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Buffalo Bills All-Drought Team: Defense

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Last week, I came out with my All-Drought offense. This week, it’s the All-Drought defense. Again, I tried finding talented players who never reached the playoffs during their time as Buffalo Bills, but there were some exceptions. Even though Kyle Williams made the playoffs during his final year in 2017, there is no way that he should be left off this list; he embodied the drought for everything he put into our organization, fan base, and city over the years. So with that, here are the next 11 players on my All-Drought team.

Defensive End: Aaron Schobel

After getting drafted by the Bills in the second round (46th overall) in the 2001 NFL Draft, Aaron Schobel went on to have an impressive nine-year career with the Bills. Schobel is second on the team’s all-time sacks list with 78. He put up double-digit sacks four times, including a career-best 14 sacks in 2006; he earned a Pro Bowl nod as well as Second Team All-Pro honors that season. Schobel reached the Pro Bowl again in 2007 before going out with 10 sacks in his final season in 2009.

Defensive Tackle: Kyle Williams

When I think of what it means to be a Buffalo Bill, Kyle Williams is one of the first names to come to mind. Williams had the character that is hard to find and impossible to teach. He showed it day-in and day-out during some of the team’s darkest years. In 13 years with the Bills, Williams made six Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro Second Team in 2010 after he had 76 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. He is eighth on the Bills’ all-time sacks list with 48.5. (His best season, sack wise, came in 2013, when he had 10.5). And let’s not forget, he also has a rushing touchdown on his resume!

Defensive Tackle: Marcell Dareus

This was a tough call between Marcell Dareus and Pat Williams, but I ended up going with Dareus. Williams does have the numbers to be the guy here — he finished with two 80+ tackle seasons in eight years in Buffalo. But, considering he signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent three years before the drought, I chose not to include him.

The other main reason why I didn’t include him is that Dareus had some huge years for the Bills before his career went downhill. I think his drug violations and suspensions tarnished his career and how people view it. But, when he was in his prime, he was a force to be reckoned with. Dareus was traded during his seventh year with the Bills in 2017 as the Jacksonville Jaguars took on his huge contract (and suspensions). Again, because of how his career ended, it seems kind of crazy that Dareus was here for almost seven years.

Dareus’ best season came in 2014, when he compiled 49 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and 10 sacks en route to First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. In his first four seasons in the league, Dareus never had fewer than 5.5 sacks. He finished his Buffalo Bills career with 292 total tackles and 35 sacks, good for 12th on the team’s all-time sacks list.

Defensive End: Mario Williams

Mario Williams is another key defensive lineman from the Jim Schwartz era. I still remember when the Bills signed Super Mario in 2012. The hype building up to it was unreal, and the amount of excitement that I had after he signed the contract was unmatched (at the time).

Williams went on to have a real solid four-year career with the Bills. He put up double-digit sacks in three out of his four seasons, with his best year coming in 2014 (14.5). He was named to the All-Pro Second Team and Pro Bowl in 2013, and to the All-Pro First Team and Pro Bowl in 2014. Mario is ninth on Buffalo’s all-time sacks list with 43.

Linebacker: Takeo Spikes

The Buffalo Bills pried Takeo Spikes away from Cincinnati in 2003, signing him to a six-year, $32 million offer sheet. Immediately after coming to Buffalo, Spikes earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Then, he became a First Team All-Pro in 2004 (and earned another trip to the Pro Bowl). He finished ‘03 with 126 total tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, and one interception. In ‘04, he had 98 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, five interceptions (two of them were pick-sixes), four forced fumbles, and three sacks.

Spikes tore his Achilles in September of 2005. He came back in 2006 and posted 70 total tackles and one sack. After that season, the Bills traded him and QB Kelly Holcomb to the Philadelphia Eagles for DT Darwin Walker (who never reported to training camp and was traded by the Bills) and a draft pick.

Linebacker: London Fletcher

To be completely honest, I forgot just how good London Fletcher was until I went back and looked at his stats. Fletcher tallied at least 100 total tackles in each of his last 14 (out of 16) seasons, including a career-high 166 with Washington in 2011.

Fletcher played in Buffalo from 2002-2006. His total tackles with the Bills, in chronological order, were: 149, 133, 144, 158, and 146. Fletcher also had 37 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks, seven fumble recoveries, and five interceptions during his Buffalo tenure. Surprisingly though, despite his big numbers, Fletcher didn’t make the Pro Bowl until 2009 and didn’t find his way to an All-Pro team until 2011.

