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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whitner is the heart of Bills' defense



October 17, 2008

MATTHEW PARRINO - Staff Writer

Building a franchise in the NFL is widely considered the toughest job in professional sports. There are so many variables that go into constructing a team that many try and fail on a yearly basis.

The Bills have come flying out of the gates this season and look like a complete football team for the first time in over a decade. The players and coaches should be given credit for their amazing performance thus far, but the success of the franchise is owed to one man: Marv Levy.

Many people were skeptical when owner Ralph Wilson when he re-hired Levy in January 2006. At the age of 80, critics worried Levy may be too old to still operate at a high level.

He wasted no time in beginning to mold the team to his vision. He hired Dick Jauron two weeks into his tenure, a move questioned by fans across Buffalo. He then started building his offensive line, which was a staple of his '90s Bills teams, whom he coached to four straight Super Bowl appearances.

He, along with coaches, made the decision to move All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters to the offensive line from tight end. This move may have been the most instrumental in the resurgence of the line.

He followed, the next off-season, by adding respected league veterans Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker. In 2007, he drafted starter Brad Butler and signed free agent Kirk Chambers who have both made contributions this season.

To see Levy's true imprint on the Bills, one must look no farther than his two draft classes.

Quarterback Trent Edwards and strong safety Donte Whitner, both team captains, are the leaders on their respective sides of the ball.

Whitner was the first pick Levy made as GM and it has paid big dividends that Bills fans would have never dreamt of. One of the best young defenders at his position, Whitner consistently brings intensity to each play. He is the heart of a defense that ranks seventh in total defense this season, up from second to last a year ago.

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