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Dave Wannstedt is confident the issues that plagued his defense in a most disappointing season opener can be solved.
"There was nothing that happened in the game that isn't easily corrected," he said in discussing the mistakes made in the 48-28 loss to the New York Jets. "As they become more confident they will play a little bit faster. That was probably the biggest thing as I look back on it. We were reacting to what they were doing rather than being aggressive enough."
The Buffalo Bills' first-year defensive coordinator admitted there will be growing pains that come with the territory protected by his young cornerbacks.
"It's going to be a little bit of a learning-on-the-move type of deal," he said.
The Bills' cornerbacks often gave the Jets' receivers big cushions at the line of scrimmage. So much so, in fact, that General Manager Buddy Nix said on his Friday radio show on WGR that "we were so soft on the corners for some reason and obviously we've got to correct that."
Wannstedt indicated that'll tighten up Sunday.
"We'll play majority press. It depends on the coverage and the sets and so forth. We'll mix it up on them, but we're more of a press team than not," Wannstedt said. "How aggressive we are with the press has a lot to do with confidence."
That was lacking against New York. Rookie Stephon Gilmore particularly struggled early, getting picked on by quarterback Mark Sanchez and beaten by fellow rookie Stephen Hill on a double move for a long touchdown.
"It was the first game where he played that many plays, first game where you're playing on the road, all those things are part of it," Wannstedt said. "He's about as level headed as any rookie I've been around. I'm not worried about him at all. He's just got to get in there and make a play or two. I've seen it with him. He had a great training camp. He'll make plays Sunday."
The 48 points put up by the Jets matches the second most any team has scored in a regular season game against an NFL team with Wannstedt on staff as either defensive coordinator or head coach. That's a span of 17 NFL seasons.
While 14 of those points came on a punt return and interception return for touchdowns, nonetheless the performance was exactly the opposite of what was hoped for from a rebuilt defense featuring a highly touted first-round pick in Gilmore and the league's highest-ever-paid defensive player in defensive end Mario Williams.
Wannstedt expressed little worry in Williams' discouraging start.
"He's just one of 11. It's a whole unit. Everybody's got their role, everybody's got to contribute in their own way, but he's one of 11 guys on defense and that's how we look at," Wannstedt said. "He had a great week of practice. He'll play good this week."
Williams and the rest of the Bills' pass rush was in part negated by Sanchez's quick throws. He was able to get the ball out quickly because he rarely faced troublesome down-and-distance situations. The Jets were in third-and-10 or longer just once.
"A guy's not going to stand back there and wait for [receivers to run] 20-yard routes when they need 5 for a first down. We need to play better as a whole defense, create turnovers and play faster," Wannstedt said. "We didn't play as fast as we're capable of playing, and when you play faster you break up more passes, you rush the passer better and you create turnovers."
The Bills blitzed (sending five or more pass rushers) on just 3 of 27 pass plays. Playing with a big lead gave the Jets freedom to run anything in their playbook.
"When you're playing a couple of touchdowns behind, it's a heck of a lot easier for the offense," Wannstedt said. "There's no pressure on them. They can run the ball and be very conservative. That's going to negate your pass rush and make it tough on your secondary when they do throw it. So we've got to come out and start fast and make some plays. I'm confident that we will."
The Bills also have confidence that Wannstedt is the right man to get them there.
"Guys follow a person's lead by your reputation and your experience at that position and Dave has that," safety George Wilson said. "Guys follow you when you're consistent and fair. He gets on the high-salary guys, he gets on the practice squad guys. Everybody is accountable. ... We know he's a proven coach in this business. If we do what the defense asks us to do, we can have some success."

email: jskurski@buffnews.com