ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Like it or not, Marcell Dareus will have to get used to less playing time no matter how much money he’s making. And that goes for the rest of the Bills defensive line, too.
Rookie head coach Sean McDermott established in Buffalo’s season-opening win over the New York Jets that he has no intention of veering from his long-established approach of rotating his defensive front to keep it fresh throughout the game.
"Our system is our system," McDermott said, Wednesday, when Buffalo returned to practice to prepare to play at Carolina this weekend.
And it made no difference to him how that might affect Dareus, who is entering the second season of a six-year, $96 million contract which makes him Buffalo’s top-paid player.
"When it comes to what it takes to win a football game, I don’t think about those things," McDermott said, referring to Dareus’ salary. "I know some of this may not be what people are used to seeing. We’re focused on what we do and how we win."
Though the Bills held the Jets to 208 yards offence and just 38 yards rushing, Dareus’ limited playing time and lack of measurable production raised eyebrows.
Even the CBS television broadcast crew made note of how invisible Dareus was, with announcer Kevin Harlan saying: "I don’t even think we’ve said Dareus’ name all game long."
Dareus ranked 11th among Buffalo’s defenders with just 34 of 77 snaps. He was mostly used first- and second-down situations and replaced by Ryan Davis on third-down passing situations even though Dareus has 34 career sacks.
He finished with a stat line that featured all zeroes, the first time that’s happened in 87 games for Buffalo’s 2011 first-round draft pick.
Dareus said he’s fine with his new role, though he had some difficulty establishing a rhythm.
"I like what we’ve got going on," he said. "It takes a little getting used to but at same time, we all feel fresh."
As for his lack of production, Dareus said he couldn’t help it if the Jets avoided running plays in his direction.
"I can’t make them run my way," he said. "I was out there trying to do the best I can with the plays that were given to me and what they were showing us."
Dareus, however, paused when asked if he’s disappointed given that he’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection and has a contract that is supposed to reflect his value to the team.
"Hmm. That’s a good question," Dareus said.
After a brief pause, he added: "It’s a new regime. And the way we’re doing this is I’m only one piece of the whole puzzle."
Dareus has previously said he’s on the same page with McDermott after being disciplined once already this season. Dareus was sent home hours before a preseason game at Baltimore on Aug. 26 for violating a team rule.
"I thought Marcell did a heck of a job of that the other day," said McDermott, who took over in January after Rex Ryan was fired in the final week of last season.
Though the pass-rush generated just one sack on a blitz by safety Jordan Poyer, Buffalo pressured Jets quarterback Josh McCown into making several errant throws, including two fourth-quarter interceptions.
McDermott’s rotation of defensive lineman was evident during his six previous seasons as the Panthers defensive co-ordinator.
Since 2012, when snap counts started being logged by Pro Football Reference, pass-rusher Greg Hardy was the only Carolina defensive lineman to participate in more than 80 per cent of the team’s snaps in a season. Last year, tackle Kawann Short led Panthers defensive linemen by taking part in 72.9 per cent of the snaps.
Not all coaches have the same approach.
Tackle Ndamukong Suh, for example, leads Dolphins defensive players with 1,955 snaps during his past two seasons in Miami.
Bills veteran tackle Kyle Williams favours McDermott’s approach, especially since it resulted in a win.
"There are a whole lot more things that are more important than a stat line," said Williams, who played 43 snaps. "I think you can ask Marcell, if we continue to play that well on defence and he continues to do the good job he does and we’re winning football games, I don’t think he’s too concerned about it."
NOTES: Starting CB E.J. Gaines (left shoulder) practiced on a limited basis after being hurt Sunday, and is expected to play at Carolina. … DL Jerel Worthy remains in concussion protocol since being hurt in Buffalo’s preseason finale. … RBs LeSean McCoy (left wrist) and Mike Tolbert (knee) practiced fully.