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Jairus Byrd: Bills DBs won't back down

6/21/2010

The Buffalo Bills' secondary will need to compete hard in a division that features some of the NFL's most dangerous and prolific receivers.

The New England Patriots have future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and slot receiver extraordinaire Wes Welker. The Miami Dolphins traded for Brandon Marshall. The New York Jets can put three 1,000-yard receivers -- Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery -- on the field at the same time.

When I rattled off some of those names to second-year safety Jairus Byrd recently, he didn't seem intimidated.

"Opportunity," Byrd said. "That's the biggest thing. Any time you have those marquee guys come into your division, it just presents opportunity for you to step your game up to get better, to push yourself to a limit where you separate yourself."

The Bills have a multitude of question marks. Quarterback, left tackle, No. 2 receiver, Marshawn Lynch, a switch to a 3-4 defense, nose tackle, Aaron Schobel's status.

Yet one area of comfort can be found in the secondary.

Buffalo's defensive backfield is good, young and deep.

"We can be, honestly, as good as we want to be," said Byrd, who tied for the NFL's interceptions lead as a rookie last year. "We're so deep back there, everyone's going to have a role. And as long as everyone can accept their role and be the best at it, I don't see why we can't be as good as we want to be."

The Bills' secondary isn't star-studded. Byrd is the only one to have made a Pro Bowl as a defensive back. But it was good enough to rank second in the NFL in pass defense and second in interceptions.

Bills coach Chan Gailey has glowed about his unit.

"I've gone to a lot of teams," Gailey said at the NFL owners meetings. "I don't know that I've ever gone to a team that the secondary -- I'm talking corner and safety position -- is as strong as we have right now overall.

"When I went to Dallas, when I went to Miami, when I went to Pittsburgh they were all good. But I'm not so sure that this isn't the strongest group."

Left cornerback Terrence McGee went to a Pro Bowl as a kick returner. Right cornerback Leodis McKelvin, coming off injured reserve, was the 11th overall pick two years ago. Drayton Florence started 13 games at right cornerback last year. Reggie Corner started six games at left cornerback.

Safety Donte Whitner was the eighth pick four years ago. George Wilson emerged as the starting strong safety after Bryan Scott was moved to linebacker out of desperation.

"We have a lot of pride," Byrd said. "We're very confident in our abilities. We know we have some challenges ahead, but I think we're all working hard and we're ready to take them on."