PITTSFORD – Da’Norris Searcy takes some justifiable satisfaction in his statistics line from last season: 69 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception, seven passes defensed, two touchdowns.
He did a little bit of everything while playing about two-thirds of the snaps.
His goal this summer: Build on that and become a full-time starter at safety.
“I think I showed the coaches I can play pretty much anywhere they put me,” Searcy said after Wednesday’s practice at St. John Fisher College. “I’m very excited, very humble, just want to continue to get better and compete and prove to the coaches I’m well-deserving of a starting position.”
Searcy, a 2011 fourth-round draft pick now in his fourth NFL season, has held down the starting safety job next to Aaron Williams exclusively through the first four days of practice. He’s expected to get a strong challenge from second-year man Duke Wililams, a fourth-round pick last year. But so far Williams has run full time with the second string.
Searcy has the edge in experience, and he has a bit more powerfully built body.
“He’s a multi-position player,” said coach Doug Marrone. “He can play the back-end safety for us, he can play up on the line of scrimmage, he can blitz, he can play man-to-man, so he gives us a great deal of versatility, and he plays special teams.”
“Da’Norris has really played extremely well, starting in the OTAs,” Marrone said, referring to spring organized team activity practices. “He did a very good job for us last year, and I thought at times he probably didn’t get enough credit for the plays he made. He made a lot of big plays for us.”
One was a 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the opener against New England. Another was his 32-yard interception return for a touchdown at home against the Jets.
“I believe I did well,” Searcy said. “Three and a half sacks isn’t that bad, and an interception. The two times I scored last year was out of the hybrid nickel position. I think I excelled at it.”
After starting the first seven games of the season, Searcy shifted to a reserve role the last nine. Once safety Jairus Byrd came back from injury and started playing complete games, the Bills paired Byrd with Aaron Williams on the back end. Searcy averaged 67 snaps a game the first seven games and 29 the last nine. He was used in the nickel defense, in a hybrid linebacker role. His responsibility in the nickel put him in the back end on occasion, but most of the time he was in underneath coverage.
Coach Jim Schwartz likes his two safeties to be interchangeable.
“One of the things that happens in our scheme is there’s never a defined position,” said Williams, referring to the safeties. “It’s never me just being a free safety, him just being a strong safety. It’s always going to switch. It all depends on what the formation is.”
The key for Searcy this summer is to show he’s effective enough when he’s called upon to cover the deep half of the field in a Cover 2 defense. That’s where the most range is required.
Searcy has enough pure speed to get the job done. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine coming out of college. He ran 4.51 at his pro day. Aaron Williams also ran 4.55 at the Combine, although in functional speed on the field, Williams has more range than Searcy.
Now at 207 pounds, Searcy says his body fat is down from 9 percent last season to 7.6. (The average American male age 20 to 29 has body fat of 16-20 percent.)
Searcy also has maturity going for him. He has been married for three years to his wife, Kennetra, and they have a child on the way.
“It helps me focus more on the task at hand,” he said. “You know you’re not playing for yourself anymore. You’re playing for your teammates, No. 1. And off the field, you’re playing for the family you have at home.”