Bills scrap 3-4 defense amidst historic slump

The Bills coaching staff has reached the same conclusion that we wrote about repeatedly this offseason: Buffalo simply doesn’t have the personnel to play the 3-4 defense.

Like almost every NFL defense, the Bills play a variety of fronts every week.  But they have gradually transitioned to a 4-3 the last few games. After their bye week, the team used the 4-3 almost exclusively as their base defense against the Ravens.

The Bills gave up 200 yards rushing three straight weeks before the bye, so coach Chan Gailey said he made the move out of necessity.  The problem is that Buffalo’s season was basically over before the switch was made.  The Bills have given up 30 points in five straight games for the first time in franchise history.

“I’ll be honest with you, this is one of the toughest seasons I’ve had
as a pro, just because of the transition,” said defensive end/linebacker Chris Kelsay. “I’m still
optimistic about it, but it shows that it’s going to take a little bit
of time.”

This is what we were talking about when we said a few weeks the Bills lacked a coherent organizational vision, and couldn’t stick to one plan.  The problem here was the plan itself: Buffalo’s defense was respectable; they competed hard.  Their pass defense was excellent.  It was a lightweight, fast defense that didn’t have a lot of logical 3-4 pieces.

The shame of it all is that coach Chan Gailey has begun to turn around the Buffalo offense into an exciting, productive group.  But his decision to shoehorn a defensive system that doesn’t fit his personnel helped torpedo the Bills season before it started. 

38 responses to “Bills scrap 3-4 defense amidst historic slump

  1. I would say fire the Gailey and the whole front office, but really, who are they going to get to come to Buffalo? It’s hopeless.

  2. “his decision to shoehorn a defensive system that doesn’t fit his personnel helped torpedo the Bills season before it started”
    His season was torpedoed years ago, by horrible personnel moves, and as you say, no consistent plan.
    I think that if they allow Chan room to operate and grow, and make smarter personnel decisions, in a couple of years he will have a contender there.
    The one thing about Chan – he can coach qb’s – the most important player, in terms of wins and losses, on any team in today’s NFL.

  3. Im a Bills fan and I realize that it will probubly take 3 to 4 years to fully transition to a 3-4 defense. The bills drafted for a 3-4 D, but there just wasnt that many solid unrestricted FAs this offseason to get farther along.
    All that said, a good coach will gameplan around his teams strengths, not their weakensses. It is as if they just started looking at the players the last few weeks.
    Both the starting QB and RB are gone and the whole D scheme has changed. Shouldnt they have seen this in the off-season??

  4. Stooler fans (among others) were talking $hit after the Bills almost beat the Ravens at M&T.
    Beware: Ryan Fitzpatrick is a helluva QB. You give him any time, he will sail a beautiful pass to one of his underrated wideouts for a TD. I saw it 4 times Sunday and I gotta say I was highly impressed. Beautiful touch and he’s a smart guy. He’s also #2 in passer rating league-wide, behind Peyton Manning.
    Personally, I think the Bills would be stupid to get a QB in the 1st round next year as they really could build a fantastic team around Fitzpatrick. Build that “D” up and they’d be a very competitive team!

  5. Well, this change certainly can’t make the Bills any worse. I’m still fuming about the waste of over 500 yards offense from last week.
    Maybe this will end the fantasy football strategy of starting whichever RB is going against the Bills. (Hey, I can hope!)

  6. They fire their old DC in Perry Fewell (who’s doing a pretty good job in New York), they draft a return man/3rd down back with a top 10 pick, they claim they’re confident in Trent Edwards being the starter this year, and they hire a college coach coverting a very successful 4-3 defense — into a 3-4 for no apparent reason.
    What a terrible organization.

  7. do they want fat al, he is playing pretty good now, i am in good with the owner, i can work out a deal for the big fella.

  8. Thanks to that dumb ass defensive coordinator George Edwards formally from the Miami Dolphins. He stinks!!! I sure would love to have Perry Fewell back, currently the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. Look, the Bills have the worst defense in the NFL, we all know that, they don’t have one decent linebacker on the team. Poz I believe is the only linebacker that would make an NFL squad, but he would be 2nd string on most NFL teams. The Bills offence is doing just fine and is fun to watch, but they just can’t stop anybody!!! I wish George Edwards would pack his bags and go back to Miami!! Bring back Perry Fewell!!!!

