Whether you call it rebuilding or something else, there’s no question that the Bills are again in a state of transition.
There’s a new coaching staff headed by Doug Marrone and a new General Manager in Doug Whaley and the chances for a long run on both fronts will have a lot to do with the team’s ability to stop opposing offenses through the air. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine comes to Buffalo after years working with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and New York, with the defenses in the Jets years being built around Darrelle Revis‘ ability to handle business on his side of the field without much help from the rest of the defense.
Pettine is installing a similarly aggressive defense in Buffalo and the best candidate to be a shutdown corner is 2012 first-round pick Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore struggled with penalties as a rookie, but handled himself fairly well otherwise and Whaley says that the stage is set for bigger things in his second season.
“If you look at Gilmore and you’ve been around the practices this spring, he’s made a leap from Year One to Year Two,” Whaley said in an interview with Chris Brown of the team’s website. “And that’s very encouraging. Any time you see a rookie going into the second year not slip into that sophomore slump, but make a transition and improve, that’s always a positive.”
If Gilmore’s progress is apparent once the Bills start playing other teams, the defense will be poised for a leap of its own. With players like Jairus Byrd, Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, the Bills have pieces that can serve as the foundation for a strong defense during the 2013 season and a rising star at cornerback could be just the thing to make that defense a reality.