The Buffalo Bills have one of the most talented defensive lines in the National Football League. Mario and Kyle Williams have established themselves as premier players at their respective positions, but it’s Marcell Dareus, the Bills’ No. 3 pick in the 2011 Draft, that makes everything work.
Standing 6’3” and weighing 330+ pounds, Dareus is a fantastic athlete. An incredible combination of strength, power and quickness has allowed him to rapidly develop into one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league.
Talent has never been an issue for Dareus, but there were questions regarding whether he’d ever reach his full potential after he was suspended at the end of the 2013 season for tardiness, before being arrested twice in the offseason.
Making matters worse, he failed his conditioning test when he arrived at training camp, leading to rumblings of being a possible release. Instead, it seems that Mario Williams, a team captain, has taken Dareus under his wing, guiding him and teaching the young man how to be a professional. Dareus put it all together and has given 100% on every snap he’s taken this year, something that fans hadn’t seen from the premier athlete in his first three seasons.
Rushing The Passer
Throughout the Bills’ first 10 games of the 2014 season, Dareus has racked up 10 sacks- three more than the next highest total by a defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy- who recently agreed to a seven-year contract worth $98 million, including $51.5 million in guaranteed money. He’s added another 15 hurries and three hits, a pretty astonishing total, considering that he’s primarily lining up at the one-technique “nose tackle” position where he faces double teams on a consistent basis.
On the following play, Dareus is lined up at the zero-technique, directly over the center as a true nose tackle. He explodes off the snap, getting a low base and using his hands to get Chiefs’ center Rodney Hudson’s arms out of the way. As the right guard comes for a combo block, Dareus quickly muscles through it, before forcing a bad throw by Alex Smith
Plays like these are so impressive because of what it does for the rest of the defensive line. With Dareus occupying the center and right guard on most snaps, it puts Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams, who are great players, in one-on-one situations.
In the above play, Dareus is again tasked with defeating two blockers, while Jerry Hughes loops inside on a stunt, unblocked. Dareus bull-rushes through the offensive lineman, bringing down Matthew Stafford at the same time as Hughes, who had a free rush at him. Dareus’ relentlessness, power and speed have allowed him to be successful early in his career, but it’s his improvement on the technical aspects of his game–hand usage and leverage—that have allowed him to be such a disruptive force this season.
Defending the Run
As disruptive as Marcell Dareus has been against the pass throughout his first 3 ½ seasons as a pro, it took a bit of time to develop into the run defender that he is today. According to ProFootballFocus, Dareus graded out as the 58th and 82nd best run defender among defensive tackles in his first two seasons with the Bills. He displayed a lack of lower-body strength, looked out of shape or unmotivated at times, and simply wasn’t effective throughout entire games when defending the run.
However, when Mike Pettine came to the team as defensive coordinator for the 2013 season, Dareus came into his own, thriving as a nose tackle and a five-technique defensive end, where he showed the ability to win matchups and hold his ground. He finished the season as the 3rd best run defender at his position, while leading defensive tackles in run “stops” with 36.
His impact against the run doesn’t always appear on the stat sheet, as the above play indicates. Dareus lines up at the one-technique, in-between the center and guard. Jim Schwartz’ “Wide 9” alignment puts the Jets’ left guard and right tackle in space with Mario Williams and Kyle Williams. After the snap, Dareus is engaged by a double team, but he maintains leverage and doesn’t surrender any ground, allowing Nigel Bradham to flow to the ball-carrier with a clear lane.
When he’s not being double-teamed, he shows the ability to blow up blockers and chase down running backs that weigh over 100 pounds less than him.
Contract Situation, Future In Buffalo
At 24-years old, Marcell Dareus is not only the best player on the Bills’ loaded defensive line, but he’s also the youngest. The Bills picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which buys the team another year of his services, but a deal needs to be done.
I feel as if I watch enough football to make the statement that Marcell Dareus is the best all-around defensive tackle in the entire National Football League. Gerald McCoy is a dominating, game-changing player who wins from the under-tackle position, where he sees less frequent double-teams than Dareus.
Here is a comparison of their careers. McCoy was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, while Dareus was No. 3 in 2011.
The Bills will need to at least match the deal made between the Buccaneers and McCoy and it will be worth it. Dareus is a complete player that directly influences the play of those around him. His ability to win from a variety of alignments is not a trait that’s readily available in free agency or the draft. Quite frankly, Dareus is a game-changing talent that’s just scratching the surface of his potential, and it’s imperative that Doug Whaley gets a long-term deal signed sooner, rather than later.