The Buffalo Bills are Jarius Wynn’s fifth NFL team in six seasons. The defensive end knows he must produce in training camp and preseason to keep his NFL career alive.
“I think the time is now,” Wynn said after a Bills spring practice. “I can’t sit here and wait on the next opportunity. This opportunity here I’ve got to make it happen. This is a good opportunity.”
Wynn, 6-foot-3 and 277 pounds, is anonymous to most fans, but keep him in mind when the Bills go to training camp at St. John Fisher College.
The Bills are short on proven depth at defensive end. Wynn has NFL experience and a legitimate shot to earn a spot on the Bills’ 53-man roster. Furthermore, two of the other veteran depth players on the Bills’ roster have yet to show up to voluntary workouts this spring. They are defensive end Manny Lawson and defensive tackle Alan Branch, who could flex to defensive end, too.
That’s giving Wynn more chance to show his form during spring workouts. With Mario Williams sitting out team drills due to offseason hip surgery, Wynn has been working with the first team.
Wynn has spent most of his NFL time in the 3-4 defense, but he believes he’s a better fit for the 4-3, which the Bills play.
Wynn was a 265-pound defensive end at the University of Georgia and was drafted in the sixth round by the Green Bay Packers in 2009. Green Bay plays the 3-4, so Wynn said he bulked up to 290 pounds to play the 5-technique defensive end spot, lining up over the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle.
Wynn spent three seasons with the Packers, seeing 28 snaps a game in 2011 and making three sacks in four starts. He was cut before the 2012 season. He hooked on with Tennessee, a 4-3 team, for the last five games of 2012, playing 24 snaps a game.
He signed with San Diego, a 3-4 team, in 2013 and made the team but was cut after five games.
“I was playing the 5-technique, and they told me they wanted to bring in a bigger guy,” Wynn said. “I couldn’t do anything about it.”
He hooked on with Dallas for the last 10 games of last season and averaged 24 snaps a game. Dallas, a 4-3 team, was decimated by injuries on defense and ranked last in the league in yards allowed. Wynn made one start, 12 tackles and six pressures. The Cowboys decided they could do better in building depth for this season. Wynn thinks he’s in a defense that fits him best for a full offseason for the first time in his career.
“This is the first time I’ve come to a team and getting a fresh start in a 4-3,” he said. “In the 3-4, as the 5-technique, you’re holding up blocks and pretty much having the linebackers make the plays. Here we’re getting upfield, penetrating, breaking glass, trying to make plays.”
Jerry Hughes is the No. 1 man at defensive end opposite Mario Williams, but the Bills will want to keep Hughes fresh. He played 52 percent of the defensive snaps last year and made 10 sacks.
Who’s going to play defensive end on some of those first-downs against two-back or two tight-end formations? Branch could see some of that action, although he’s the primary backup at both defensive tackle spots. Who will be the third and fourth defensive ends on the roster?
Lawson has the most experience among the candidates, followed by Wynn. The Bills have a bunch of other young candidates, including Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson, Jacquies Smith. Defensive tackle Corbin Bryant could flex to some defensive end duty, too.
The Bills announced a five-year corporate partnership with Independent Health. The two companies will join to promote communitywide fitness and nutrition initiatives to encourage healthy living, particularly among young people. Part of the deal calls for an expansion of the Bills’ Play 60 Challenge, which started in 2007 and challenges youths to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
“We started this with one pilot school, and now programs are offered to every Buffalo public elementary school, as well as 50 additional area schools and several community organizations,” said Russ Brandon, Bills president and chief executive officer. The Independent Health Foundation likewise promotes community-based fitness programs.