  9. I have hope (hometown) that Chan can inspire the staff and players in the offense, and that buddy nix can coordinate some decent drafts in the next couple of years… but I had always wondered why they tried to turn this teams personnel into a 3-4 team when they simply weren’t built for it… AND when you consider that the defense was pretty solid for a sub 500 team the last few years.
    …still, id be amazed to see better then 6-10 this year, unless what we saw out of the offense shows up consistently here on out and the front 7 go back to what they were doing 2-3 years ago, even without schoebel and mitchell.

  10. andyprough says:
    October 27, 2010 2:00 PM

    I think that if they allow Chan room to operate and grow, and make smarter personnel decisions, in a couple of years he will have a contender there.
    The one thing about Chan – he can coach qb’s – the most important player, in terms of wins and losses, on any team in today’s NFL.
    Chan Gailey has never coached a team into a legitimate “contender” anywhere- one division title in Dallas with a first round playoff loss, five seven win seasons in six years at Georgia Tech.
    Oh yeah, I forgot, he coached Troy State to a D2 national title in 19 freakin 84.
    Mediocre may as well be this guy’s middle name.
    If he’s a great QB’s coach (who cut his starting QB during the season because he wasn’t getting any better) than make him the damn QB’s coach.

  11. nikuk says:
    October 27, 2010 2:30 PM
    I have hope (hometown) that Chan can inspire the staff and players in the offense, and that buddy nix can coordinate some decent drafts in the next couple of years…
    …still, id be amazed to see better then 6-10 this year
    Justin Beiber has a better chance of getting a Christmas card from Tom Brady than the Bills do of going 6-10.
    It is a good sign for the Bills that the draft has moved into prime time. That allows for Buddy Nix to make the early bird dinner special and be back at his desk in time. It’s also good that the Bills will be drafting in the top 10 for the next couple of years, because even without his usual glass of warm milk, there’s no way he makes it past 9:30.

  12. It’s a shame…Maybin should have excelled in the 3-4, but instead he plays like crap and acts like a jackass. Perhaps they can build off of their 3-4 experience next year. If their O keeps playin this way (minus the 3rd quarter) then they may decide to stick with a 4-3 if they see some success with it.
    At this point, they have not seen any success, so they can change as much as they want until something works. The trade deadline is past us, there isn’t much to pick from on free agency right now….so how are the Bills supposed to build on a plan…..they need to win a damn game.

  13. The Bills Defense crumbled after they let go of Winfield, Clements, Fletcher and Schobel. I would prefer they stick with the 3-4 as they drafted to that defense and if they scrap it all the players that made the physical changes to play it will be worse in a 4-3, but if we use a multiple D like Baltimore i think it could work. It only takes 1 or 2 playmakers on a 3-4 defense to make it solid. Look at Dallas and San Diego. Dallas has Ware and Ratliff all the other guys are pretty average, and Spencer is good at what he does, Takes advantage of the attention paid to Ware. Now look at San Diego of a few years ago. They had Merriman and Williams. And again most of the other guys were pretty average and then Shaun Phillips again makes the most out of the attention paid to Merriman. A 3-4 defense is complex however it really only takes 2 playmakers in the front 7 to make it work. And who ever said that we should’nt draft a QB high next year is right QB is the hardest position to evaluate and our scouts really havent proven of late to be the best at that.

  14. This is the best move that the Bills have made all year…the problem is that they should have made it in training camp. They do not have the right mix of players for a 3-4 defense. Their secondary was outstanding last year and they should have played to their strengths. The Bills will not go 0-16. They will beat a division opponent this year…i just hope it is not my dolphins

  15. worst team ever. spend a high pick on CJ Spiller instead of help on the D then bench him every week.

  16. It’s actually refreshing to see a coach ditch a system that’s not working, instead of being stubborn to the end with a bad system. It may not be enough to save his job or even the Bills’ season, but at least they’re still trying.
    Almost beating the Ravens also shows the Bills aren’t going to be a 16-loss team.

