The Buffalo Bills finally became relevant again last season after posting impressive early season wins against the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. Buffalo won five of their first seven games, but to no avail, as they quickly dropped into a seven-game losing streak that doomed their season.
The Bills midseason collapse was a direct result of awful defense.
Buffalo allowed opposing offenses to score at will and ranked as the third worst in most points allowed, at 27.1 points per game. To help fix the team's defensive woes, the Bills signed two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams.
The Bills also quietly drafted two talented linebackers to help strengthen the depth of their defensive unite. Both young players have a great chance to actively contribute and rotate in behind starting linebackers Kelvin Sheppard, Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison.
Here are two rookies that should have a big impact in Buffalo during the 2012 NFL Season:
Tank Carder - Texas Christian University
Capping off a phenomenal 2011 Rose Bowl performance, Carder was named an All-American in his senior and junior years at TCU. Carder also earned Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year his last two seasons in college for his outstanding play at the inside linebacker position.
The former Horned Frog plays with toughness and heart that makes up for his lack of athleticism. Carder is a high-motor defensive player that uses his instincts to read opposing offenses. At the NFL Draft Combine, Carder proved many naysayers wrong by finishing as a top performer in the three cone drill, 20 yard shuttle and 60 yard shuttle.
In Carder's rookie year for the Bills, expect to see him consistently on special teams, while occasionally rotating in at inside linebacker.
Nigel Bradham - Florida State
Bradham is an extremely physical player that led a defensive-minded Florida State team in tackling for three straight years.
At 6'2 and 240 pounds, Bradham has the size to play the linebacker position in the NFL. The Florida State product is a great tackler and is also strong enough to get past offensive linemen and reach the quarterback. Bradham possesses enough speed to effectively cover wide receivers, as well, which makes him flexible enough to play inside or outside linebacker.
A player that has that potential to do it all, Bradham can become a great pass-rushing linebacker because of this speed and power, but can still effectively cover the middle of the field. He won't likely see too much playing time as a linebacker in his rookie season unless an injury occurs to a starter, but he has the talent to be a defensive constant in the near future.