Buffalo linebacker Bryan Scott has spent 10 seasons in the NFL and has played in several different defensive schemes. However, new Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's system may be the defense that's best suited for the veteran.
"They kind of built this team around bringing in guys who were versatile and played multiple positions," said Scott, who also played safety in the league. "I'm looking forward to it, I'm really excited. We have one goal in mind, and that's to make the playoffs."
Pettine joined head coach Doug Marrone's staff after spending the past four years as the New York Jets' defensive coordinator. The Jets finished ranked in the top 10 in total defense each year. In 2009, New York had the best defense in the NFL.
The Bills will be a hybrid defense, using both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts. The defense has shown some exotic looks in practice, including one with just two down linemen. The first-team defense usually features Alex Carrington, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus up front; Manny Lawson, Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham and Mario Williams at linebacker; Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore at cornerback; and Da'Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams at safety.
Many of the players are interchangeable at different positions. While Scott is a weakside inside linebacker, he knows all four linebacker positions.
"Our goal is to confuse an offense," Pettine said. "Sometimes we want to make it difficult to identify who is who. A big part of offensive football is identifying potential pass rushers and setting your protection that way. We feel we can run the same defense with different people and it will look different to an offense."
Pettine said most of the defensive players have mastered their base positions already and are beginning to "cross train" at other spots.
Jerry Hughes is a pass-rush specialist who played outside linebacker and defensive end in Indianapolis before being traded to Buffalo in the offseason. Scott is a solid tackler who excels at covering tight ends. Pettine said players like Hughes and Scott, who may not have the prototypical size for their positions, fit well into his defense.
"We haven't really settled into a game plan situation where we can give them a clearly defined role," the coach said. "So there are some things that we're having Bryan out there doing that he normally wouldn't be in and Jerry the same way. When the dust settles from camp, we can start building game plans very specific to their skill sets."
Buffalo's defense ranked 22nd in the league in 2012. Scott said he couldn't say what went wrong, but the veteran said he's not thinking about it as it's in the past.
It's possible rookie EJ Manuel could be the team's starter this year and it'll be important for the Bills' defense to keep them in games. Pettine will have a challenging debut when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come to Ralph Wilson Stadium in week one.