The Buffalo Bills have started transforming their defense.
The latest example is the addition of Max Valles, who was plucked off Oakland’s practice squad earlier this week.
Valles, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder, projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The Bills are expected to be on the hunt for similar players who fit coach Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme in the offseason.
“It’s really exciting to be active and show what I can do,” said Valles, who has spent this season on the Raiders’ practice squad after joining the team as a sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia.
The Bills’ interest in Valles dates back to the draft.
“We liked him when he came out of Virginia,” Ryan said Thursday. He’s “a guy that we were actually considering drafting, and then he was taken before we got to. … Based on the evaluation we had in college, we really liked him.”
Valles had a breakout season with Cavaliers in 2014, finishing with nine sacks and nine passes defensed. He left school after just two college seasons, and at 21 is the youngest player on the Bills’ roster along with rookie cornerback Ronald Darby.
The scouting report on Valles coming out of college mentioned that he’s raw, but has the athletic ability to develop into a solid edge rusher in the NFL. That’s an area the Bills’ roster could use depth, so the addition of Valles is a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.
“We think he does have some pass-rush skills,” Ryan said.
With only three weeks left this season, it’s possible Valles may not see the field defensively. But the Bills will get that time to evaluate him in practice, as well as in organized team activities in the spring.
“Every day in Oakland, I got to go against a Pro Bowl left tackle in Donald Penn,” Valles said. “I feel like I’ve been preparing for this. I’m ready to get my feet wet. It’s going to be hard to learn a whole defense in three weeks, but I just want to contribute however I can, and get some juice flowing for next season.”
Valles said rushing the passer is “his speciality, but I’m a pretty athletic guy. I feel comfortable covering someone and playing the run, as well.”
The Bills met with Valles during the NFL Scouting Combine in February for a formal interview.
“It was actually one of my better ones,” Valles said. “I really liked coach Ryan. I watched him growing up, being from New Jersey and him coaching the Jets. It’s pretty exciting to get a chance to play for him.”