Linebacker: Angelo Crowell

Going into this, I wasn’t expecting to have Angelo Crowell on my list. But then I realized how thin the Bills were at outside linebacker all those years. I also realized that Crowell put up some bigger numbers than I had thought. After serving as a backup/special teams linebacker for two years, Crowell replaced Takeo Spikes in 2005 after he tore his Achilles. In 15 games (13 starts), Crowell finished with 120 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss, three sacks, and two interceptions. He became a full-time starter after ’05 and had 84 total tackles in 2006 and 126 in 2007. His career unfortunately ended after ’07 due to multiple injuries.

Cornerback: Nate Clements

The Buffalo Bills drafted Nate Clements 21st overall in the 2001 Draft. Clements wound up playing in the league for 12 years, half of those coming in Buffalo. In his six years with the Bills, Clements finished with 446 total tackles, 87 passes defended, 23 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, and five touchdowns (off of interceptions).

Clements had two six-interception seasons (‘02 and ‘04) and one 100+ tackle season (’05). He made his only Pro Bowl in 2004, a season in which he had 79 tackles, six interceptions (one pick-six), 14 passes defended, five forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. On March 2, 2007, Clements signed an eight-year, $80 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Strong Safety: Donte Whitner

I don’t think Donte Whitner, the eighth overall pick in the 2006 Draft, ever lived up to expectations. But he did put up some solid numbers during his five years in Buffalo, and then in San Francisco and Cleveland, where he went to the Pro Bowl once with each of those teams.

During his Bills tenure, he recorded 453 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, five interceptions, and one pick-six. Whitner compiled 106 tackles and had one interception during his rookie campaign in ‘06. His best statistical season came in 2010, when he had 140 tackles (96 solo) — fifth best in the league. (Bills MLB Paul Posluszny finished third with 151 tackles.)

Honorable Mentions: George Wilson & Aaron Williams

Other names that came to mind for this were George Wilson and Aaron Williams. In seven seasons with the Bills, Wilson had 412 tackles, 12 interceptions, and three 100+ tackle seasons (the most he ever had was 106). Meanwhile, Williams played six seasons with the Bills. He finished his career with 257 tackles and seven interceptions before injuries unfortunately cut his career short.

Free Safety: Jairus Byrd

Jairus Byrd, Buffalo’s second round pick (42nd overall) in 2009, was the definition of a ball hawk during his rookie year. He had NINE interceptions in 14 games played (11 games started). Byrd recorded three consecutive two-interception games (Weeks 6-8), tying an NFL record. After the Bills’ bye week, Byrd intercepted his eighth pass of the season off of Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. It was his fifth straight game with an interception, setting the franchise record.

Byrd finished his five-year Buffalo Bills career with 356 total tackles, 22 interceptions, and 11 forced fumbles. His accolades include three Pro Bowls, two Second Team All-Pro selections, and a second-place finish for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. These all came before Byrd signed a six year, $56 million contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2014.

Cornerback: Antoine Winfield

This was a tricky one, considering Winfield made the playoffs with the Bills in 1999. But he was such a strong talent and missed the playoffs each of his next four seasons in Buffalo, so I chose to include him. Winfield finished his Bills career with 357 total tackles, 43 passes defended, and six interceptions. His best season came in ‘03, when he had 109 total tackles (94 solo), 12 passes defended, one interception, and one sack. He was regarded as the top free agent cornerback on the market in 2004. He eventually signed with Minnesota and racked up three Pro Bowl appearances and a Second Team All-Pro selection in nine seasons there.

Honorable Mention: Stephon Gilmore

If I was constructing this list based on the overall careers of these players, Gilmore would probably get the nod here. But, since it’s mainly based on what they did during their time with the drought-era Bills, I can’t choose Gilmore. Like I said with Marshawn Lynch and Willis McGahee, Gilmore seemed like he never wanted to be here. Then, he trash talked Buffalo after he left, saying how he was never seen on national TV. So if he didn’t want to persevere throughout the drought, how can he part of the All-Drought team?

Gilmore was always a solid corner for the Bills, but his career took off after he left for New England. Funny, huh? In four seasons with the Patriots, Gilmore made three Pro Bowls, earned two All-Pro First Team honors, and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. (To tie it back to the current Bills, I’m glad the Bills drafted Kaiir Elam and didn’t sign the 31-year old Gilmore this offseason, who got $10 million from the Indianapolis Colts.)

Coming Up Next Week:

Well, there is my Buffalo Bills All-Drought Defensive Team. We have 22 positions covered now between the offense and the defense. Make sure to look for next week’s article, where I present my All-Drought specialists, coaches, and coordinators!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Angeline Smith Leone

    May 31, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    Very thorough ! Well informed. ! I can see you have studied the Bills for years. Thanks for your Bills knowledge .

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