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The Buffalo Bills went into 2008 with high hopes on defense. Strong safety Donte Whitner was so psyched up about the season he issued a playoff guarantee over the summer.
The Bills traded for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. Linebacker Paul Posluszny, a former Butkus Award winner, and Ko Simpson were returning from season-erasing injuries.
After 11 games, the Bills are about as pedestrian as you can get. They rank 19th in scoring defense, 16th in total defense, 20th in run defense and 16th in pass defense.
"I am disappointed with where we are at this point," Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Wednesday. "I didn't think we were an elite defense. I thought we were good enough to be in the top 15 or top 10 defenses.
"When you allow explosive plays, that screws up every number that you could think of. And then we had trouble, maybe two weeks we didn't do very well on third down, maybe three weeks. It's an accumulation of things like our continuity isn't as good as it was early, and so now we just have to get our continuity back and try and get our mojo back."
A few injuries have exposed a stunning lack of depth.
While the New England Patriots suffer a series of monumental, year-ending injuries and keep winning, the Bills are staggered by some nagging problems.
Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel has been the biggest loss, a bum foot keeping him out six straight games. Whitner has missed time with a separated shoulder. Cornerbacks Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer have battled sprained knees.
"As we always say, everybody's got their injuries," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "You just have to find a way to play through them, over them, and find a way to get a victory somehow."
But what of their reserve linebackers? They made a controversial decision to put last year's leading tackler, Angelo Crowell, on injured reserve, seemingly to punish him for opting to have relatively minor knee surgery right before the season.
The backups behind Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison (he didn't practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury) have been a crew comprised of Blake Costanzo, Teddy Lehman, Jon Corto, Marcus Buggs and John DiGiorgio -- names that could be mistaken for the Tonawanda City Council.
Bryan Scott, the 6-foot-1, 219-pound safety, has been working out with the linebackers.