Playing large up front: Stroud hopes to solidify the Bills’ defensive line

Bryan Sullivan

One look at the numbers from 2007, and it was not surprising to see Buffalo Bills management move to shore up their defense early into the offseason.

Buffalo was 31st in total yards allowed, 29th against the pass (238.4 yards per game) and 25th against the run (124.6 yards per game).

The Bills started the overhaul on Feb. 29 by signing linebacker Kawika Mitchell from the Super Bowl champion Giants. They then signed veteran defensive tackle Spencer Johnson from the Vikings on March 1, and on that same day, they made their biggest splash, trading for tackle Marcus Stroud from Jacksonville.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Stroud comes to Buffalo after an outstanding career with the Jaguars that included 22 sacks and 457 tackles in seven seasons.    

“So far, it’s fine,” Stroud said about his experience with the Bills after Monday’s practice at St. John Fisher. “We have a long way to go. Right now we are just preparing to have success this season, and I think that is what we will do. It’s definitely fun playing with those guys.”

The addition of Stroud will add depth to a defense that was depleted by injuries. Linemen Ryan Denney, Chris Kelsay and Anthony Hargrove were among those to miss time due to injury last season.

Stroud and Aaron Schobel are the most experienced players on the line, as both enter their eighth NFL season.

“I think with the additions of Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell, it’s an older and more experienced group,” Denney said. “I think it will show on the field.”

Stroud was one of the league’s top defensive tackles from 2002-06. He totaled 19 sacks and was a starter in the Pro Bowl for three straight years from 2003-05.

A native of Quitman, Ga., Stroud was selected 13th overall out of the University of Georgia in the 2001 draft by Jacksonville after teaming with Richard Seymour to form one of the best defensive tackle combinations in college football. He didn’t start a game as a rookie in 2001 but quickly gave glimpses of his potential in 2002 when he moved into the starting lineup.

“I’ve watched him play for many years, and we knew what he was all about,” said Bills defensive line coach Bill Kollar. “When you get a guy like that, a good team player and a big strong player, you are real pleased to have him.”

Stroud did more than just rack up high sack and tackle numbers. He made the rest of the Jaguar defense around him better, as Jacksonville finished in the top half of the league in run defense from 2003-06, including second in 2003 and fourth in 2006.

“He’s another guy you can rely on,” Denney said. “He’s very capable, he’s a leader and a hard worker. Anytime you have guys on your defensive line like that, it is definitely a plus.”

Stroud had 35 tackles and three sacks last year with Jacksonville. He was suspended for four games for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy and missed three games and the playoffs due to an ankle injury.

Off the field, Stroud left his mark on the Jacksonville community, participating in several projects including the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation Playbooks reading initiative, and he was a spokesman for Prostate Cancer Awareness Week.

“I have no complaints,” Stroud said about his days with the Jaguars. “I was successful in Jacksonville. I have nothing but great things to say about my time with them.”

Stroud is hoping to not just break statistical records this season. He is hoping to play all 16 games for the first time in a season since 2005.

“My goals are to make it through 16 games healthy and let the rest speak for itself,” Stroud said.

Bryan Sullivan is covering Bills training camp for Messenger Post Newspapers. He can be reached at (585) 394-0770 ext. 273 or bsullivan@messengerpostmedia.com.