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Vic Carucci's Bills analysis: Adjustment likely bigger with offensive scheme

Shaq Lawson, Jerry Hughes and other incumbent Buffalo Bills defenders are thrilled with the simplicity that comes with the return of the 4-3 scheme.

As spelled out in Jay Skurski's piece on new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the players are ecstatic about not being asked to do things that don't come naturally to them, such as dropping into coverage. They're relieved about not having to run on and off the field (or see others do so) because of constant substituting, and sometimes winding up with one man too many or one too few.

Time will tell whether the approach will help clean up the mess that Rex Ryan left behind after two seasons of his failed attempt to make the 3-4 fit a unit that had been put together to play the 4-3. But the thinking behind going back to what once helped the Bills rank fourth overall in the NFL and actually generate a pass rush with some teeth is sound.

Where Sean McDermott and his new coaching staff could very well find some transitional challenges is in a place the Bills have been highly successful the past two seasons: their run game.

Logic would suggest that you leave well enough alone. Just let Richie Incognito, Eric Wood and the rest of the offensive line continue to do what they were doing to open holes for LeSean McCoy and whoever emerges to replace Mike Gillislee as the primary backup.

No need for overthinking here. Right?

Not so fast.

Rick Dennison, the Bills' offensive coordinator, has some ideas about the structure of the offense in general and the run game in particular that are very different from what was done previously. His coaching roots run deep with Mike Shanahan and former Denver Broncos offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, who, as Dennison told reporters last week, "taught me the run game."

The essence of what Dennison learned from Gibbs is the wide-zone blocking that will have the linemen doing far more lateral movement than they've been used to doing. Expect a noticeable increase in stretch plays that will have McCoy and other ball-carriers following the outside flow of blockers with an eye toward finding cut-back lanes in the defense.

Wood, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered in the second half of last season, is going to have the heaviest demand of covering ground in both directions from his center spot. Supreme conditioning and athleticism are the necessary requirements to making the wide zone work to perfection.

Additionally, the system includes a healthy dose of play-action passing in order to prompt the defense to read run even when a pass is forthcoming. The onus will be on Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the offense to become proficient at keeping the opposition guessing.

"I don’t know how much it’s going to change," Dennison said. "Certainly, there’s a few things we’re doing that we watched on film that we didn’t do over the last couple years – some things that they did here that (new offensive line coach) Juan (Castillo) and I have talked about, (in the) run game particularly, that they’ve done very well and we’re going to try and carry over.

"It’s whatever we think we need to do for the 2017 Buffalo Bills to move the ball and make first downs and win the game. I think it’s a blend of everything, but it’s always going to be all about the Bills."

The "new" Bills, that is. And it's likely to involve a decent-sized learning curve for most of the players involved.

That's what comes with change.

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