You have to be worried about the talent level of the Buffalo Bills' front seven in the wake of Sunday's 47-10 shellacking at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.
The defense of Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier relies on a dominant front four. McDermott benefitted in Carolina from the beefy defensive tackle combination of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, both high-end, 315-pounders.
The Bills lack beef in the middle. Veteran Kyle Williams is best when he has an elite thumper next to him. When he doesn't at this stage of his career, he plays small against quality offensive lines. His defensive tackle partners are far from elite (and Marcell Dareus wasn't giving the Bills elite play before he was traded).
Starting defensive tackle Adolphus Washington played 42 snaps against the Saints, Cedric Thornton played 32 and Williams played 53. They did not make plays across the line of scrimmage or hold up well enough against double-teams at the point of attack.
Linebackers Preston Brown and Ramon Humber struggled against the Saints' power running. They looked like poor versions of Carolina linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson.
The Bills' run-stopping problems were exacerbated in the second half with defensive end Jerry Hughes on the sideline due to a shin injury. Ends Eddie Yarbrough and Ryan Davis did not set the edges well.
But even with Hughes on the field, the Bills have a talent problem at edge rusher that they masked most of the first eight games. That's a giant worry the next three weeks, when the Bills play veteran quarterbacks at Los Angeles and Kansas City and at home against New England.
There's no complement to Hughes. Shaq Lawson is an above-average run defender but he does not have burst or bend off the edge. His future in obvious pass situations looks like it's at defensive tackle. Lorenzo Alexander, the situational edge rusher opposite Hughes, is undersized and gets engulfed by good tackles.
The Bills needed a couple of quick pressures on Drew Brees in the first half with the four-man rush. They couldn't get it. Brees' pocket was too clean, and his passes were key to the Saints taking a 17-3 halftime lead.
There were some missed tackles. We counted nine. (It's subjective. If Williams dives at Mark Ingram and gets one hand on him, it's not a missed tackle.) But anyone who blames the Saints' domination on poor tackling is in denial of the talent problem.
McDermott and Frazier have their hands full.
Here's our unit-by-unit grading of the blowout loss based on video review:
Front seven (0.0): The defensive line and linebackers combine for the same failing grade.
A recurring problem in the second half was the Saints backs were cutting back the zone stretch plays to the weak side of the defense, and the Bills' tackle and end on that side were not squeezing the gap. Alvin Kamara rushed four times for 42 yards on that kind of run on the 94-yard, third-quarter TD drive. Jerel Worthy was exploited at DT on that drive. Brown overflowed on a bunch of cutbacks.
But the front-side was gashed, too. Lawson got pinned inside by down-blocking receiver Michael Thomas and Humber couldn't shed a block on a 19-yard run. Thornton and Humber couldn't shed blocks on an 11-yard Kamara front-side run. Ryan Davis got blown up on the edge on the 41-yard TD run.
Other lowlights: On Ingram's 25-yard, fourth-and-1 run, center Max Unger knocked Thornton back, while Humber and Micah Hyde missed tackles. The Bills didn't slant the line much, but that didn't work, either. Lawson slanted way too far inside and created a big back-side gap on a 16-yard run. Brown couldn't shed pulling guard Andrus Peat (who looked like the second coming of Joe DeLamielleure) and Ingram ran wild.
Offensive line (1.5): Once again, the Bills can't sustain drives long enough to get the running game going. It's partly due to simple mistakes and partly due to a poor passing game that can't open up the defense.
The second drive was derailed by a tripping penalty on Nick O'Leary, who was beaten by Alex Okafor.
The third drive was derailed by two errors. A jet sweep was blown up for a 4-yard loss. Somebody left Trey Hendrickson unblocked.
On the next play, the first of the second quarter, the Bills had only 10 men on the field. Either a second tight end or a third receiver failed to report. LeSean McCoy was stuffed for no gain. On the fifth drive, Mike Tolbert was stuffed on a third-and-1 play.
The pass protection wasn't that bad. Jordan Mills gave up only two hurries to star Cameron Jordan. New Orleans blitzed only three times.
Quarterback (1.0): The Bills needed Taylor Taylor to make a clutch passing play in the first half. He didn't. On the first drive, he overthrew Kelvin Benjamin on a fade to the end zone and underthrew him on a third-down out route. Granted, they haven't played together much. In the second quarter, he checked down to McCoy for 1 yard rather than throwing to Benjamin on an out. It would have been tight. That's the kind of anticipation throw Taylor doesn't like to make. Late in the second quarter, Taylor was flushed out of the pocket by Jordan. A taller QB might have hung in and tried to hit Benjamin on an in-cut.
Receiver (1.0): On a "key" third-and-2 pass in the second quarter, Taylor made a good deep throw for Deonte Thompson. He couldn't come down with a tough catch. Let's compare the Saints' talent: Michael Thomas made three of those kind of catches.
Taylor targeted Benjamin three times. The Bills did put Benjamin in the slot a few times. But they did not put him in motion or use him in stack formations. But he's new to the offense. Look for that in the coming weeks.
Running back (2.5): It wasn't McCoy's fault the Bills didn't have the ball and he only got 11 touches.
Defensive back (2.0): It wasn't Tre White's fault there was no run defense or pass rush.
Special teams (2.0): Colton Schmidt's first two punts had only 3.9-second hang times.
Saints' stars of the game: 1. Mark Ingram. 2. Alvin Kamara. 3. Andrus Peat.