During the Buffalo Bills' glory years of the early 1990s, the team had elite linebackers. Cornelius Bennett, Darryl Talley, Shane Conlan and Carlton Bailey roamed the field during the team's Super Bowl years. When the Bills were making their only legitimate playoff push in a 13-year drought - that being the 2004 season, when the team finished 9-7 - London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes spearheaded one of the league's best defenses.
Look at this year's Super Bowl XLVII participants: Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens is one of the best middle linebackers in the history of the sport, while the San Francisco 49ers boast easily the best duo of inside linebackers in the NFL in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman (not to mention Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, too). Great linebacker play is critical to success in today's NFL, even as offenses get spread-happy and take 'backers off of the field.
Right now - and for the past several seasons, actually - the Bills have bad linebacker play. Nick Barnett is the only every-down capable player of the lot, and he's coming off of a year of decline. There are a couple of young prospects worth keeping an eye on, but neither has proven that they can anchor a defense. This, folks, is a major problem area for an organization that will be using more 3-4 looks (and has two linebackers coaches on the payroll) under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Buffalo Has Nothing But Questions At Linebacker
Buffalo Rumblings | Jan 31