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Keith Rivers release doesn't affect Bills' defensive plans

2/17/2015

The Buffalo Bills continued to tweak their roster Tuesday, releasing linebacker Keith Rivers.

It's a move that doesn't come as much of a surprise, as Rivers barely saw the field in the second half of last season and wasn't expected to have a role at linebacker next season.

The transaction, however, is a chance to circle back on how the Bills plan to stock their defense under Rex Ryan's scheme next season. The best indicators are how Ryan used his personnel with the New York Jets last season and how his protege, Mike Pettine, used players when he implemented Ryan's scheme with the Bills in 2013.

Fitting the puzzle pieces into place isn't an exact science, as some players are capable of playing more than one role. There is also the issue of base versus sub defense. What follows is how Ryan figures to align his base defense, but his sub defense is becoming equally important, as teams are using it for 50 percent or more of their snaps in today's NFL.

Given that disclaimer, here is a look at how the Bills figure to construct their defense for next season:

"Mike" and "Will" linebackers

  • 2013 Bills: Kiko Alonso and Arthur Moats/Nigel Bradham

  • 2014 Jets: David Harris and Demario Davis

  • 2015 Bills candidates: Alonso, Bradham, Preston Brown and possibly Brandon Spikes (if re-signed). If retained, Rivers would have been part of this group.

  • Responsibilities: Varied, but usually aligned 4-6 yards off the line of scrimmage. Duties include taking on offensive guards in running game, protecting middle of the field in zone coverage and occasionally blitzing.

"Sam" linebacker

  • 2013 Bills: Manny Lawson

  • 2014 Jets: Calvin Pace

  • 2015 Bills candidates: Lawson, possibly Jerry Hughes (if re-signed) or other free agent/draft pick

  • Responsibilities: Typically aligned as a stand-up linebacker, on or near the line of scrimmage and sometimes over the tight end. Responsibilities include jamming tight ends and slot receivers, containing outside runs, dropping into short zone coverages and pass rushing.

Defensive end/rush end

  • 2013 Bills: Mario Williams

  • 2014 Jets: Quinton Coples

  • 2015 Bills candidates: Williams

  • Responsibilities: Most often aligned in a three-point stance as a defensive end. Responsibilities usually are limited to pass rushing and containing outside runs but can also stand up and drop into coverage on some zone-blitz-style schemes.

Defensive linemen