The Buffalo Bills have wrapped up the first phase of their offseason program, which included two weeks of strength and conditioning work and classroom instruction.
Players will be back for a three-day veteran minicamp from April 26 through April 28, at which point coaches will begin to install their systems in an on-field setting.
The Bills' defense will be adjusting to its fifth defensive coordinator, Dennis Thurman, in the past five seasons. Thurman and coach Rex Ryan are expected to work closely in assembling the defense.
Will Ryan's scheme be a close parallel to what Mike Pettine used in 2013 in his one season as Bills' defensive coordinator? Or will be it be something different?
Two key defensive players provided different answers to that question Wednesday.
"It's still kind of brand new so we still have to wrap out heads around that," defensive end Jerry Hughes said. "I think it’ll really take fold when we can take the classroom out to the field. For a lot of us, we’re a lot more visual learners so that’ll be something that will help us out too."
Hughes was then specifically asked if there was familiarity with Pettine's system.
"No, no, no," he responded. "This is a completely different scheme. This is Rex Ryan’s defense, and we know it so it’s going to be a lot different."
Mario Williams' perspective on the subject was different when he was asked the same question.
"There are definitely some similarities because they are a part of the same system because Pettine was underneath him," Williams said, "and so there’s a lot of similarities and that kind of gives us a head start and makes it a little easier in transition as far as understanding what he’s expecting and what he wants from each player and each position so it’s definitely beneficial."
Bills coaches -- including Ryan and Thurman -- have said what any coach should say on the subject: They're a "multiple" defense that will align in a variety of formations given specific weekly game plans.
Still, there is a clear pattern to what Ryan has done on defense since his days with with the Baltimore Ravens. It's a framework that Pettine used in Buffalo two years ago and one that will very likely return with Thurman this season.