Marcus Dowtin has just three games of NFL experience, but that’s enough to qualify him as a veteran when it comes to the scheme being installed under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with the Buffalo Bills.
That’s because those three games came last season with the New York Jets, making Dowtin the only player on the Bills’ roster who has played under Pettine.
“I know a little bit more than the other guys, but I don’t consider myself a vet,” Dowtin said. “I haven’t really played a year in the league yet. It’s one of those things where if I do know a little more, I can help the guys around me. We’re all learning together.”
The Bills acquired Dowtin, 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds, off waivers from Philadelphia in April. He spent the early part of last season on the Jets’ practice squad before being elevated to the active roster in October for those three games, during which he made four special teams tackles.
Dowtin played primarily as an inside linebacker with New York, but he’s working outside with the Bills.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been rushing the passer a lot – pretty much every down,” Dowtin said. “It’s great. I love to get after the quarterback and try to create a mismatch with the offensive line.”
Dowtin gives the Bills another defender who provides what Pettine craves – versatility.
“He’s another player that has some position flexibility,” Pettine said. “He’s athletic enough; he can play inside; he can play outside. He can do some safety-type jobs; he can do some defensive end-type jobs. That’s the type of player that we’ll always have a role for in our system, with that amount of versatility.”
Dowtin started his collegiate career with Georgia, then played his senior year at North Alabama. It wasn’t until he got to the NFL, however, that he started working at so many different positions.
“Each day I try to refine my game in every aspect because I want to play so many different positions, he said. “Safety, linebacker – inside and outside – I try to do as much as possible. I’ve got to work on different things every day. I try to work on my footwork, try to work on my hand-eye coordination, my pass-rushing skills. I can never say I’m comfortable in one spot.”
He might not be comfortable, but Dowtin does feel at home with the Bills.
“With Coach Pettine and those guys who came over from the staff, I’m in a great spot,” he said. “I love the coaches, so I’m so happy for this experience.”
The Bills’ defense ended the second minicamp practice of the week in all-out piranha mode Wednesday.
It was a feeding frenzy of sacks as the Bills’ first-string offense under quarterback Kevin Kolb tried to move downfield in a two-minute drill in need of a touchdown.
Kolb managed to elude a rush and improvise a quick-thinking throw over the middle to Fred Jackson for a gain of about 25 yards on a third-down play.
After that, Pettine dialed up four straight blitzes and ended the series with four straight sacks.
“I’m glad Coach Pettine’s on our team, that’s for sure, and all those guys they have out there,” said offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. “They’re bringing everybody from every place and you have to do your best to try to get a foundation and make things happen.”
Newly acquired edge-rusher Jerry Hughes, who gave tackle Cordy Glenn trouble much of the day, broke free off the left side of the offensive line on what looked like a heavy blitz for the first sack. Then rookie cornerback Nickell Robey got a sack blitzing off the edge on second down. Hughes again got around Glenn for a sack on third down. With the offense in backpedal mode, Pettine sent an all-out blitz on fourth and long and safety Duke Williams tagged Kolb down.
Aaron Williams, who has been manning the starting free safety spot, worked a lot at cornerback, in part because two corners were injured.
Ron Brooks had what looked like a muscle issue. Crezdon Butler appeared to tweak his knee. Williams came up with his second interception in two days, picking off a pass from EJ Manuel down the right sideline while in tight coverage against speedy Marquise Goodwin.
Snap counts for the quarterbacks were about the same as Tuesday, with Kolb getting 46, Manuel 36 and Jeff Tuel 12, unofficially.
Colin Brown got most of the snaps again with the starters at left guard, ahead of Doug Legursky.
The Bills hold their last spring practice today. It’s closed to the public.
(News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan contributed to this report).