  17. Dear Buffalo —
    Please go on a tear and win several games.
    49ers fans who want an elite QB

  18. My skins made the switch this year and all our fans were kicking and screaming. Now they see the turnovers and BOOM! they are buying in. If you don’t have the players but the system is good don’t change the system, change the players. Play with what you have and audition until you know who to get rid of.

  19. 0-16??? Don’t they play Chicago?…that’s a W! I wonder who Cutler will scoff at after throwing an sh$#load of picks in that game. I’ll go with McGee.

  20. @ Unnamed Source
    I’m getting tired of everyone saying who the Bills should have drafted instead of CJ Spiller. Florio should create a thread for everyone to bitch and moan about whether they should have drafted a QB or a Nose Tackle, or a Right Tackle, etc.
    The Bills had a worse season last year than the record shows, they should have been 5-11 but Indy pulled their starters the last game. The Bills had a lot of places that needed improvement and regardless of what most people are saying, our running back situation wasn’t as good as everyone thinks. Lynch was on his way out and Jackson is getting older (for a RB). Spiller was projected to get selected in the top 5 and he was still available at 9. Spiller is a playmaker but he doesn’t know how to pick up blocks as well as an experienced RB should. He’ll eventually acquire this skill. Everyone has seen what Spiller is capable of, he is not a bust. You can argue until you are blue in the face that we should have drafted someone else, but Spiller is a valuable player on the roster. Thus far McCoy and Clausen aren’t looking like they would have helped the Bills as much as Fitzpatrick.
    I like the Spiller pick. Even now. I wish we would have fixed our offensive line, or picked up a nose tackle or a linebacker…..keep in mind, the Bills were projected to get McClain but the Raiders picked him up right before us at #8.

  21. hollywood. Don’t count the 4 picks against the Bears. Cutler sux and his WR’s didn’t help him out a bit!
    Your skins only have 2 more TO’s than the Lions and you played 1 more game than the Lions. Prepare to have a loss before your bye week because you just won’t win when you walk into the House of Spears!

  22. Gailey transformed the Bills offense into an exciting, productive group? They’re 27th in total offense, and that includes a 500 yrd performance last week. I agree the defense is pathetic and the bills would be at least 2-4 if they had a half way decent defense, but the offense is still horrible.

  23. grendel, you are an idiot.
    if you are evan grenda, you are an even greater idiot. fire gailey? your are truly a moron.

  24. reading the comments: I’m glad all of you are not the Bill’s GM. We gave Richard Jauron 4 friggin years! Give Gailey at least two. Have any of you recently started a 501(c)(4)? Acting like it.

  25. The Bills are using both a 3 and 4 man front, as many 3-4 teams do. They are not altering their plan on the 3-4 defense. They did bring in some players who are familiar with this defense-Dwan Edwards, Reggie Torbor, Akin Ayodele – but they need more starting caliber players. The existing group will probably get better as the season goes on. Gailey has done a good job.

  26. Bills will go 6-10. I see wins against the Lions and Tigers and Bears on the schedule. Oh my.
    I see dead people.
    I can see New Jersey from my house. You betcha. (wink).

  27. @ Unnamed Source
    What RB that has gone in the top ten in the last five years has started day one as a 3 down back? No One! Wow your an idiot. Ok actually they were very smart with that pick by not “reaching” for a player they need, instead they drafted the best available. And he doesn’t get benched, he plays special teams and plays some offense on downs and in situations where he can be truely effective. If we were to give him the ball 20 time a game and say “run it up the gut” he would have terrible stats and more than likely rattle his confidence. And also out of the next ten picks which other player should we have selected out of need? or even the rest of the firs round? the only other sensible choice would have been Bulaga but he started the season at guard and again would have been a reach. So knock the spiller pick all you want but the Bills went with a safe pick and a potentially explosive player. So do your home work next time! The Bills will win Sunday and they will win 2 division games @Miami and Home against NE I predict a 4-12 or 5-11 like i have said all along.

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