ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The post-bye Bills have wasted no time making adjustments to their consistently vulnerable secondary. First, on Monday, it was veteran CB Corey White taking snaps with the first-team defense in place of second-year man, Ronald Darby. Then on Tuesday a roster move was made at safety, as Buffalo swapped Duke Williams with nine-year veteran James Ihedigbo on the 53-man roster.
The addition of Ihedigbo isn’t a flashy signing by any means, but it’s one that makes some sense and provides the Bills with a new option at a position that has struggled mightily.
It should come as no surprise that Ihedigbo entered the league with the Rex Ryan New York Jets in 2007, as an undrafted free agent out of UMass. Ryan has a history of signing players that have a knowledge of his defense – think LB IK Enemkpali.
Over the course of his three-year stint in New York, Ihedigo had a very small role, appearing in just 37 games and accumulating 36 tackles. After spending one year in New England and starting 12 games, Ihedigbo’s best days came in from 2012-2014. In 2013 – the second of two campaigns in Baltimore – not only did he start all 16 games, but finished the season with Baltimore’s second highest tackle total (63). He also recording 11 pass deflections and three picks.
Those numbers improved one year later in his first season with the Detroit Lions, where he made 66 tackles and grabbed four interceptions in 13 games. Before the 2015 season Ihedigbo, who was 31 at the time, contemplated holding out in an effort to cash in before getting too deep into his 30s. He’d wind up playing, however an injury plagued season cost him his starting job and the Lions opted to not re-sign him this past off-season.
His stats paint the picture of a run-stopping safety who will fly up and make plays from the secondary. His 6-foot-1, 202-pound stature allows him to be versatile, a very valuable trait in a Rex Ryan defense riddled with exotic looks and sometimes uncharacteristic sub packages. Ideally Inhedigbo will be moved around as a safety/LB hybrid, something he did numerous times throughout the prime years of his career in Baltimore and Detroit.
That’s not to say he can’t be a coverage guy, in fact during his two-year stint with the Ravens he would often line up as a linebacker and be responsible for covering opposing tight ends, who nowadays are generally too big and athletic for normal sized defensive backs to slow down. Bills nickle CB Nickell Robey-Coleman has been burned by tight ends in back-to-back games, so he knows all about that.
Regardless, Ihedigbo will be counted on more as a run stopper than a coverage safety, which means some of that responsibility will have to be absorbed by Corey Graham when a play requires safety help. There’s also no guarantee Ihedigbo makes an immediate impact, considering he hasn’t played since last season. It will take some time to get him in what they like to call “football shape.”
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