If a star is born on the Bills' defense this season, veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander says it will be thanks to new defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
"He’s a guy that I would consider is a ‘star-maker,' " Alexander said of Lotulelei, who signed a five-year contract last month.
"I think (Panthers All-Pro linebacker) Luke Kuechly benefitted a lot from his presence on that line, and hopefully I can mimic some of those things that Luke was able to do by benefitting from that guy in front of him," Alexander added, "allowing me to make more plays in backfield, pushing the pocket so a guy like Jerry Hughes can now turn that corner and not have to worry about the quarterback stepping up.
"So guys around him will benefit, but we all know once we watch that film why we have those stats. And it’s because of a guy like him."
Lotulelei spent the first four years of his career with current Bills coach Sean McDermott in Carolina after being a first-round pick in 2013. Kuechly was named to the Pro Bowl in all four of those seasons and was named first team All-Pro three times while ranking third in the league in tackles over that period.
Alexander pointed to Lotulelei's ability to swallow up blockers and cause disruption in the backfield as reasons why those around him thrive.
"I obviously benefit probably the most from having Star on the team as 'Will' linebacker, playing the weak side behind the nose (tackle) a lot," Alexander said. "So he’ll just eat up double teams, making sure the center and guard can’t get up to me so I can make a lot more plays in the backfield. And if somebody decides he wants to come up and single him, that’s a tackle for loss for him every day, being very disruptive. So I’m extremely excited for him to be here.
"Talking to (Panthers linebacker) Thomas Davis, one of my close friends down there, I know they were sad to see him go because of that type of dynamic that he brought to field. And then off the field he’s a great dude: quiet, solid worker, guys naturally look at him because he’s a big, strong man, so his presence is … going to help the young guys out as well."
Alexander said Lotulelei's contributions don't necessarily show up in his own stat line.
"I think he just plays to his skillset and his strengths and handles his role well. Coaches ask him to play a certain way and that’s what he goes out and does. That doesn’t mean he can’t have seven or eight sacks, that’s just not what his role has been in the scheme. I think his strength is taking on double-teams, throwing people around in the backfield and allowing other guys around him to be successful as well."
When Bills safety Micah Hyde pulled out of the Pro Bowl last season, it was assumed to be related to the concussion he suffered in the Bills' playoff loss to the Jaguars.
Hyde said Tuesday that the concussion wasn't the issue. He said he was dealing with another injury at the time, but declined to comment on what that injury was. He said he is now 100 percent in his recovery.
Story topics: Star Lotulelei