Bills positional review: Defensive line

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
12:00
PM ET
Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:

Position: Defensive line (preseason grades)

SNAP COUNTS
Mario Williams -- 87.4 percent
Kyle Williams -- 82.2 percent
Marcell Dareus -- 72.0 percent
Jerry Hughes -- 52.7 percent
Alan Branch -- 52.1 percent
Corbin Bryant -- 28.8 percent
Alex Carrington -- 14.3 percent
Stefan Charles -- 7.1 percent
Jay Ross -- 4.2 percent

DEPTH

Preseason take: The addition of Branch this offseason was significant. He started 16 games for a top-ranked Seahawks defense last season and stepped right in on Sunday, playing 33 snaps against the Patriots. Ross and Bryant are more developmental pieces who have spent much of their careers on practice squads. In today's NFL, though, depth along the defensive line has become less important as linebackers and defensive backs are used more and more. Grade: B+

Postseason review: This grade was right on the mark. When Carrington went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, it was Branch who stepped in and filled the void. The seventh-year veteran started the final 13 games of the season and was rewarded with a three-year contract extension in December. He and Hughes may have been the Bills' best acquisitions last offseason. Other than Carrington, the Bills' defensive line stayed very healthy, which prevented Bryant and Charles from being thrust into larger roles.

RELIABILITY

Preseason take: There are a few question marks here. Mario Williams has dealt with injuries since arriving in Buffalo, missing time last season because of wrist surgery and sitting out most of training camp this season due to plantar fasciitis. Kyle Williams played in only five games in 2011 due to a foot injury and had offseason Achilles surgery this year. Dareus, the third overall pick in 2011, still needs to show he can be a consistent threat for offenses. Grade: B

Postseason review: This grade should have been higher. The Bills managed Kyle Williams' health well, sitting him out for most Wednesday practices. He did not miss a game. Same for Mario Williams, who shook off an early-season ankle injury to play in his second consecutive 16-game season. Dareus also brushed off preseason questions and became a consistent force, setting a career high with 7.5 sacks. His late-season tardiness for meetings might be the only blemish against this unit.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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