In what was perhaps a bit of accidental foreshadowing, Sean McDermott ran a formation while coaching the Carolina Panthers that he called the “Buffalo nickel.” This formation involved leaving a coverage linebacker, in this case Shaq Thompson, on the field in the place of a traditional nickel player from the defensive secondary (who is most often a corner). Attempting to determine whether or not there is a linebacker on the Buffalo Bills’ roster who is capable of handling those duties will be something to watch during training camp and the preseason.
One major point regarding McDermott’s big nickel is how it differs from former Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan’s version. Ryan preferred to play a third safety over a third corner, although snap count data from his time with the Bills suggests that he abandoned that strategy fairly regularly over the last two seasons.
We looked at McDermott’s defense fairly extensively upon his hiring in January. The base looks will be something like this:
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will start where among Buffalo’s linebackers. I’d imagine that Lorenzo Alexander will have the upper hand in a 4-3 under look, as it puts him in a familiar position close to the line of scrimmage. Preston Brown, Reggie Ragland, Ramon Humber, and Gerald Hodges will fight it out for the other two starting spots in Buffalo’s “base.”
The 2016 Panthers stayed in their base look more often than not, with their top-eleven players appearing on at least 50% of the defensive snaps….
click here to read the rest of this story