ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — New Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is still evaluating the high-priced, underachieving group he has inherited, but he saw enough from the opposing sideline last season to know "the cupboard is not bare" in Buffalo.
Having spent the past four seasons with the Jets, Pettine says Friday in his introductory press conference that the talent level in Buffalo was one factor in his decision to switch teams two weeks ago.
"There are some good football players here and we are excited to work with them," he said. "They are explosive athletes and playmakers and we are looking forward to building a system that is going to take advantage of that."
Pettine's challenge is to transform a defense that last season finished 22nd in yards allowed, while giving up 435 points, the second-most in team history. Buffalo went 6-10 before coach Chan Gailey was replaced by Doug Marrone.
The defensive struggles were a surprise, considering Buffalo invested consecutive top 10 picks in defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and cornerback Stephon Gilmore and signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract in free agency.
"I can't really speak on what happened here," Pettine said. "I do know that we are going to bring a passion. We are going to work hard and the stuff we are going to do is going to highlight what we do well. There is no substitute for putting the work in, both on the field and in the classroom. I think that's where a lot of people think there is some magic schematically. It really isn't. Football is a game of a million little things.
"And we'll try to get as many of those things taught as we can."
Pettine said it's too early to declare what schematic changes he may implement. Dave Wannstedt switched the Bills to four-lineman, three-linebacker base formation last season after the team spent two years deploying — and drafting players for — a 3-4 alignment.