out of a different alignment. Overall it’s a new experience for me and I’ll be taking it on head first.”

Moats will likely be one of a few candidates for that starting SLB role in Wannstedt’s defense. GM Buddy Nix mentioned the need to add another linebacker either in free agency or the draft. Where Chris White will line up is still a mystery at this point, and Kirk Morrison is a free agent.

Moats, who was participating in a Play 60 community event in Buffalo Thursday said they also talked about what he was doing last year in training camp lining up at inside linebacker and how those things played out. Moats flip-flopped back and forth throughout the season last year between inside and outside linebacker. He anticipates with the system being new that they’ll leave him on the strong side.

“I just look at it as a new challenge and it’s inspiring that they would consider me for the job,” he said. “They feel I’m athletic enough and smart enough to handle it.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

All about winning one-on-ones

Posted by Chris Brown on February 16, 2012 – 5:30 pm

In going over what he needs for his defense, Bills DC Dave Wannstedt talked about pass rushers. Knowing the NFL is all about matchups he wants guys that can win the one-on-ones up front.

“If you look at the teams that have had the most success with pressure schemes they’ve been the ones who have won the one-on-one battles,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference if it’s the Giants or the Steelers in a 3-4 scheme. [James] Harrison gets one-on-one because they fire someone inside and he has to win that one-on-one battle against the tackle. That’s kind of how I’m looking at it more from a standpoint of we need guys who when they aren’t being double teamed and they aren’t being chipped we win those one-on-one battles.

“Whether it’s man or it’s zone, that’s really what it comes down to. You’re just trying to get guys isolated and you might try to get a Nick Barnett isolated on an offensive lineman or back that you feel athletically we have an advantage. Now that all works good on the board when you draw that up, but once the ball snaps now Nick is going to be one-on-one with that guy and he has to win that battle. So I kind of look at that across the board, if we can get Kyle and Dareus singled up inside we feel pretty excited that those guys are going to win those one-on-one battles.”

Wannstedt is taking a wait and see approach on Shawne Merriman possibly being that guy, so adding a pass rushing defensive end that can win the one-on-ones is obviously on the team’s shopping list.

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Kyle update

Posted by Chris Brown on February 16, 2012 – 5:25 pm

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, who spoke to the WNY media Thursday, was asked about DT Kyle Williams and how his rehab is coming along after Achilles surgery late last season. Here’s his update.

“Kyle was in town last week and he came back just for his checkups and everything is right on schedule,” said Wannstedt. “There has not been a setback in any form or fashion. When he’s going to be cleared to do something and how much, I don’t know, but we’re looking forward to him having a great year, we really are.”

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Wannstedt high on Shep at MLB

Posted by Chris Brown on February 16, 2012 – 5:23 pm

While Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was clear in saying they need to add pass rush talent at the end position and make sure they have three fast linebackers in their new 4-3 scheme, he’s more than fine with the guy he’s got penciled in at MLB in Kelvin Sheppard.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world with Shep being the middle linebacker,” said Wannstedt. “To me he’s about what you’re looking for in a 4-3 middle linebacker. He did a great job (last year). He really, I thought, got better and better as the year went on. He became more confident and quicker and now he’s got to play in the box and doesn’t need to play on the edge as much. I think it’s going to fit his skills to a ‘T’. I think he’s going to be a very, very productive player for us.”

Sheppard played MLB in a 4-3 at LSU in college, so he should feel right at home in the middle of Buffalo’s defense this fall.

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