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Bills to have a more traditional 4-3 look at linebacker

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Buffalo Bills will deploy a more traditional linebacker unit this year under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Bills coach Doug Marrone provided some insight this morning at the NFL's annual owners meetings.

Last year under coordinator Mike Pettine, the Bills had Kiko Alonso at middle linebacker and Arthur Moats or Nigel Bradham at weak-side linebacker, while strong-side linebacker Manny Lawson played on the line against standard personnel.

Expect more of the standard 4-3 look now.

"Now we have a little bit more of a switch to a three-linebacker approach back there," Marrone said.

The Bills signed New England Patriots free agent Brandon Spikes to play middle linebacker and also added New York Giants free agent Keith Rivers. Alonso will be moved to weak-side linebacker, a shift Marrone said the Bills discussed last season.

"We knew he was better suited to make more plays and do more things for us outside," Marrone said.

So the Bills didn't decide to move Alonso simply because they acquired Spikes. But that transaction certainly will help the transition.

"He's a much bigger linebacker than what we've had," Marrone said of Spikes, listed at 6 foot 2 and 255 pounds.

"He's a guy that could cause turnovers by the way he hits. He'll come downhill. He's a high-contact-type of player. We think that he'll be able to help us as we go forward in stopping the run that was a problem at times last year for us."

In the nickel package, Marrone said he knows Alonso will be on the field. The other linebacker spot will be up for grabs in training camp.

"Keith Rivers played three downs out there before. Brandon Spikes has been out there before in nickel," Marrone said. "And like I told those guys, 'We'll go out and practice and see what we'll do and start putting he best players in the best positions.'

"The thing I like is when you get players that want to be out there the whole time. You'll have an opportunity to prove you belong out there for three downs."

  • eric

    Well there we have it. Alonso and possibly Rivers are the 3 down guys. and the rest fighting for spots in packages and rotation . Hope Schwartz can make good use of Lawson too . I liked his play last year and thought second year with the Bills we would see him improve , clean up some mistakes and whatever strengthen weaknesses he had shown.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.