The Buffalo Bills group at safety is believed by many to be unsolidified. This could be true, as Jairus Byrd’s departure not only left a huge hole in center field, it also took away the Bills number one defensive playmaker. But maybe it is not as bad as most think.
Losing Byrd is one thing that no Bills fan wanted to see, but it was inevitable. Perhaps the quick signing of Aaron Williams in the offseason raised a red flag in most peoples mind who follow the Bills, as it showed who the Bills were moving forward with or without their top safety.
Signing Aaron Williams to a new deal and letting Byrd go was the best move for the Bills front office. They parted ways with a player that was tired of losing in Buffalo and wanted too much money. Williams is coming off of his best year as a pro and was a great fit at safety for Mike Pettine all last season. Williams even played solid at corner during times throughout the season where the Bills were thin at that spot, showing improvement from his troubling start in the league.
With Williams expected to take on a major role in Byrd’s absence, it’s a good idea to start getting familiar with who else will be filling in. The next guy in line is Da’Norris Searcy who is going into his fourth season in Buffalo. Aside from Williams, Searcy quietly had a great year last season in his role filling in for both Byrd and Williams. Searcy finished only 11 tackles behind Williams (71 compared to 82) but he also racked up 3.5 sacks. Da’Norris also picked one ball off, and defended 7 passes thrown his way. Don’t forget his crucial fumble recovery that he took 74 yards for a TD against New England all the way back in week one as well.
Many believe that the Bills should go after a high profile safety in this years draft in order to fill the void at safety next season. This may be a good idea, however it is tough to find a great safety to immediately implement into the league. Take one comparison from a current Bill on the roster, a top safety in the draft this year: the Bills own Duke Williams and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
These two are very similar in their physical build, both standing at 5’11” and just over 200 pounds. If you haven’t had a chance to see Duke play at Nevada, do yourself a favor and check out his hard hitting ability for a moment.
He plays with the same physical and tenacious play that many draft analyst are looking for and touting this years safeties for having (such as Pryor or Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix). Duke Williams was a very similar college player to the top safeties in this year’s draft, however he has not yet cracked the Bills lineup.
With Byrd leaving and Aaron Williams taking over, the other safety spot is going to be a dogfight to earn on this team. Searcy and Williams have to be the front runners to fill the spot, as they are already on the team. Bills fans should remember that they already have a highly talented young prospect at the safety position in Duke Williams before thinking we need to draft a safety by the 2nd to 3rd round.
As mentioned before it is difficult to develop a top safety out of college, and it could be that Duke is already further along in that process than any top prospect is going to be this year. The Bills coaching staff could have high hopes for the young kid who definitely has talent, and that is probably part of the idea in letting Byrd fly.
Next season’s secondary will include Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, and Duke Williams, even if we draft some talent at the position in this years draft. If the Bills look to strengthen the safety spot they will probably do so in the middle of the draft between the 4th to 7th rounds as they look to strengthen the team up front on both sides of the ball early.